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Isolate, yes, but do not withdraw from life

May 7, 2020 Chuck Rodgers

Isolation is one of the three behaviors which promote depression. It often sets the stage for the other two: brooding and lack of pleasant activities.

Say an elderly man who lives alone is getting along fine. He often walks, meets his buddies for coffee, occasionally socializes as he eats in a restaurant, goes to church, goes to movies, and spends a lot of time on his hobby of woodworking.

Now imagine that he has a cold and must stay home although he does not feel very ill.

He may have too much time on his hands and begin to sit around brooding and fretting. He may well quit doing things which he formerly enjoyed.

Soon he will have little interaction with anything outside of his own skin. until he no longer even feels like doing anything but sitting or lying around and feeling miserable.

Self-isolating, sheltering in-place, and physical distancing are necessary to thwart the coronavirus pandemic.

However, these are all isolating activities which can easily trigger a downward spiral, especially for those who live alone. It is vitally important to counter that downward spiral.

I hope these ideas will help:

Isolate, but do not withdraw from life. This is more easily said than done, but you must fight hard not to fall into the pit of despair.

If necessary, at first force yourself, if you have to , to do things you enjoy, can safely do, and which pull you outside of yourself: woodworking, quilting, baking, preparing a garden, driving around, walking, doing puzzles, calling friends.

Maintain physical distance, not social distance. You may not be able to be with people you value, but in this age of technology you can interact with them.

Do not wait for others to contact you first. Initiate the contacts.

Be wary, however of social media that upsets you.

Why not now? Are there things you always wanted to do but never had the time? You now have the time.

Decide to do some of those things, then do them.

Do you want to teach yourself piano?

Write the great American novel ?

Refinish that cabinet?

Try that recipe ?

Paint that room?

Train for a marathon?

Now is the time.

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Editor's note: Clinical psychologist Charles W. Rodgers, Ph.D. (retired) opened Fremont Counseling Service in 1973 and today is a member of the Fremont Counseling Service board.

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