Devin's Tips for Battling Isolation
As of this writing, I haven’t left my house in close to two weeks (I’ve stepped outside, but I’ve not gone anywhere and had the sort of social interactions that my mind would like). The thing is though, the pandemic has had nothing to do with me not going anywhere these past two weeks. In fact, these kinds of stretches were common for me long before any of us had even heard of COVID-19.
As I’ve said before, many people are now experiencing the life that the disabled and chronically ill have had to live with on a regular basis. Since I’ve become disabled because of MS, I’ve had a lot of experience with isolation. Enough that I have some tips to offer up! These are some key things that I do and keep in mind when I’m trying to battle isolation.
Maintain a schedule
I’ve spoken in the past about how important it is for me to follow a routine. Following a schedule not only benefits me cognitively, but it also helps me deal with spending so much time away from other people. Getting up at the same time every day and following the same routine gives me something to do. Sure, I could sleep in every day if I wanted to, and I could do everything at a leisurely pace. Some days, because of my illness, I have to go that route.
If I feel “normal” (meaning stable, the way I feel most days, still in pain but not different from the pain the day before), I get up at the same time and do the same things I do on most mornings. Having a routine may help a person get out of bed and make you feel like you’re doing something. Most importantly, following a schedule allows you to maintain some form of control. Feeling like you have a little control can be important to mental wellbeing.
Be wary of social media
I’m sure as more people are experiencing isolation, they are relying more and more on social media. It makes sense and it might be helpful when used correctly. However, if you are constantly scrolling through social media, it becomes extremely easy to feel even more isolated than you already feel. If you keep looking at what other people are doing (even if they are doing it at home alone), it’s very easy to start feeling like you are missing out. Like you are the only one who is missing out. That can be devastating to our mental health.
I definitely fall into this trap myself; it’s very easy to do. This happens to me often enough that I’ll force myself to turn off my phone for stretches at a time or at the very least, I’ll silence notifications on it.
How to use social media the right way
While social media can have its pitfalls, there are some helpful ways to use it. Instead of scrolling your feed to see what others are doing, I think it can be good to join a group, or follow a hashtag or page related to your interests. There are groups for just about anything (and if there isn’t, then you can start one). I’m really into LEGOs, dogs, and hockey, so I’m in groups where other like-minded individuals are talking about those topics all the time. I also follow a lot of accounts that only discuss or post about those topics.
Not only can it be a great way to further your hobby and interests, but it can also make you feel like you belong and are less alone. It’s refreshing to talk with other people who share at least one interest with you. If you are feeling alone and isolated, it can be good to use social media to follow your hobbies and interests, rather than other people’s lives.
When facing isolation, I think it almost goes without saying that it’s important to keep busy. Sometimes picking up a new hobby is the way to go. For others, reading can become a welcomed pursuit. Many people will also dive in and binge-watch entire TV series on their favorite streaming platform. No matter how you decide to keep busy, it’s important to remember this: it’s OK. There is nothing wrong with doing an activity to keep you busy.
I know that I tend to judge myself harshly on whether the activity is “productive” or not. You need to fight those concerns because sometimes, keeping yourself busy or entertained is important. It can be crucial for our mental health, which makes it productive!
How do you handle isolation? As always, I’d love to hear other’s tips or stories in the comments below!
Thanks so much for reading and always feel free to share!
Were you misdiagnosed with something else before receiving a MS diagnosis?