Alert: Denver Broncos’ Von Miller Tested Positive for COVID-19. 12 Useful Tips to Tackle the Loneliness of Social Distancing

Von Miller, a sociable guy, @millerlite40 (Twitter), proved that even when you know better, these “stay home” rules are difficult. It goes against human nature. But it only takes one time and you could be caught by this potentially deadly virus. 

Social Distancing Isn’t Easy Even for Von Miller

Testing positive for COVID-19 was a shock to Von Miller.  This virus does not discriminate. Von has asthma. He is also African American.  Despite these risk factors, chances are he will recover and do great because he is wealthy, physically fit, and has health insurance. He wanted to share the fact that he was positive so people understand that this disease is a real concern and it can happen to anyone. This is especially true when guidelines are not followed– social/ physical distancing, staying at home, and wearing a mask when going out.

Von had developed a cough, so his girlfriend encouraged him to get tested for COVID-19. How did he get infected? Well, he kinda, sorta was following the stay home rule, but did have a few people coming to his house- some to work, others to play. 

WHY Social Distancing is Important

  1. COVID-19 is spread by close contact and getting the virus in the nose or mouth.
  2. It usually takes about 5 days on average to develop symptoms, so you could pass the virus to others before you even know you have it.
  3. COVID-19 can harm the lungs, heart, kidneys, and nervous system.
  4. African Americans, people with chronic diseases, and smokers are at high risk of getting infected and dying from COVID-19.
  5. There currently is no cure or vaccine for COVID-19.

Is Loneliness Expected With Social Distancing?

Loneliness

Social/physical distancing is a necessity. What drifted through my mind as I pondered this reality was loneliness. This has certainly come up a lot as I consult with patients over the phone. Telephone and video visits are the new norm to ensure that doctors and patients are safe.

My mind wandered back to Von, now having to self-isolate in a comfortable home and team doctors checking on him. I think this is great that he doesn’t have to go it alone. But what about the masses of Black people, how will they fare? –with poverty, food deserts, inadequate housing, and “essential” jobs requiring them to leave their home.

Von won’t have to recover from the virus alone. But with restricted activities and no visitors, is it possible that loneliness will creep up on him as well?

What About Kids? Elderly? Everyday Folks?

Everyone I’ve talked to is impacted in one way or another by this COVID-19 crisis. There were the grandparents that were forced to be separate from their grandkids. One shared, “I used to see them every day and we miss each other.”

Older people don’t have the corner on loneliness, but they are more prone. Hearing from the 80 year olds in the nursing homes who couldn’t have visitors, was particularly hard.

Young people were impacted as well.  They cried out on the other end of the phone, looking for somebody to fill the void of being home alone, because their school or job shut down.  They weren’t used to having nothing to do all day.

There was the guy that volunteered from sun up to sun down before COVID-19, now thirsting to just see the deliveryman from the window as he dropped off groceries.

One guy mentioned that we are communal people and like to congregate.  It is hard for us to be home alone.  “They talk about social distancing, that ain’t all that easy.” I agree! This pandemic is showing us all about loneliness.

For now Loneliness Seems to be the NEW Norm

This is the new norm– talking on the phone or computer with your doctor, sheltering in place, staying away from others. Even for the loners this is a very difficult time because social connection is a primal human need.  It doesn’t mean that you always need to have people around.  There is absolutely nothing wrong with being alone at times, but when you are forced to spend most of your time alone, loneliness can happen.

“Loneliness is proof that your innate search for connection is intact.

Martha Beck

Human connection makes us healthier, happier, smarter, energized and more productive.

Does Loneliness Affect Physical and Mental Health?

Loneliness has been shown to affect mental health as well as physical health and well-being. 

On the physical side loneliness can increase the risk of:

  • high blood pressure
  • obesity
  • depression 
  • and even death in prolonged instances

On the other hand, social connections can improve:

  • heart function
  • endocrine(hormone) function
  • immune system function

Social connections can help reduce the risk of COVID-19, along with the physical recommendations.

