Social isolation affects us all, albeit in different ways.
Dobzhansky (1962) said that “the fittest may also be the gentlest, because survival often requires mutual help and co-operation.” This speaks to how we can support ourselves through our relationships with others, even if this has to be online or by phone.
Based on the neurophysiology of feeling safe in our environment, here are some consistent themes that arose from our recent webinar on social engagement in a time of social isolation.
The first step to feeling OK is to notice our response to every situation.
It is helpful to identify what makes us feel OK, what resources us. We talked about who, what, when and where helps us feel safe.
For example, for me, Friday nights, long summer evenings, my dog, the mountains and the Atlantic Ocean resource me, as does bird song and nurturing the plants in my garden.
For someone else, it might be dancing or listening to their favourite music or cooking a meal for their family. The key is to notice each time something makes you feel good and to include more of it in your life.
It might be a hot salty bath with the door locked so kids can’t disturb. For many, our resources have adapted during lockdown and they are more important than ever now to support our resilience.
Singing alone or with others creates coherence in our hearts. This helps us bond and feel connected.
Touching plants, touching our skin gently, massaging our neck and shoulders, touch in general will help us feel better. Our bodies are hardwired to respond favourably to safe touch.
It is important to remember that everyone responds differently to each situation because we each have had different life experiences. So be kind, be gentle, and be compassionate toward others, even if you don’t agree with their response.
Because we tend to feel under threat in social isolation, we are more likely to move into adaptive defensive states, to become angry or anxious. However, we can adapt, and through a few of the strategies above, we can support ourselves and others to feel that we are OK-enough in this challenging situation, and perhaps, move toward hope.