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Coping With Coronavirus Anxiety, Isolation and Loneliness

In an effort to curb the spread of the novel coronavirus, COVID-19, many schools, offices and social venues have shut down, and many governments have issued more or less strict “social distancing” recommendations.1 As a result, people around the world are faced with the prospect of having very limited human interactions for a period of time.

While introverts may be silently celebrating, many others may struggle with feelings of isolation and loneliness. On top of that, many are feeling worried and anxious about getting infected,2 or worry about the health of immune-compromised or elderly family members3 who are at greatest risk for serious infection and complications.

In the video here, Julie Schiffman demonstrates how to use the Emotional Freedom Techniques (EFT) to relieve anxiety and other challenging emotions brought on by news and uncertainty about this pandemic and/or self-quarantining.

The FAST Technique

Another easy alternative is the Neuro-Emotional Technique’s First Aid Stress Tool, or NET FAST, demonstrated in this video. Firstaidstresstool.com also provides an excellent printable summary with visuals of the technique,4 which even a young child can do. Here is a summary of the FAST procedure:

1. While thinking about an issue that is bothering you, place your right wrist, palm up, into your left hand. Place three fingers of your left hand onto the area of your right wrist where you can feel your pulse.

2. Place your open right hand on your forehead. Gently breathe in and out several times while concentrating on feeling the issue that bothers you.

3. Switch hands and repeat steps 1 and 2.

Loneliness Epidemic Looms Large

Even without social distancing and self-quarantining requirements, a staggering number of people report feeling lonely. According to a 2018 Cigna insurance health survey5,6,7 of Americans aged 18 and over, 46% report sometimes or always feeling lonely, 47% say they do not have meaningful in-person social interactions or extended conversations on a daily basis and 43% report feeling isolated.

Self-quarantining will likely worsen these sentiments and drive percentages up even higher. Remarkably, in Cigna’s survey, young adults between the ages of 18 and 22 were the loneliest. Even the U.S. Health Resources & Services Administration (HRSA) acknowledges8 there’s an “epidemic” of loneliness in the U.S. and that it’s taking a mounting toll on public health.

According to HRSA,9 a panel presentation by the National Institute for Health Care Management — a nonprofit research firm for the health insurance industry — revealed social isolation among seniors is costing the federal government $6.7 billion each year in added health care spending, as “poor social relationships” are associated with a 29% higher risk of heart disease and a 32% increased risk of stroke.

The aggressive social isolation approaches currently being advocated for COVID-19 will only worsen this scenario for seniors. Research by the AARP Foundation — an organization dedicated to empowering American seniors — presents a similar picture. In its 2018 survey,10 “Loneliness and Social Connections,” the AARP reports that 35% of adults over 45 struggle with loneliness.

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