Dealing with Isolation During the Pandemic
What we're experiencing across the United States (and the world) right now is something most of us have likely never had to deal with before. The majority of the nation is either self-quarantining or under a mandated "stay-at-home" order. Certainly, if you have COPD, or care for someone who has COPD, you should be staying at home. It's the best way to protect your health. The fact is, you are at high risk of getting COVID-19 and having serious complications.1
Tenets of a healthy lifestyle
Even if you don't leave your home, it's wise to follow the safety guidelines you're hearing about. This includes of course frequent hand washing, keeping your environment as clean as possible, and avoiding anyone else who has even mild symptoms. Plus, following the tenets of a healthy lifestyle can help bolster your immune system:2
That last bullet point can be one of the hardest things to do, can't it? Especially right now, when everyone is so focused on all the bad news about the coronavirus sweeping the world. And, of course, stay true to your prescribed COPD treatment plan, whatever that may be.
Enforced isolation is hazardous to your mental health!
However, I think one of the things so many of us are struggling with right now is the isolation that this pandemic has spawned. People who have COPD are often already challenged by being home-bound much of the time, due to fatigue, shortness of breath, and dependence on others.
But now, it doesn't make sense for you to ever leave your home, unless absolutely necessary, even if you are able to physically. Plus, if you have caregivers or family who live elsewhere, they really shouldn't be visiting you either. If they do, they risk exposing you to the virus, even if they are not currently having any symptoms themselves.
All of this can lead to feelings of isolation, anxiety, loneliness, despair, and depression. Clearly, maintaining a positive mental outlook can be extremely challenging. Luckily, we live in a time when being confined to your home doesn't have to mean complete isolation and solitude.
Use "old school" methods to keep in touch with the world
You have a phone, don't you? Then use it to talk regularly with family and friends. Most of us, even those of us who don't have COPD, are spending much more time at home than ever before. A chatty phone call is likely to be welcomed.
Try to fill your phone calls with positive vibes, not just fear-mongering about the future. However, it can be helpful to vent sometimes when you're feeling anxious or hopeless. Just don't make every conversation about that. In fact, try to inject humor wherever you can; a chuckle or a smile can lighten the mood considerably.
You might also consider old-fashioned letter writing. I don't know about you, but this almost seems like a lost art in today's technology-obsessed world. But how fun would it be for your grandkids to get a letter or even just a card from Grandma or Grandpa once a week? Be sure to include tidbits about your day, observations about what's going on in the world, and maybe a joke or a riddle. Even an inspirational quote can be helpful, both for you and for the recipient of your letter or card.
I have even seen news stories where families who do not live together still "visit" with each other through a window or even from the sidewalk in front of your house.
Technology can be a lifesaver
I don't know about you, but I am so grateful to be living in a time where we have so much technology to stay in touch with others. In better times, people have argued that technology de-humanized us or separated us. It was not uncommon to see whole families out in public, each staring into their phones or tablets and not talking to each other at all.
But, here's my take on technology these days. It gives us fairly easy to use tools that can link us to the larger world, even if we never leave our homes.
Most people these days do have an email account or two. But if you don't, you can get free accounts with:
- iCloud (only for Apple device users)
There may be others, but these are some of the most well-known, established accounts. You can use Google to explore the pros and cons of the various email providers.
Email is great because it enables you to send letters digitally, but you can also easily send pictures, videos, links to websites you've found and so on. And, unlike paper letter writing, email is delivered immediately!
The most well-known way to send a text message is by telephone. Almost every phone these days, even "non-smart" phones, can send and receive text messages. Missing your teenage grandkids? They might be more likely to respond to text messages than a phone call.
You can also send text messages over the internet, usually for free. Here are a few free services:
- Facebook Messenger
- Instagram Direct Messaging
Some of these services will even allow you to do audio and/or video calls.
Not everyone is a fan of social media, but if you're isolated, it can be a great way to stay in touch with the world and with others like you. Certainly, there are specialty communities, like the one right here on copd.net. But even generalist platforms like Facebook and Instagram can be a great way to connect not only with people you know but with new friends.
People worry about hacking and privacy issues, but most social media platforms provide privacy controls you can set to your preference. At least give it a try; you can always delete your account later if it does not work well for you.
With so many of us working from home during this "stay-at-home" period, video conferencing has exploded. The technology has been around for years, but it is getting lots of use from a whole new population these days. Even fitness instructors are using it to conduct live virtual classes.
Skype is probably one of the most well-known video calling platforms. It's an app that you can download to your phone, tablet or computer. It can also be used just to make audio calls.
If you have an iPhone or cellular-equipped iPad, you may have Facetime capabilities. That's another video calling platform that can be a fun way to connect with your loved ones. Some Android devices also allow video calls.
Zoom is another platform that's free to use for short calls (40 minutes tops). You could get the whole family on a Zoom call and you can even share your screens with each other.
There are other platforms as well, but those are some of the most well-known and used for personal purposes.
Reach out to others
We live in challenging times, to be sure. There is much to be worried about, especially for those who have chronic respiratory conditions. But, while you may be forced to spend more time inside your house and away from others, you can battle the isolation in many ways.
Truly, there is no need to suffer by yourself. Reach out to others. Embrace technology. If you're reading this article, I know you're already halfway there, because clearly, you're already online. Don't hesitate to reach out to our community here on this site or on our Facebook page, if you need support and human contact.
How are you managing feelings of loneliness or isolation right now? Share with the community here.
How has your experience been navigating the healthcare system as someone with COPD?