By Nikki Deckon
Isolation hurts. In this season of physical-distancing and sheltering-in-place for some this means a whole lot of depression, anxiety and malaise. Even before COVID-19, many studies already taught us that isolation can be detrimental to a person’s emotional and physical well-being. According to aginglifecarejournal.org, “The effect of social isolation on health appears to be of a similar magnitude to other risks to health, such as high blood pressure, smoking and obesity.” It’s a particular concern for seniors who may not have strong connections with their community.
Is it even possible to stop the hurt, yet remain six feet apart? Yes, it is! A simple internet search provides many suggestions to connect with family and friends electronically using programs such as Marco Polo, Facetime, Zoom, GoToMeeting, Google Meet and more. There are also wonderfully creative ideas to keep your mind active. For example, here in Newberg, the Chehalem Cultural Center offers free Art From Home classes.
At Friendsview we’ve found what works for us too. Here are 5 ways we’ve discovered that can help combat the pain of isolation:
Be Still. Psalm 46:10 says, “Be still and know that I am God.” When we are hurting emotionally it’s easy to fidget and pace. But sometimes all we need is a moment of quiet. Every day, allow yourself time to stop, breathe and to just be in the moment. In your stillness, remember who God is and what faith means to you. We think that soon you will reap the benefits of being still.
However, it’s impossible to remain still all day, right? So what about for those moments where you just have to do something? We’re glad you asked!
Use your talents. Everyone has something they are good at and love to do. If you adore drawing, then design a picture like Friendsview resident, Bonnie Sloat and share it with others. For garden lovers, work in the garden and treat yourself to a flower for inside your home or leave one at a neighbor’s door. Quilters and sewers can serve their community by sewing face masks similar to what Friendsview residents have created.
Like a good portion of the world you may be spending more time than usual watching TV, on your phone or other smart device. However, this may lead to more anxiety.
Limit screen time. Do we really need to check COVID-19 updates ten times a day? Experts tell us, no! They recommend reducing the amount of times you listen to the news or search for updates to 1-2 times per day. Too much screen time often exacerbates feelings of isolation, affects our vision, posture and more. Not convinced? Try it for three days. Limit your screen time and record how you feel on those days. You may be surprised by the results.
Another suggestion for battling the pain of isolation involves looking to the future.
It’s never too soon to downsize. If you are on the Friendsview intent list then you are already looking ahead, but have you started sorting your possessions? Perhaps this feels just as overwhelming as COVID-19 restrictions, but taken in small pieces, it could be just the distraction you need. Start with one room at a time. Consider what is necessary for your new home and what can be passed to someone else. If you are unsure whether or not you will need an item, put it in the “give away pile.” New Retirement recommends to “involve your kids or friends. They may be able to help you make decisions”—over the phone of course! Take it slow and if you get discouraged we suggest adding to your daily vocabulary a familiar word:
Grace. People handle stress in many different ways. There will be times when we won’t understand someone else’s process or journey. However, the world could use a friend right now, even if it’s from 6 feet away! A friend who shows love, understanding and compassion. A great way to do this is to reach out and call that neighbor or family member who you suspect may be struggling too. Then, just listen. Or, phone someone and ask them to be a listening ear for you. At Friendsview, residents created “phone-trees” to check in with one another daily. Some staff have done the same, while others join residents for “Coffee over Zoom.” No matter what, the goal is always to show a little grace and a lot of understanding.
One of Friendsview’s top values is compassion. We like to phrase it like this: we are committed to imitating Christ’s compassion by treating each individual with loving kindness, tenderly bearing one another’s burdens and sharing one another’s joys.
Even with social distancing and sheltering at home, our goal is to still show this compassion no matter what happens today, tomorrow or next year. The hashtag “inthistogether” is true. The world is in this together right now, and our hope is that at the end of it all our community will be stronger for it, and the pain of isolation will be a distant memory.
Nikki Deckon has been on staff at Friendsview since 2018 in various roles and in long term care for several years. Before working with seniors, she wrote/produced hundreds of talk radio programs and vignettes; was published in a couple of editions of Chicken Soup for the Soul and other print publications including The Oregonian, Kids NW, The Sun and more. After twenty years of marriage she feels that she’s still in the “honeymoon” phase and is enjoying raising her teenage boys in Newberg, a mere two miles from Friendsview.