Human ‘beings’ are creatures of habit, but at the end of the day we are mammals. We have ‘animalistic’ tendencies and are known to be ‘sociable’ animals. We were not made to thrive alone. We work best with others, like Wolves in a pack. So imagine if you will taking a sociable, outgoing person, who spent their entire life ‘doing’ pre lock down, and putting them in a confined space for more than 30 days, the changes that would occur physiologically. It is inevitable that such changes would have an effect on the body and brain.
Can you imagine being confined to a small dark room with no social interaction for 30 days?
An experiment was carried out in 2018 by a man named Rich Alati. He bet a lot of money, and said he could survive being alone and in the dark for 30 days. He was kept in a small, dark room with only a bed, fridge and bathroom. Rich lasted 20 days as the negative effects of social isolation had kicked in.
Did you know that social isolation can effects our sleep cycle, and that complete isolation will be difficult for a human to withstand?
Many are fortunate enough to be isolated with others. Alas so many people are living in isolation by self. Humans are known to be social creatures, so to be alone for more than 30 days will see the onset of loneliness. Did you know that extreme loneliness, in certain situations, has led to the person creating imaginary friends to cope mentally and to keep themselves company. Hallucinations occur because of a lack of brain stimulation, so make yourself keep busy!
Did you know that when you get lonely it affects your immune system?
I know this as I studied Immunology at University as part of my degree and I was fascinated by factors which affect it, like loneliness and stress. Your immune system will respond very differently to fighting viruses, and this in turn will make you more susceptible to contracting the current ‘Covid-19’ virus when out and about. Food for thought? To stay safer in this time, it would help that no one is left alone for long periods of time.
To add to this mix of loneliness. Physically isolating for long periods of time will also affect you physiologically. It may increase anxiety, create panic attacks and it may even induce paranoia in some. When I worked at Broadmoor hospital, I learnt back then that being in isolation as a patient would create long-term mental health problems. This is why my job back then as Sports and Recreational Officer was vital. To get the patients out of their confinements and out to a new area to ‘get moving’ and to help with their mental wellbeing.
So reader, why am I writing all this?
Loneliness for a long period of time is known to be damaging to our mental and physical health. I am concerned about the mental wellbeing of humans, during and post lock down. I predict a huge increase in reported PTSD cases, as socially isolated people will be less able to deal with stressful situations. They may find it difficult to process information and be more likely to suffer depression, and find decisions difficult to make.
So if you are alone find ways to engage with others on a daily basis. If you are alone or with others choose to get out everyday for exercise! Get out in the sunshine, do not stay in. This is detrimental to your mental health as reduced light levels are proven to affect you physiologically.
If you stay in all day your brains suprachiasmatic nucleus and the hormone melatonin will not get enough light! Both rely on light to function and they are key for sleep cycle regulation. We need regular daylight for two important reasons; Firstly to reduce melatonin, in the waking hours, so we feel awake. Secondly to help the suprachiastmatic nucleus to ‘reset’ our waking time if our sleep cycles does start to drift from a lack of daily activity. The crunch line reader is that without the correct amount of daylight, overtime our 24 hour circadian rhythm can change. I am so grateful to this pandemic happening in spring/summer, as the effects on mental health would have been far greater in autumn/winter.
What else can happen to my body due to disruptions in my circadian rhythm?
You may start to feel depressed and fatigued and longer term symptoms include links to increased cancer risk, insulin resistance, obesity and heart disease.
The good news is that the effects of isolation are reversible. Increased exposure to daylight will normally correct the sleep-wake pattern, over time.
What can you do to help Lynne?
Those people who have been in complete social isolation for all these weeks since lockdown, may have already started to develop the signs of a long-term mental health conditions, known as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Reconnecting with other humans will reduce loneliness and help to restore good mental and physical health, but right now this is not an option for many. I can help you now to ‘reconnect’ with yourself, and with others. To enable you to reflect and stop the swirling snowball downwards, to help bring you out of this before it gets out of hand. As part of my own personal mental health battles and being a Wellness coach, I have the right tools in my box to help you during this time, and post lock down. I wish to educate you all using all my knowledge and resources from my own personal life experiences and education. I feel
so strongly about mental health, and I can see how the United Kingdom, and global counties, will be affected by PTSD now and post lock down.