[HEALTHY LIVING] COVID-19: Social Distancing is Not Social Disconnection

by Evalyne
Interview with Dr. Menije Boduryan

With the current global pandemic, everyone is affected by the changes that are happening.

Many of us may be feeling a loss of control and maybe some uncertainty. We are constantly hearing distressing news and are being told that we must participate in social isolation, for fear for one’s own health and that of loved ones. Now that it has been weeks of social isolation many of us have been feeling lonely and disconnected. I sat down with Dr. Menije Boduryan, a licensed psychologist to discuss the difference between social distancing and social disconnection.

Evalyne: Hi, I’m Evalyne and this is Power 77, Our mission is to empower communities to nurture happy families. I’m here today with Dr. Menije Boduryan, who is a licensed clinical psychologist with a private practice in Woodland Hills, CA. Hi Dr. Menije, thanks for joining me today.

Dr. Menije: Hi there, thank you for having me.

Evalyne: So, I know there has been a lot of emphasis by the media and news on how COVID-19 can affect your physical health, but what about our mental health? Isn’t it just as important?

Dr. Menije: We now know that COVID-19 is a mental health issue just as much as a physical health issue. There has always been a mind and body connection and during this pandemic we are realizing that any threat to our physical health will cause stress on our mental health…

Evalyne: …yes, definitely…

Dr. Menije: …Things are changing rapidly. There are a lot of unknowns. The uncertainty is feeding into our anxiety, worry, and stress. You may be feeling frustrated, impatient, and lost.

Evalyne: Right, and how can we not, part of the stress is that our entire way of living has been turned upside down in a short period of time, right?

Dr. Menije: Right, and if you are feeling fear of financial security, 𝘺𝘰𝘶 𝘢𝘳𝘦 𝘯𝘰𝘵 𝘢𝘭𝘰𝘯𝘦. There is more restlessness, poor sleep, fatigue, and irritability. Mindsets are switching from “living” to “survival mode”.

Evalyne: I, myself, do feel like I have turned on the “survival mode” in me, so I can definitely see that. How does it affect those who have already been suffering from a mental health issue?

Dr. Menije: If you have a pre-existing mental health condition, self-quarantine can make things more difficult for you. If you are suffering from depression, isolation and social distancing can trigger depression. If you are suffering from OCD, for example, the hand-washing recommendations can trigger past compulsions.

Evalyne: Mm-hmm, right. Now, you mentioned “Social distancing is not Social-disconnection”, what’s the big difference there?

Dr. Menije: While socially distancing ourselves from each other and being in quarantine are necessary steps in helping to overcome the pandemic, it can feel against our nature. Because science has shown that we are hard-wired for connection. We are hard-wired to be in close contact with others. We are told that in order to protect those we love such as the older family members, we need to stay away from them. The distance can make us feel lonelier and in turn feel alone and hopeless about the current situation.

Evalyne: Yes. So what are a few things that we can do, virtually, in order to stay connected?

Dr. Menije: Now more than ever, you need to stay connected and reach out. It may feel unfamiliar and initially may feel uncomfortable, but don’t let that stop you. There are many virtual resources available, such as virtual yoga, dance, meditation.

Evalyne: Haha, yes I have my kids doing kids yoga on YouTube. They definitely enjoy that.

Dr. Menije: Yes, and recently on social media, a popular DJ was having live sessions that gathered thousands of people.

Evalyne: Haha, nice.

Dr. Menije: Also, many therapists are offering online individual and group therapy sessions. There are virtual religious services. People are celebrating holidays, whether it is Passover or Easter, virtually. You can also create your own virtual meet-ups with your friends and family, maybe a Sunday brunch with your girlfriends.

Evalyne: Sounds fun, I didn’t think about virtual meet-ups and Sunday brunch.

Dr. Menije: Yes, it’s important, when we are reminded of our common humanity we feel more resilient and hopeful. Staying connected with others gives us the strength and patience to overcome these difficult times. More than ever before, it takes a village to make it through this. And you need to know that we are all in this together. This is temporary and this will pass. You don’t have to go through this alone.

Evalyne: Although it is hard to stay indoor, what are some things people can do at home?

Dr. Menije: It is normal to have cabin fever if you have been in quarantine for a month by now. It takes extra creativity, flexibility, and open-mindedness to make your house feel exciting. I highly recommend people to move around their house. Try to spend as much time in different rooms as possible. Even if you are living in a studio, try to break up the room by having different locations. Have a movie night in the living room. Try a picnic in the backyard. Throw dance parties. Pick up a new hobby.

Evalyne: What about if we need to speak with someone, can you tell us a little bit about online therapy? How does that work?

Dr. Menije: For many years now, online therapy has been proven to be as effective as face-to-face sessions. Due to the pandemic, all services are offered virtually through a confidential platform designed for patient-doctor visits. The sessions will last for 50-minutes, typical session duration. A big part of the therapeutic success depends on the therapeutic relationship between the therapist and the client. As long as you find the right therapist for you, online therapy can give you the support you need.

Evalyne: Right, definitely. Many of us are finding that we may need to get things off of our chest from the stress and uncertainty that is going on at this time.

Dr. Menije: Yes, therapy can definitely help move you through overwhelming and negative feelings.

Evalyne: Well, thank you so much Dr. Menije for taking time out of your day to speak with us.

Dr. Menije: I’m happy to, thank you Evalyne.

Evalyne: Stay safe!

Dr. Menije: Thank you, you too, and thank you for having me!

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