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PTSD in healthcare workers. Feeling isolated? Why it's vital to build your social support network

Updated: Dec 8, 2023


PTSD in healthcare workers. Feeling isolated? Why it's vital to build your social support network


Since the pandemic, loneliness levels have reached an all-time high, with many adults reporting they 'sometimes or always feel alone.' Many groups were at risk of isolation, with older adults especially vulnerable. Everywhere used to meet socially was closed during national lockdowns and family gatherings were greatly limited. The stay home and social distancing mandates forced everyone to become socially isolated.


Isolation can be very detrimental to a person's mental and physical health.


The AARP Foundation lists four signs that a person may be isolated:

  • Profound boredom, general lack of interest, and withdrawal from usual activities

  • Losing interest in personal hygiene

  • Poor eating and nutrition

  • Significant disrepair, clutter, and hoarding in their house


The isolation of the pandemic significantly contributed to conditions such as anxiety and depression due to the need for support and stimulation that socialisation provides.

Yet, for some, isolation can be a result of anxiety and depression in that they use it as a self-induced coping mechanism to deal with excessive worrying and to avoid human interactions.



Being isolated can be associated with higher risks of:


  • High blood pressure

  • Heart disease

  • Obesity

  • Weakened immune system

  • Anxiety

  • Depression

  • Dementia

  • Alzheimer Disease

  • Death


Loneliness can be a painful experience; losing their sense of connection and community can change how a person sees the world, leading to mistrust of others. Therefore, it is so vital to building your social support network, especially during times of crisis.


 


Dear ReNew

I hope this letter finds you in good health. My name is Jason, and I work in healthcare in Chicago. I wanted to share my story and how helpful


found your website. As you know, the epidemic has been brutal for all of us, and healthcare personnel have been a brutal hit. During the first several months of the pandemic, I felt increasingly l


onely and alone. I worked long hours, and several coworkers were sick or working from home. I felt like I had nowhere to turn, and no one could understand what I was going through.

That's when one of my coworkers, Meg, stepped in. Meg and I were always friendly but were far away. However, she noticed I was struggling and began checking in frequently. She would phone or text me after work, leave food in my doorway, and even come for long-distance conversations in my backyard.
I was initially apprehensive about accepting her assistance. I didn't want to burden her and was embarrassed to confess my difficulties. But as time passed, I realized how much her support assisted me in healing and having someone to talk to and share my concerns with made a world of difference. Months later, I've become stronger and more resilient from the pandemic. And I know I couldn't have done it without Meg's assistance. If you're feeling alone or alone, I recommend reaching out to someone you trust. It does not have to be a personal friend or family member; it may be a coworker, a neighbour, or even a support group. The most important thing to remember is that you are not alone and that there are people who care about you and want to assist you.
And I advise my fellow Chicago healthcare workers to connect whenever feasible. We're all going through a rough patch right now, but we're also in a rare position to comprehend each other's problems. Let's be connected and supportive of one another through virtual chats, socially distant meetups, or simply sending texts.
Best wishes and happiness, Jason.

 

What can you do to protect yourself or a loved one from the negative effects of isolation?

Find an activity you both enjoy; a hobby, taking a class, or learning something new can be fun, and you will meet new people who have similar interests.

  • Stay in touch with family, friends, and neighbors by email, social media, voice call, or text. Sending letters and cards is another way to keep up your friendships.

  • How about adopting a pet if you can care for them? Animals can be a source of comfort; they can lower stress and blood pressure. They can give you the sense of feeling needed and loved.

  • Stay physically active and join group activities, such as a walking club or working out with a friend.

  • Find a faith-based organisation; not only can you deepen your spirituality, but you can also engage with others in activities and events.

  • Volunteer! When you help others, it gives you a sense of purpose, helps to relieve loneliness, and helps to improve your mood, your cognitive function, and your well-being.


Everyone can experience loneliness from time to time, but it doesn't have to take over your life, health, or mental well-being. Staying connected when living alone by identifying a person you trust, learning about community services, staying connected with friends and family, and talking to others who share your interests will ease your isolation and give you a happier life.


Reflection:



  1. Have you experienced loneliness or isolation? How did it make you feel?

  2. How can you stay in touch you a loved one this week?

  3. What local groups could you join to meet new people?


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