One year later, we’re feeling the effects that isolation has had on our community members and families. While some haven’t changed routines during the pandemic, many others have undergone massive restructuring of social habits, which have left more people increasingly isolated. That isolation has had increased mental and physical effects. From Medical News Today, we learn that depression has increased by huge amounts from 2019 to the end of 2020. “According to a December 2020 survey by the U.S. Census Bureau, 42 percent of people in the country reported symptoms of anxiety or depression that month. This was a huge increase from the 11 percent they recorded in 2019.”
One year ago, in March 2020, I wrote about the effects of isolation that would come through the “next few WEEKS of lockdown.” After 12 months of the pandemic have passed, with some families still self -isolating, we are seeing a rise in the challenges from isolation. I have had more people with depression, stress, and anxiety issues call my office than ever before. I’ve had to refer more families going through intense marital struggles to professional Christian counselors in Sparta and Cookeville than I’ve ever had in the past. Don’t get me started on the physical struggles that have come from the stresses of the last year!
In May 2019, the American Psychological Association gave this warning about isolation in American society. “Loneliness levels have reached an all-time high, with nearly half of 20,000 U.S. adults reporting they sometimes or always feel alone. Forty percent of survey participants also reported they sometimes or always feel that their relationships are not meaningful and that they feel isolated. Such numbers are alarming because of the health and mental health risks associated with loneliness. According to a meta-analysis co-authored by Julianne Holt-Lunstad, PhD, a professor of psychology and neuroscience at Brigham Young University, lack of social connection heightens health risks as much as smoking 15 cigarettes a day or having alcohol use disorder or obesity.”
Wow, social isolation can have inherent health risks just like smoking, alcohol use, and obesity! The CDC’s recommendations of self-isolation during the coronavirus pandemic were great for limiting the outbreak, but we’re looking at some challenging side effects that are harming our families now. The good news is there are ways God has given us to combat isolation issues. These are suggestions I researched a year ago that still hold true today. Here are a quick four suggestions for your family.
Begin a small group study – Last year, our government administration advocated for limiting group interactions of 10 people or less, in March. We encouraged then and encourage you now to pick a family from church or the community and meet together once a week to study a subject. Pick a book of the Bible, a popular best-seller book, or a documentary series to discuss. Maybe you and a friend can finally work on that car, bathroom, or landscaping project you’ve been putting off. Who knows, you may continue that small group effort beyond to a time with the pandemic is a distant memory. Small group interactions help families combat the challenges of isolation.
Get regular exercise – Don’t sit in the recliner all day watching the news like some have done for the last year. As the weather gets nicer, go for morning walks with a friend, learn to swing a tennis racquet, or hit the treadmill with a friend on Facetime. Likewise, encourage the same for your kids with some of their friends. Enjoy those exercises that limit personal exposure but still give you social time and exercise together. Just as you would combat the effects of depression with exercise, use exercise as your tool for benefiting yourself and your family.
Get outdoors – Here, in the Upper Cumberland, we are blessed with some of the best outdoor features to brighten your day and give you a little social time. Be inspired along with your family as you hike the scenic Black Mountain overlook in Crossville. Go play outdoors as you hike around the top of the Ozone Falls State Natural Area. Stretch your legs on the beautiful pioneer trail at Cumberland Mountain State Park near Crossville. Enjoy the wildlife along the Collins Nature Trail near Rock Island. Personally, I think it’s hard to beat the glorious rim trails at Fall Creek Falls and Savage Gulf State Natural Area near Spencer and McMinnville. Go see every major waterfall within an hour’s distance in the next four weeks. Get outdoors with your family or with another family to beat the negative effects of isolation.
Use that technology – Facetime on iPhones and Macbooks, Google Duo on Android devices, and Skype on PCs, and Zoom are still wonderfully easy ways to connect with your friends and family from the comfort of your home. Set up a regularly scheduled time to have video conferencing conversations with friends and family who are still isolating at this time. Make it a point to encourage others through technology, and you’ll be blessed as a family, too.
As the physical and mental strains increase on families from a year of this pandemic, remember that you have resources to help your own family as well as those neighboring in your community. God has blessed those of us in the Upper Cumberland with so many wonderful resources and neighbors that we can truly make a difference in helping families combat the effects of isolation. As always, contact us with concerns at firstname.lastname@example.org with suggestions, questions, or concerns. May God continue to bless you and your family with faith, hope, and love.
“Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” – Matthew 22:36-39