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Social distancing & depression: How to find support during the isolation

By Emily Ornberg. Clinically reviewed by Amy Magill, MA, RDN and Jen Matz, MPH

As coronavirus (COVID-19) spreads, more people across the globe are urged to stay home, keep a safe distance of about six feet from people and avoid gathering in groups.

This “social distancing” is essential to slow the spread of COVID-19.1,2 But beyond the stressors of a changing work, school or childcare situation and events and plans being canceled, being away from others and alone with your thoughts can take a toll on your mental health.2

Imagine your mental wellbeing as a bucket, and as more stressors get added, the harder it is to maintain or carry.3 We all carry around our own stressors such as working a difficult job, managing health conditions or caring for children. Depression and anxiety can take up a lot of space in that bucket—add the fear of exposure to COVID-19, isolation from others and lack of access to common coping mechanisms like exercising at the gym or doing other meaningful activities, and it can spill over. Finding other ways to cope and connect with others can help lighten your load.

How can social distancing from the COVID-19 outbreak trigger depression?

Connecting with other people helps us feel emotionally supported and can play a major role in our happiness levels. So isolation can be dangerous for people’s mental health—especially those who already have depression or anxiety.2 Between the stressors of facing a hiatus from meaningful activities and social engagement; financial strain from being unable to work; and a lack of access to typical coping strategies such as going to the gym or attending religious services, it’s understandable to feel heavy mental impacts such as fear, anxiety, depression or anger during this period.2 Common reactions to quarantine could include anxiety about yourself or your family’s health; frustration over the loss of agency or personal freedom; depression as a result of the disruption from your life; or stigmatized if you are sick or have been exposed to COVID-19.2

Studies show that social isolation can not only contribute to mental illness, it can wreak havoc on your physical and cognitive health.4 Some studies suggest social isolation can lead to adverse health consequences ranging from depression, poor sleep quality, cognitive decline and poor cardiovascular function.4 And long-term feelings of loneliness can lead to premature death.4

It isn’t known if a period of a few weeks in isolation leads to such significant physical implications. However, older adults, people with pre-existing mental health conditions and healthcare workers responding to the outbreak may have an increased risk of distress from social distancing, quarantine or isolation.2

How can I help prevent feelings of loneliness during social distancing?

An effective way to combat feelings of isolation can be as easy as reaching for your cell phone. Dozens of studies have shown that people who have regular social interactions with family, friends and their community are happier, have fewer health problems and live longer.5 Connecting with others can also help reduce harmful levels of stress, which can have a positive effect on your health and immune system.

5 ways to stay connected during social distancing

  1. Call someone.
    Whomever you call will likely appreciate hearing from you as much as you’ll enjoy talking with them.
  2. Schedule video chats.
    Have dinner with someone new every night or schedule a virtual dinner party with the whole family!
  3. Send quick messages.
    Text your friends and family throughout the day to catch up and offer support.
  4. Write letters to express gratitude.
    Expressing your thankfulness can help you feel more positive and cope with adversity.6
  5. Join online groups.
    Find message boards centered around some of your favorite likes or hobbies, such as sports, reading or gardening, can help you feel a part of a community.7

What are other ways to help cope during the COVID-19 outbreak?

Planning ahead with how you and your family can cope with the stressors of social-distancing can help you stay prepared and in control.2

5 ways to help prevent stress surrounding the outbreak of COVID-19

  1. Create and follow a daily routine
    Regular daily activities can help both adults and children preserve a sense of purpose in a time of uncertainty. Try to schedule time for work, school, exercise and hobbies.
  2. Take breaks from the news, including social media.
    Constant information about the pandemic can be overwhelming and upsetting.
  3. Make time to unwind.
    Read books, do crafts or other hobbies you enjoy. Make a to-do list of dream projects you’ve never had time for.
  4. Maintain healthy habits.
    Take deep breaths, exercise regularly, eat healthy meals and get plenty of sleep. Do not turn to alcohol, tobacco or drugs to cope with the stress of the situation.
  5. Reach out to professionals.
    If you, or someone you care about, is feeling overwhelmed with emotions, contact a health care provider for a virtual therapy consultation or call SAMHSA’s National Helpline, 1-800-662-HELP (4357)

Pay attention to how you and your loved ones are feeling each day, share your feelings, offer support to those who may need it and don’t hesitate to reach out to your health care provider. If you already have a mental health condition, continue to follow your treatment plan as directed by your provider, including taking medications as prescribed. Small efforts to lighten your load every day may help lower the potentially harmful effects of isolation.


