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  • Carly Gilliland

Coping in Social Distancing

Hey friends! I’m just going to cut to the chase here--it has been crazy. By crazy I mean it has been obscure, ridiculous, anxious, frightening, overwhelming, and most of all, isolating. For the last few months I had only seen COVID-19 through twitter trends and international news updates. It was something affecting the borders along Asia and Western Europe; and then it was in America, then the bordering Southern Eastern states, then Alabama, and as of this week, in my own home of Birmingham. Jefferson County at this moment has at least 31 confirmed cases. This last week I’ve been engulfed by a term that 10 days ago I had never heard in my life: social distancing.

Social distancing tends to be described as the separating of a community to avoid further outbreak and hopefully -flatten the curve-. While this is undoubtedly necessary for combatting the current situation, I can’t help but be equally concerned for all who are distancing themselves. Personally, as someone on the autism spectrum, I know first hand the struggles of severe social anxiety and the introvertive nature that can develop through that. However, I’m also aware that as humans, no matter how anxious or introverted we would consider ourselves to be, we are designed for relationships. Self-isolation is a gateway to increased depressive episodes and manic states, and that is what breaks my heart for this time. I’m hurting for all those who have a history of depression, anxiety, self-harm, suicidal thoughts, abuse, addiction, and everything in between. I’m hurting for students of all ages who are now quarantined to their homes for (at least) 3 weeks; the ones who rely on school for food, warmth, and love. I’m hurting for the people who live alone (like myself) or in dysfunctional homes. Distancing, while necessary in this time, can also be deadly. But there are ways to cope with it in the meantime.

1. Re-think the Phrasing

Since last week many churches across the US have stopped holding in house services, opting to either stream online, or in some cases, drive in. Since last week I’ve head different pastors attempt to reconstruct the phrase in their sermons. While the idea of it makes sense, the wording could perhaps be adjusted. Think of social distancing instead as physical distancing, because that’s really what it is! Everything from sports, to tv/movie productions, to concerts, to festivals, to even public spaces have been cancelled or shut down, and as unsettling as it may be, these things are all physical. What isn’t cancelled are phone calls, Facetime, live streams, or even written letters. Just as our love languages go outside physical touch, our social capabilities do too.


2. Reach Out While Staying In

Isolation is one of the most common contributors to depression and anxiety. Even when done by choice, it can be a dangerous situation. But to suddenly be thrown into it, out of your routine and comfort zone, can be especially triggering. Those with a history of depression and anxiety or pre-existing condition can be the most vulnerable during this time. We all have skeletons in our closet. Whatever it may be, we all have something that we’ve pushed away and hidden in the corners of our mind, hoping that if we leave it here long enough, it’ll either go away or we’ll forget about it entirely. But now we’re stuck at home, and the skeletons can’t get up and walk themselves out the door. It’s significant during this time to reach out to people, not only as a means to distract, but also to release. Whether it be a partner, mentor, friend or family member, you need to start with one person. If it’s that unsettling (trust me, I’ve been there) to talk, then I highly encourage to start with a professional. Hotlines are truly lifesaving and allow you to stay anonymous. Counseling is something I recommend having consistently, even if there’s nothing significant going on at the moment. Though social distancing is still in place, I personally have able to keep seeing mine through facetime! People will do their best to work with you because they want what’s best for you. While we’re all staying in at the moment it’s more important than ever that we get up and reach out. You deserve this!


3. Reevaluate Your Situation

Lastly, let’s talk about finances. Easily the most triggering thing about this whole phenomenon has been the drastic, genuine loss of normalcy. Working in healthcare, it took a while for the threat of COVID-19 to reach my job specifically. For the whole first week after restrictions started being placed in the US, I was still getting up and going to work all the same, scrolling through social media looking at my friends who were now stuck at home. Then, the surgeon general called for a postponement of all non-essential surgeries, and the surgery count dropped so rapidly that our department was suddenly having to make a rotation for who would even get to come in by the day. Whether you’ve suddenly found yourself laid off, working from home, or going overtime in an essential job, now’s the time to step back, realize the weight of your situation, and l e t i t g o. If you’re entering a bad spot financially, don’t be afraid to look at the now deemed essential businesses that are hiring to meet this unprecedented demand. Don’t be afraid to file unemployment; you have to do what can keep you going. What’s going to get us all through this is to just keep going! (While staying at home of course!)

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