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Isolation one of the biggest challenges of dealing with COVID-19

Myrna Tycholis said she’s struggling with the ‘new normal’ surrounding the coronavirus.

People have been forced to change their habits, their routines, their entire lives due to the ongoing pandemic.

Tycholis said she just wants to be able to hug her friends again.

“I’m a touchy person, I love to hug, and I know that’s going to be a no-no from now on,” said Tycholis. 

But it’s not just physical restrictions that’s affecting people, it’s the mental and social isolation.

Cara MacInnis, a social psychologist and assistant professor at the University of Calgary said she’s concerned the social isolation is affecting people’s relationships. 

“It’s especially concerning for people who need new relationships, people who have moved to a new country or city, for example, or people who have undergone a big change like a divorce and lost friends,” said MacInnis.

Tycholis, who lives alone, said she misses seeing her coworkers every day. Phone calls and teams meetings only do so much.

“Talking on the phone is different, texting is different, it’s not the same as being in person, it’s hard,” she said. 

A lot of people are feeling lonely and isolated these days since they can’t be around friends and family.

A recent survey by Canada’s Centre for Addiction and Mental Health said 23.2 per cent of people felt lonely occasionally or most of the past week.

Day-to-day routines are gone

Many people’s routines have shifted due to the pandemic. For some this means working from home while others are tasked with learning new protocols and adjusting to new uniforms.

Tycholis, who has been working from home since March said making changes has been difficult.

“I am so much in a routine, my whole life’s been a routine. Before, I was up at 2:30, 3 a.m. automatically to get up [for work] and now I don’t have that motivation,” she said.

Dealing with anxiety and depression doesn’t help the situation.

Tycholis said she finds herself sleeping more than ever these days.

“It doesn’t matter if it’s two o’clock on Saturday afternoon or 11 o’clock Saturday morning. I just find myself sleeping, not for long, but more than I used to,” she said.

Many people are dealing with extra stress and depression due to the pandemic.

“The pandemic has created stress in some form or another for everyone and we have had very little control in this situation,” said MacInnis

The same survey revealed that one quarter (25.5 per cent) of respondents indicated moderate to severe anxiety levels and 20.4 per cent of people reported feeling depressed.

New fears

Tycholis said she’s had to change the way she does things in order to feel safe.

Myrna Tycholis’s safety set-up including gloves, mask and hand sanitizer. CONTRIBUTED

She said even though she takes precautions, there’s always that one per cent of fear in her mind.

“I go to the grocery store, I wear my gloves and I have my mask. I try to keep my distance in the store but not everybody behaves. I come home, I wipe everything down and I wash my hands.”

“It’s the uncertainly of the people around you, that one per cent just kills me,” she said.

MacInnis said she’s hopeful that a vaccine for COVID-19 will soothe some of people’s fears.

“If we have a good vaccine or good treatment I can see things going back to the way they were overall. So, in that case I would expect people would be no more fearful in the long term than they were before,” she said.

The future is uncertain

Uncertainty is one of the only constants right now.

New studies and evidence are released weekly, but people don’t know what to believe or who to trust.

Last week, Tycholis went for a cortisone shot and said the experience was unlike one she’s ever had.

She said after being sanitized and having her temperature checked she was sat at one side of the room. She didn’t even fill out her own paperwork.

“There were only two people in there and I’m sitting there going, ‘is this weird or what?’ I’m on one side and there’s another person on the other side probably about 20, 25 feet away and we were talking,” she said.

Tycholis also went for a haircut recently and said the experience was strange.

“There was no water, no coffee, no magazines,[…] I was grateful for technology because I couldn’t have a magazine to read,” she said.

It’s impossible to know if these new rules will last forever, but it will take some getting used to. And we’ve already been at it for three months.

MacInnis said people have a hard time changing and it doesn’t happen overnight.

“In general, getting humans to change their behavior is really hard. It often takes a long time and a lot of factors have to come together to make it happen,” she said.