Monday 6th April 2020
Combatting COVID-19 is an extraordinary challenge, and to do our bit to combat the spread of the virus, the nation is being asked to stay at home. Staying in is essential as limiting our contact with others will reduce the risk of us catching the virus as well as passing the virus on if we are carrying. By managing the scale of the outbreak we reduce the strain put on the NHS and help them to save more lives.
It is our duty as compassionate citizens to follow the government guidelines and stay at home. However, we must not shy away from the challenge of staying at home. Connections with friends and family are a central component to our mental health as they build our sense of self-worth, sense of belonging, provide us with an opportunity to share positive experiences and provide us with a platform to give and receive emotional support.
Prolonged periods of isolation from people is harmful to mental wellbeing. In addition to this, we face an unprecedented situation and our stress and anxiety are already exacerbated by COVID-19. It is therefore now more important than ever to stay connected with one another in whatever way we can.
Whilst we may not be able to physically be with our friends and families the digital world presents an array of opportunities for us to connect with one another. Be it video chats, phone calls, text messaging or emailing, these simple tools can help connect you, so make sure you utilise them.
Make a connectivity plan and plan them into the week so each day is another opportunity to catch up with someone you love. These connections should be an opportunity to escape so try and limit the amount you talk about COVID-19. Start a book club, a knitting club, cook together, clean together, talk about sport or just reminisce, and fill this time and space with fun and enjoyment.
The digital world doesn’t just provide an opportunity for you to connect with family and friends, but likeminded people and those with similar interests. Online clubs and forums have become increasingly popular in recent years and now more than ever they are a vital tool in connecting people. If you can’t go to a club you love, see if you can find it online.
Heart Valve Voice has put together a list of ways you can stay connected during this time, so click here and find out more.
Extended periods of isolation can be very lonely, so think about things you can do to connect with friends and family you can’t see. For instance, putting more pictures up of the people you care about is a nice reminder of the people in your life that you are away from at this time. If your house is quiet, put on a chatty radio show or a podcast. Remind yourself, that this is not a permanent thing and things will return to normal, but these small changes can temper the anxiety and loneliness caused by this period of isolation.
If you are feeling very lonely and need someone to talk to about your feelings then Samaritans, Mind, Shelter and many more national charities have set up helplines and peer support communities to help people through this difficult period. At a local level, there are many charities across the country trying to support isolated people, as well as local community groups which have been created in response to the crisis. Reach out, ask for support and you could form a connection that lasts long after COVID-19.
Loneliness and social isolation not only affect our mental health but our physical health. Positive social support can improve our capacity to cope with stress as well as strengthening our immune system. If you’ve just been treated or are awaiting treatment for heart valve disease you should use these tools to build a new formatted support network that makes you fit and ready for your recovery/surgery.
Social distancing and self-isolation will be a challenge for many people. Humans are innately social, and we use our connections with one another to give us strength, comfort, safety, happiness and love. We enter into a time where stress and anxiety are amplified, and social connections reduced, and it is essential that we use all the tools at our disposal to combat this. Our connections may need to take on a new form, but the strength and comfort they give us need not be diminished at this time.
Stay safe and stay connected.