• Dr. Tamara C. Hill

Socializing [or not] During Social Distancing

Updated: May 1

Insights on how these mandates impact our psychological functioning and ideas on how to navigate being social [or not] during physical distancing.

i started to write about the complexities of being isolated and alone during the mandates for social distancing. i wanted to speak to to fact that it might be lonely - or feel good being in solitude... but then i realized, i was truly speaking to my own experience. i live alone. Not everyone does. Some people might have families, or partners, or roommates or children and, depending on the situation, some might have been quarantined with or without these people.


The thing is, everyone's experience of this shift in our daily routines has been different. We all have a different lens that we are viewing the situation from. Hence, this little writing jawn is an exercise in observance and awareness. An opportunity to reflect on your own experience and to begin connecting with your situation at a deeper level.


Quarantine Impacts both our Psychological and Physiological Functioning


We are no longer distracted by masses of others. We are almost forced to look inward. The mandates are this extra push because there really is nothing else to do. There are no cafes, no restaurants, no bars, no shows, no entertainments, some people have no work. You have to go back to sitting with yourself and entertaining yourself. Sitting with family and being with husbands, wives, children, partners, parents, roommates - whomever you're quarantined with - the experience becomes more intimate.


Without the distraction of being busy, the voice of our internal dialogue tends to get louder. Without a whole wide array of ways to cope with change, it can be easy to go to those quick fixes - scrolling on the phone, watching TV, eating more, and using alcohol or drugs.


With the change often comes stress. This stress can take on many forms or come from many places. Regardless of why you might be stressed, the fact is that it is impacting the body's ability to function. Prolonged stress states have detrimental effects on sleep, immune response, digestion, mood and energy levels. Basically, the stress can compound the already challenged situation - so doing things that reduce stress can make a huge difference on how you navigate the rest of quarantine.


Stop Comparing Yourself to Others


So many people have been sharing with me that they feel guilty, bad or ashamed. It mostly comes from the fact they see others accomplishing so much: learning a new skill, doing projects around the house, creating art and making sour dough. Society tells us that we need to work hard and if we are not, we are lazy. Our consumeristic society tells us that if we do not have all those fancy new things that we aren't keeping up with the Jones.


Stop comparing yourself to others.


It is ok if you do not feel similar or same to what the person next to you is experiencing. It is ok if you are experiencing something different than your neighbor. Do not fall into the trap of comparing your pain, your feelings or your motivation with other people, because they are not you. We all process things differently. You do not need my permission, but feel free to take a day to rest, know that you do not need to feel like wanting to socialize on zoom, you can be happy that this quarantine allows you to be by yourself. Meet yourself where you are and take care of yourself.


Noticing the Shifts in Your Relationships


Notice how the relationships have shifted. For a while, i was feeling lonely and that the connections on the internet were not enough. i felt that my friendships were dwindling or that i was losing something. i had to observe what was different and what shifted in the quality of our interactions.


For me, i only see my parents and my sister once-twice a year because they live out of state. On the other hand, i see my friends a few times a week, and it has been the hardest to adjust to not seeing my friends given the large shift in the frequency and type of time spent together. The change in frequency and types of time spent together can shift in both directions, and it is typically at extremes - either not able to see someone or with them 24/7.


Dealing with the extremes can be the most challenging aspect and it is important to know how to set boundaries for what it is you need. If you are feeling frustrated or annoyed with a quarantine mate, see if there is a way you can have conversation around space. Depending on the layout of your home, this may or may not be possible - but ensuring you have time in solitude could reduce the tension.


Also notice the shift in the energies and topics of conversation within the relationships.


Speaking your Truth and Taking Action

It can be difficult articulating your truth - especially when it does not align with some of the people that are near and dear to you. When there are extremes of opinion on hotly debated topics, people tend to align themselves with certain camps. Navigating relationships that have differing levels of regard toward covid-19 safety can be a challenge and lead to many arguments.


Knowing where you align and what you are comfortable with can be complicated to sift out. Notice when you might be uncomfortable and start standing up and speaking your truth.


Speaking your truth requires courage. You have to really stir up your tapas, stir up your drive. Tapas are the fire energies that allow you to have strength and stamina. It requires a lot of will power to even be able to push yourself to stand in your truth so doing things that stir up this energy can be a good starting point in taking action.


Experiential Exercise - Stirring up that inner fire:

The Breath of Fire is a kundalini pranayama practice that brings a wave of energy and strength to the body. Breath of Fire is rapid, rhythmic, and continuous. It is equal on the inhale and the exhale, with no pause between them (approximately 2-3 cycles per second). It is always practiced through the nostrils with the mouth closed, unless stated otherwise.

  • Breath of Fire is powered from the navel point and solar plexus.

  • To exhale, the air is expelled powerfully through the nose, by pressing the navel point and solar plexus back toward the spine. This feels automatic if you contract the diaphragm rapidly.

  • To inhale, the upper abdominal muscles relax, the diaphragm extends down, and the breath seems to come in as part of relaxation rather than through effort.

  • The chest stays relaxed and slightly lifted throughout the breathing cycle.

When done correctly, there should be no rigidity of hands, feet, face, or abdomen. Begin practicing Breath of Fire for a duration of I-3 minutes. Some people find it easy to do Breath of Fire for a full 10 minutes right away. Others find that the breath creates an initial dizziness or giddiness. If this happens, take a break.


Some tingling, traveling sensations and light-headedness are completely normal as your body adjusts to the new breath and new stimulation of the nerves. Concentrating at the brow point may help relieve these sensations. Sometimes these symptoms are the result of toxins and other chemicals released by the breath technique. The symptoms may be relieved by drinking lots of water and changing to a light diet.


NOTE! Breath of Fire is not hyperventilation and if you begin to feel dizzy or have and medical concerns do not practice this. There are also restrictions for doing Breath of Fire while pregnant and menstruating.


Let me know if your try this out and want you think. Also remember: However you might be feeling or however you might be responding - it is all OK. Your feelings are valid even if your neighbor is not feeling or doing the same things.


Be well,

tamara


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