The Effects of Social Isolation

By now, just about everyone has experienced some form of social isolation due to the pandemic. The effects of social isolation are real but not always obvious. Arming ourselves with a little information can give us an advantage in combating its effects.

We are social beings. We are genetical programmed to seek-out interactions with our fellow humans. A perceived loss of social support creates an emotional and chemical response that we call loneliness. Biologically, this response compels us to take action to remedy the situation. And when an immediate remedy is unavailable, anxiety develops, and the stress only compounds upon itself. This affects everyone, regardless of age.

So what can we do? First, arm ourselves with a little information. In his June 03, 2020, article titled “Five Reasons Why Being Home All the Time Is So Hard, How can it be so unpleasant to be stuck in a place we love?”,  Frank T. McAndrew Ph.D. outlines various ways we are affected.

  1. It Signals That We Have Lost Control Over Our Lives
  2. The Sheer Amount of Change Is Stressful and Exhausting
  3. Social Isolation Runs Counter to Human Nature
  4. Being in Isolation With Others Can Be Challenging
  5. Isolation Creates a Ripe Environment for Depression

This may seem like old news now, but reviewing it will help keep focused on efforts to combat these effects. Taking steps to plan and organize or life and home will reaffirm our belief that we are in control of our lives. Create a calendar of events, tasks, and activities for yourself and your fellow dwellers. Encourage them to do the same. Make sure to include some repeating events that add consistency to some activities throughout the week. This will create a new normal routine and lessen the feeling of constant change. And be sure to include some time alone, away from any of your cohabitants increasingly annoying idiosyncrasies. And if there isn’t any behavior annoying you, yet, time away will help keep things that way.

Work to set up a few recurring video or telephone visits with other households. Giving and receiving communications is a way of showing others that they are not alone in these times.

Be open to the fact that depression is not uncommon in these circumstances. Look for signs in yourself and others, and be receptive to expressions of concerns received from others. A continuing lack of sleep, appetite, or interest in normal activities should be noted and discussed in order to subdue depression before it can advance.

As a side note, many of our elderly were dealing with social isolation long before the pandemic, and will continue to do so after we emerge from its grip. I will bet that our new-found empathy for those still living in isolation will remind us to give them a call now and then.

So grab a calendar and take some proactive steps today!

As always, thanks for reading. If you have a moment, please Like this page and consider sharing this post it with others. It’s greatly appreciated.

And remember to take the next step…

Check out some of my early posts for coping with the effects of the pandemic:


PS: More information on the effects of social isolation can be found here:

Frank T. McAndrew Ph.D.
Five Reasons Why Being Home All the Time Is So Hard
How can it be so unpleasant to be stuck in a place we love?
Posted Jun 03, 2020

Hämmig O. Health risks associated with social isolation in general and in young, middle and old age. PLoS One. 2019 Jul 18;14(7):e0219663. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0219663. Erratum in: PLoS One. 2019 Aug 29;14(8):e0222124. PMID: 31318898; PMCID: PMC6638933. From

Using Social Distancing to Form New Habits

Habits. We all have them. Most we use every day without thinking. Some we wish we could change or stop. Truly, we may never get a better opportunity to do just that.

I have written many articles about how our habits control the majority of our actions throughout the day. We go about our business throughout the day being triggered from one action to the next. Now that many of our daily triggers have been removed while we stay home, the days seem to drag on forever as we are forming new habits. I’m sure some of you have noticed the difference in your actions. But it takes a few weeks for new habits to form. Therefore, now is the time to take deliberate action to remove your undesired habits and replace them with those you’d like to instill.

Steps to create a new habit:

  1. Write down a description of the actions which you’d like to become habitual. The process of writing them down allows your brain to create a more complete picture of this new behavior; increasing its chance of success. Therefore, include the time(s) of day, tools or people needed, or a triggering event.
  2. If the new habit needs to be done at a certain time, then set a calendar reminder (with notifications) to queue your memory.
  3. If the new habit should be performed in conjunction with an existing habit, such as brushing your teeth or cleaning house, then place a written reminder where you’ll be sure to see it. Better yet, place it where it must be moved to continue.

There are times when we just want to get rid of an existing habit. To do this, we have to determine what ‘reward’ the habit brings us. Sometimes, habits are elusive. That afternoon trip to the office cafeteria or vending machine may be more about moving our body, or being social, than it is for caloric uptake. Here are some Steps for Today that may help:

  1. Identify you unwanted habits by writing them down. Use a journal to capture your daily actions for a few days. This will train the brain to be more aware of them.
  2. If you can handle a poignant response, ask others if they’ve noticed your habits.
  3. Determine the habit’s reward. If you’re emptying your pockets on the dining room table every night, it may less about convenience, and more about not having a place to put your stuff where you’ll remember it in the morning.
  4. Find a replacement, more desirable, action to get the reward. For example, a dedicated place where you can empty out your pockets each night, or just a walk without a stop at the vending machine.
  5. If this process doesn’t seem to be working, start over at step 3. You haven’t found the reward yet.

Research indicates that the length of time is takes to establish a new habit, such as remembering to check ones goals, differs depending on the individual. I’ve seen as little as 21 days (sounds a little optimistic to me) and as long as 66 days. After 3 or 4 weeks, I suggest only using calendar reminders once a week. This will “take away your crutch”; allowing your brain to take ‘ownership’ of the action, while providing a reminder so it won’t be forgotten completely if your daily routine should suddenly change.

This is an exercise which gives back for a lifetime. You can choose how much, or how little, effort you give to it. Maybe it feels overwhelming. If so, start small. You’ll probably be happy with results and continue the process.

Also, I encourage you to ask those who are social-distancing with you, to help you with these changes. In most cases, you will not find a group of people more “on your team” than these. And they’re with you all day, every day!

For sure, you are forming new habits. The question is, will they be the ones you want; the ones that will lead you to the lifestyle you want?

As always, thanks for reading.
And remember to take the next step…