Rains expected to cause additional delays to the repair of M4 between Isibaya and uMhlanga

The KwaZulu-Natal Department of Transport regrets to inform members of the public that due to the continuous and severe rainfall in the province, the deadline initially set for the repair of M4 between Isibaya and uMhlanga, is expected to be extended.

The initial projection for repairing the road infrastructure damage that was caused by recent floods was five weeks, however after yesterday’s heavy rainfall, the engineers working on-site have requested more time in order for them to assess the extent of the further sustained damage.

A section of this road has been closed since last month after a portion of a side of the road was washed away in a mudslide, which was caused by flash floods that hit most parts of the province.

This road is essential in providing an alternative from the N2 and is a feeder to the King Shaka International Airport and the Dube Trade Port. The Department is, however, doing everything possible to ensure speedy repairs, however, considering the continuous rainfall further delays are anticipated.

After receiving a briefing from engineers this morning, MEC for Transport, Community Safety and Liaison, Bheki Ntuli, urged members of the public to be patient as the department is doing everything in its power to resolve the challenge facing M4.

“Our professional teams are working around the clock to repair the damage to road infrastructure, however, the continuous rainfall has caused further damage to the already severely affected M4 stretch. This might cause more delays to the projected period of five weeks. Our engineers on-site are conducting further assessments to ascertain the extent of the new damage following yesterday’s heavy rain in Durban. The road will remain closed to traffic for the safety of motorists and we advise them to use alternative roads. As rainfall continues in most parts of the province, we urge motorists to be extra cautious in the slippery and flooded areas,” said Ntuli.

Source – ArriveAlive via TheSouthAfrica

About Ballito

How we see Ballito!

Imagine yourself driving through an established small town where perfect waves provide the backdrop, and an overabundance of flora and fauna that deliver natural beauty is always in view.

This small town is Ballito, situated just 30 kilometres from Durban, on the North Coast shoreline, also known as the Dolphin Coast.  The location of this stunning town is extremely sought after, not only because of the natural beauty which surrounds it, but also because it houses some of the countries most loved and sought after lifestyle estates.

Ballito falls straight under the KwaDukuza municipality and is often discussed as the fastest growing area of Kwa-Zulu Natal. Ballito was established in 1954 as a private township and the area was originally a portion of a sugar cane farm. The word “Ballito” comes from the Spanish word which means “little ball”.

Initially Ballito was known as just a holiday destination, but increasingly more people have decided to make Ballito their permanent home. It is not hard to understand why, considering the spectacular views and the many events and activities available. Ballito offers its residents and holiday makers every convenience from sports to shopping centre to restaurants.

The weather at Ballito perfectly matches the tranquil lifestyle – summer days are warm and winter days are clear and crisp. The rainy season happens mainly in the summer months rather than in winter.

A visit to Ballito promises to be a truly unforgettable experience. Ballito will cater for each member in your family. For the shopaholic in the family, they do not need to go further than into town for all their shopping needs, as Ballito provides many excellent malls to choose from. These shopping malls offer a variety of fine dining experiences and the latest in entertainment facilities.

Sport and Health fans are able to visit the Umhlali and Zimbali Golf Courses.  They offer all golf fanatics the chance to make use of their Golf Course and also enjoy a tasty meal at the clubhouse.

For the nature lovers, the widespread beaches along the coastline offers great walking and running routes, as well as many swimming and surfing spots.

In Ballito, there is no shortage of top schools, making it the perfect place to raise a family and ensure that your children’s education is high on your priority list.