Seductive Coronavirus Home confinement for many days can have a significant psychological impact for people who suffer it, but even more so for those who suffer it alone and especially for the most vulnerable groups such as the elderly. In Spain there are more than two million people over 65 who live alone, according to data from the National Institute of Statistics.
Of these, more than 850,000 are 80 years or older. “The significant decrease in daily activities and routines, a low sensory stimulation and a decrease in social contact can alter their state of mind,” explains psychology professor at the Open University of Catalonia (UOC) Alba Pérez.
“Situations of high uncertainty, such as the current one, can generate the appearance of endless emotions and negative thoughts,” Raúl Vaca, a psychologist and member of the Board of Directors of the Spanish Society of Geriatrics and Gerontology (SEGG), explains to Cuídate. Specifically, he details, “we can experience high levels of nervousness, agitation, fear. In addition, we may have significant problems concentrating, prolonged states of alert and excessive concern, among others. ”
Due to the interruption of social relationships that were normally carried out on a day-to-day basis and the activities that facilitated these contacts, “it is possible that feelings of loneliness and sadness increase, presenting symptoms of anxiety or depressive states,” says Bárbara Lucendo Arribas, psychologist at CentroTAP.
In the case of older people, “considering yourself a risk population for this virus can affect your mood, in addition to what was previously indicated, perceiving yourself as more vulnerable and acquiring a more negative view of the situation in which we find ourselves”, regrets the expert. To cope with these types of situations and feelings, the first thing is “to identify those ideas and thoughts that generate the most discomfort and recognize negative emotions,” reports Vaca.
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The objective of this first step is “to determine the origin of our negative emotions in order to face them with real and reliable information and data” and for this it recommends “to adequately inform ourselves of the situation through official sources and to avoid, as far as possible, overexposure to too much information: “If we are constantly aware of the latest news on the situation, we can increase our anxiety and concern.”
Maintaining optimism and being positive are other of his recommendations. “It is normal for intrusive negative thoughts to appear that make us doubt the usefulness of the measures we are taking and that only remind us of the negative consequences of the situation and the losses,” he explains. In those moments, “we must try to remember the benefits and gains of the situation, the cases of the cured people and those who will not be infected thanks to the fact that we are doing our duty”: not leaving home.
In this sense, according to Lucendo, it is key to remember why this is being done in these moments. “When we find ourselves in situations of isolation, it is important to keep in mind why this measure is being carried out; it is important to ensure both our safety and that of others, and our conduct facilitates all of this,” he highlights.
“Thinking that isolation is an act of protection towards oneself and others contributes meaning to what is so difficult for us to carry out,” Lucendo recalls. It can also be useful to “remember those complicated situations that we have already overcome throughout our lives” and “the moments of success in complicated previous situations, both individually (a serious illness, a family situation of extreme urgency and / or need) , etc.) and at a collective level (wars and postwar, other epidemics or socioeconomic crises) ”. These thoughts “will increase our feelings of self-efficacy and, in turn, our well-being,” says the SEGG psychologist.
And to maintain optimism, is there anything better than humor? These days, videos do not stop appearing on social networks in order to cope with the coronavirus and, as the SEGG psychologist says: “Using humor can help us face difficult times”.
We can benefit from it “insofar as we manage to break through the barrier that fear, anxiety or concern can generate for the news that reaches us or the situation of isolation itself.” Furthermore, it allows us to “break the bubble of concern, air our thoughts and recharge our strength to continue our collective effort.”
Another aspect that must continue to be maintained is physical activity even when it is complicated. “You should not completely abandon yourself,” says Vaca. In fact, according to the expert, it is essential to stay active “physically, cognitively and socially” for which it is key to maintain a certain routine in our daily activities.
Thus, the expert advises “to plan in detail our activities, both work, domestic or leisure.” To do this, it proposes “to make a schedule in which the occupation of the different activity time slots and daily tasks are correctly established and differentiated. This will help us maintain a sense of order in our day. ” And is that keeping busy is essential to control the appearance of “negative intrusive” thoughts and ideas.
In relation to more physical care, according to Vaca, “we should be able to reserve a period of time per day to do physical exercises to maintain our physical capacity.” Currently there are many examples and tutorials accessible online that can help people who are alone to do activities safely. Another idea for exercising is through housework, which serves to keep the mind busy and is a form of physical exercise.
As an addition to physical exercise it is essential to “maintain correct sleep hygiene habits that allow us to rest properly.” Thus, even if we are locked up at home and the schedules seem to be blurred, when it comes to resting well it is important to establish adequate schedules and routines.
In this sense, he advises “to watch long naps or activities that excite us excessively before going to sleep and that make it difficult to fall asleep.” Another suggestion is “leave for the afternoon-night all those activities that most relax each person, for example, reading, listening to music or meditating.”
During confinement, as much as possible, avoid feeling and feeling lonely. “We have to take advantage of these moments to strengthen ties with the members of our emotional environment. We can, for example, reserve some time a day to talk to the people we live with or, in the case of living alone, promote the use of technology and social networks to talk to the people we don’t see. ”
And is that maintaining communication with family members is key. According to Pérez, “people living alone should be kept from shutting themselves up, for which reason regular contact with friends and family, whether by phone or videoconference, is essential.”
Why is it being so important to go out on the balcony, just to chat with the neighbor across the street? These little big gestures, explains the psychologist Pilar Conde, from Origin Clinics, are very important to keep away the anxiety that confinement produces, to raise the morale of the population, as well as to foster solidarity and empathy in these hard times:
Leisure is a natural antidepressant, which contributes to emotional stability. Strengthens our group membership, from the neighborhood to the nation, generating empathy and responsibility towards everyone. It allows us to verify that we are not alone, that other people also need contact. It makes us necessary for the other. It takes up our time and if we integrate it into our routines it helps us to face confinement in a healthier way.
All of these tips can help people cope with loneliness, but it can happen that there are people who cannot stand it and start to feel bad. How can we identify that we are facing this situation?
As Lucendo Arribas reports, “samples that indicate that we are facing a serious affectation of the situation are, for example, when symptoms appear with a very high frequency and intensity, thus interfering in day-to-day life in a dysfunctional way, not to be able to stop thinking about this same theme throughout the day and this may produce fear and / or tension, affect one’s own state of mind, finding itself in a state of constant anger and anger, having regular startles or even being able to arrive to consume substances or alcohol regularly and more frequently. ”
At this time, “it is appropriate that we seek that help that will provide us with strategies to get out of this state of gravity,” he concludes.