Losing face-to-face contact for several weeks of self-quarantine has been very hard on our community, especially for those who live alone. According to Saratoga Hospital’s Executive Director of Behavioral Health Services, Janice Prichett, LCSW-R, the numbers of depressed patients are climbing across the nation. Even people who never thought they would need counseling are seeking help.
“When you are forced to withdraw, you are left with your own thoughts most of the time,” Janice says. “With ongoing isolation, those thoughts can turn melancholy and start spiraling down. It’s often easier to think about everything you’ve done wrong or failed to accomplish than everything you’ve done right.”
Our Behavioral Health services team are seeing a number of patients who are experiencing the negative effects of prolonged isolation. Coupled with the overwhelming stress of one piece of bad news following another—job loss, closed restaurants and shops, fear of illness, restless kids, economic uncertainty—it can all be too much for any one person to take.
Many of the signs of stress fatigue are precursors to depression, such as:
- Sleeping more,
- Eating more,
- Lack of concentration,
- Feeling numb or frozen, and
- An overall sense that everything is just too much to bear.
Developing and maintaining simple human connection has the power, in some cases, to reverse all of these symptoms. Social connection through a family member, friend, or even social media can lessen feelings of anxiety and depression. According to Janice, studies show that regular in-person contact can help regulate our emotions, leading to higher self-esteem and even improving our immune systems.
“First and foremost, people need to find a way to connect in person with others safely, even in quarantine,” Janice says. “If you can’t meet in person, the next best thing is by phone, FaceTime, or other virtual interaction. There’s a growing body of literature that shows the negative effects of isolation, including a greater susceptibility to physical illness. By neglecting our need to connect, we put our health at risk.”
Janice urges people to reach out, before the symptoms of loneliness go too far. A regular conversation with a neighbor, even 6-feet apart, can do worlds of good for both of you. Virtual support groups, such as these at Saratoga Hospital, can provide engaging group meetings, as well.
Meanwhile, there are several temporary coping strategies that can help you overcome feelings of overwhelm and isolation. Simple standbys are doing things you enjoy, such as reading, seeing an uplifting movie, spending time with a favorite hobby, learning a new one, or calling a friend.
Janice says many of our patients have found success by practicing gratitude, making a list of everything that is good in your life. Prayer and other sources of spiritual reflection can restore a sense of peace. Some people have found that taking time to help those who are less fortunate can make a profound difference in your life.
If nothing is helping you feel better, it is important to seek guidance from a mental health provider. Your primary care provider can give you a referral. You may be suffering from depression, which is a common yet debilitating condition that should not be ignored. Everyone is struggling right now. You are not alone.
Saratoga Hospital’s behavioral health services are initially offered through our Primary Care practices. Those behavioral health services are virtual and include an overall assessment and recommendations for further treatment, if needed. For short-term outpatient counseling, our compassionate, skilled team of psychiatrists and social workers provide support for a variety of concerns, including stress, depression, anxiety, relationship struggles, and mood disorders, all to achieve your overall wellness.
To determine whether inpatient or outpatient services are best for you, your first step is to call your primary care provider. If you currently do not have a primary care provider, our Saratoga Hospital Medical Group Patient Concierge can help you find the physician that is right for you. Please contact us at 518-886-5900. Help is just a phone call away. Learn more at SaratogaHospital.org.
• Suicide Prevention Coalition of Saratoga County: 1-800-273-8255
• National Suicide Prevention Hotline: 1-800-273-8225
• Saratoga County Crisis Line Hot Line: 1-518-584-9030
• Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration National Helpline: 1-800-662-HELP (4357)