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Understanding social distancing and the importance of social connection

To slow the spread of COVID-19, the main recommendation from government and health officials at this time is “social distancing,” but this term may be a bit of a misnomer.

For individuals with mental health concerns who have a tendency to socially isolate themselves already, it’s important to understand that social distancing doesn’t mean to cut yourself off from connection. Rather, physically distancing yourself from others as a means to prevent contagion of the virus is the sole intention of the direction coming from experts and officials.

At a time when we’re being encouraged to physically distance ourselves and stay away from public areas and crowds unless absolutely necessary, it’s important now more than ever to connect socially, especially for people who isolate as a symptom of a mental health concern such as anxiety or depression.

Social inclusion is considered one of three particularly significant social determinants of health related to mental health. Research suggests that when people don’t feel they belong socially, their mental health is often affected.

Therefore, while we’re being advised to participate in “social distancing,” it’s important for our mental health to remain socially connected while maintaining a physical distance. Whether you’re someone prone to regular self-isolation, or you know someone who is, make sure you’re checking in with others, whether by phone, text, video call, or your preferred social media platforms.

For more information on the importance of connection and advice on how to avoid social isolation, check out this article in Psychology Today.

Additionally, for tips on how to manage stress and support mental wellness as the COVID-19 pandemic continues, here are five suggestions from the Canadian Mental Health Association.

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