3 in 5 Americans Report Loneliness

Loneliness certainly is not new. In a survey of 10,000 people, a Cigna report showed that in 2019, 3 in 5 Americans ages 18 and older, reported feeling lonely.  This is even before COVID-19 set in.  With COVID-19 ever present, this issue will be worse unless we act to tackle it.

Social Distancing- Alone or Loneliness is There a Difference?

Being alone is just that, a state of being. Loneliness is a feeling, a state of mind. We’ve all faced loneliness and with the COVID-19 crisis it is hard not to be lonely. In order to be safe from this vicious virus we have been asked to stay at home and separated from others. Being alone is doing things by yourself, but also for yourself.  Whereas, loneliness just seems to take you over.  It is hard to shake it off. It can be suffocating.

Here are some of the signs that loneliness may be a bit more intense then everyday loneliness:

  • Sleep difficulties
  • Feeling anxious
  • Addictive behaviors- excess television,  alcohol, drugs, overeating
  • Lack of willpower to do uplifting health stuff- exercise, healthy diet
  • Sluggish brain function or concentration issues
  • Feeling hopeless, helplessness, or worthless
  • The body feeling out of sorts

How will YOU Tackle the Loneliness of Social Distancing?

Loneliness can be particularly dangerous right now with COVID-19 lurking.  Here are a dozen tips to help ease loneliness:

  1. Technology:  use ‘tech ‘to get connected.  You don’t have to be an expert in computers or I-phones to buy some interaction. Use Facetime or video platforms to have tea or dinner parties, book club discussions, and more.  No I-phone? No problem. Use your landline to call some friends or family.
  2. Self-care: practice physical and emotional care. Eat healthy meals, get restful sleep, exercise, pray or meditate.  Free your mind!  You can manage your thoughts.
  3. Listen to music: the right music can have a soothing, calming effect.  One of my favorite spring into summer songs is Roy Ayers, Everybody Loves the Sunshine or Summertime by Will Smith.
  4. Check in buddy:  get someone that loves you as you are.  You only need one person you trust, that will be there for you. Pick someone that understands and supports you.
  5. Walks in the sun: use the sun’s natural properties. Sun causes your brain to produce more serotonin, a mood boosting and calming hormone.
  6. Drive and Park’ meetings: take a spin to meet up with the family.  Missing your grandkids? Plan to drive over to their house and stay in the car. See them from 6 feet away.  Make big signs that tell them how you feel.
  7. Kick boredom to the curb: no boredom in my house used to be my dictum.  Physical isolation can lead to boredom if you let it.   Find some time consuming yet fun things to do.  Dig out some old photos and write stories about them.  Find a new hobby.
  8. Help someone: acts of kindness can boost your spirit. Practicing social distancing, help a neighbor do yard work.  Volunteer to deliver food to those in need.
  9. Pamper a pet:  I’m not that fond of pets.  However,  some of my loneliest patients have said a pet has rescued them from loneliness.
  10. Gratitude: write down 3 things you are grateful for.  If your page stays blank, then it’s time for help.
  11. Seek professional help: overwhelmed? If your loneliness is getting too much to handle, text HOME to 747741 from anywhere in the U.S., at any time. A live, trained Crisis Counselor will respond.
  12. Watch throwback sports: on DVD or T.V.  Since most sports are on hold, the choices are endless.
Baker’s Dozen-What would you add to this list?
Kick boredom to the curb!

Can YOU Beat the Loneliness of Social Distancing?

These are tough times! Social distancing and staying at home are lifesaving right now.  By all means don’t gamble with your life and cheat a little like Von Miller did.  You might get caught and have a much worse outcome than he did. Also, be prepared, loneliness may come calling.  Try some of the measures that have been described but if necessary call the HELP line. Block loneliness from ruining the time that you must be alone. What song will you play, what book will you read, which friend will you call; when you are feeling lonely?

Tea Chaser:

Is it time to loosen stay at home orders and get back to business as usual?

Published by Dr.TeaNT

Active clinician winding down by writing the truth About health. Spilling the tea on the effects of COVID- 19 and more on the community.

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