The Psychological Effects of Social Distancing

By Dr. Regine Muradian

As these past few days have sunk in, we are starting to adjust to the idea of social distancing. As humans, we need social connection. When it is removed, we suddenly feel like our power has been taken away, which can prompt feelings such as fear and anxiety. I have to admit I am desiring like never before to just go outside and take a run around the block. The closures and the recommendations to avoid all unnecessary contact induce such cravings. As gyms, restaurants, and other social venues close, we feel more alone than ever. Even in this age of social media, texting, and reduced face-to-face interaction, we are turning on FaceTime or other video chats to directly interact with someone familiar in real time.

When something is removed, our brains register it as a loss, and we tend to crave it more. Uncertainty about when things will return to normal can also create anxiety. Three weeks ago, we were not experiencing social distancing at all, but now restrictions seem to be increasing by the hour. San Francisco has announced a lockdown, and my city could be next. My teens are upset that they will be missing their senior prom, senior trips, and other planned events. It is difficult to console people suffering such losses, and we are all grieving across the country. Social distancing is meant to protect us and our loved ones. We all understand this. However, the inner feelings of being trapped are still there. Our minds, bodies, and spirits need to be active and in motion. Here are some tips to help us get through this isolation:

1: Get up at your regular time, get dressed, and follow a relaxed schedule that you feel you can handle as a parent, even if you are working virtually from home. Most employers have been understanding during this crisis, as they know we are all handling new challenges.

2: When you are feeling sad about a loss, try to foresee where you will be three months from now. Tell yourself that what you are feeling now is only temporary.

3: Make a bucket list of things you have always wanted to accomplish or enjoy at home—finally reading that book, organizing your room, watching movies, painting, learning the piano, or coordinating a game night with your family. A few weeks ago, you were so busy with school, work, or other important activities that you would never have imagined tackling this list.

4: Create a family schedule, so you can all interact and spend quality time together each day.

5: Take a deep breath and have each family member post a daily positive statement where everyone in your home can see it.

I know you’ve all got this!

About the Author

Dr. Regine Muradian is a passionate practitioner in the field of Clinical Psychology who divides her time between clinical practice, training and consulting. In her clinical practice, she uses evidence-based treatments for children, adolescents, adults and couples who present with a wide range of emotional, behavioral and adjustment problems such as depression, anxiety, relationship issues, ADHD.

Dr. Regine uses mindfulness as one of her therapy techniques and guides her clients to achieve inner peace first in order to discover where the conflict or stressor originates from.  In her consulting work, she has provided intensive supervision to doctoral interns as they acquire skills in clinical practice and psychological assessments. She provides workshops in positive parenting, teen issues, anxiety, depression, substance abuse,  family conflict resolution and organizational management. Dr. Regine had the opportunity to serve on the Medical Staff of Good Samaritan Hospital and was the Director of the Behavioral Health Division serving patients with spinal cord injuries, pre-surgical assessments and helping the patient deal with their chronic pain and stressors in order to regain control of their life.

She received her undergraduate degree in International Relations and Business from the University of Southern California.  Due to her passion in helping people she decided to continue her education and received her Masters and Doctorate in clinical psychology from the California School of Professional Psychology. She completed her clinical training at Cedars Sinai Medical Center, Children’s Hospital Los Angeles and the Glen Roberts Child Study Center. Dr. Regine is fluent in five languages and incorporates her multicultural background with her clients.

Dr. Muradian lives in Los Angeles with her husband and three children. She understands the daily challenges of being a parent and stressors associated with juggling a career and family life.