Social Distancing as defined by Merriam Webster’s Dictionary.
The practice of maintaining a greater than usual physical distance from other people or of avoiding direct contact with people or objects in public places during the outbreak of a contagious disease in order to minimize and reduce the transmission of infection.
Today as I write this, we are experiencing the Covid-19 crisis of 2020. This is nothing new to the history of man but new to current generations living in most of the world. Terms like social distancing and self-quarantine are being used and practiced by many developed nations. Kids are doing their schoolwork from home on chrome books provided by the school. Many employers are allowing their employees to work from home. People are staying at home with their families and communities are pooling together to help those in need. It is a unique time and these social breakthroughs can really bring a revolutionary change to the way we engage in day to day life.
I see the potential for more employers to embrace the value of allowing people to work from home as long as they see productivity does not drop but is possibly increasing. Without the hours of commuting and frustrations of lost time, and dealing with traffic, parents may be more engaged and energetic. Having more time for family functions and conversation. Vehicle emissions dropping across the globe, fossil fuel usage down, commercial buildings not needing as much electricity for lighting and environmental control. This reality is already being observed by scientists and the world as a whole.
But there is another side to that coin. Many in today’s society have never been taught to deal with their emotions. Social distancing may have taken away their only known coping mechanisms such as distraction, validation, adoration, etc. Now we are left home with a couple of loved ones, or alone. Our normal distractions of going on a date to the movies or going out for a drink with friends are gone so we are left with feelings and emotions and without the tools to process them.
There are many of us dealing with this issue after just a week or two of “Social distancing”. Now we are looking at the potential of a complete government-mandated isolation. I have talked with friends who are struggling with the thought of this concept. They fear for their mental stability in a time like that. The First thing I want to do is congratulate them for noticing this potential fear for what it is and tell them how brave I think they are for acknowledging it and expressing it. That alone is a huge breakthrough and very courageous. Although it’s a scary thought there is an opportunity there too.
Loneliness and isolation have been known to drive people mad. It is still a form of punishment in our penile system and even still at home, we have all been grounded and sent to our rooms. As social beings, we crave emotional, mental and physical connections with others. This gives us the balance we need and seek in life. What is the consequence of interrupting that balance? Do you even have a balance? Do you have the tools to deal with it? How do you feel about being home alone with your thoughts? How strong are your feelings? Can you handle them? What coping mechanisms will you fall to? Do you have support in place and or coping practices/skills to deal with things?
In my humble opinion, most people don’t have a balance between social interaction and private time with themselves. I believe most people weigh heavily in one direction or the other. It must be noted too that not everyone’s balance is in the same place. My balance requires more personal private time than social gatherings. I have friends and loved ones who require more social interaction than personal time to find that balance. It is different for all of us so don’t assume an introvert needs to go to more parties just because you do, or that the social butterfly needs more time alone in the woods.
Many people do not know where their balance is or have the tools to deal with these issues. It’s not their fault, many have never been taught. Up until a couple of years ago I knew nothing on this matter. It took a mental breakdown to finally see that. Only then did I start to develop the skills and knowledge about my emotional needs. It has been an extraordinary and exciting journey, scary and very difficult at times but extremely rewarding in the end. In these times we may see lots of breakdowns. I fear we will also see a spike in suicides.
When this balance is out of whack, we are more susceptible to sudden overwhelming feelings and emotions that seem to come upon us like a light switch has been turned on. We get angry over the spilt milk and we break down crying without knowing the reason. It does not mean there is something wrong with us or we are overreacting. To be clear, it doesn’t mean you are out of balance either. As my sister “Sunshine” put it, “We are simple but complex beings. Someone having a strong emotional response that may seem to be out of nowhere doesn’t make us correct in assuming that they are not in balance or haven’t been willing to feel their feelings. Our psyche is deep. We can be triggered by a smell, sound, idea, sight, and not even consciously be aware of how powerful it sunk in and pricked a tender wound in our spirit”. No matter where you are if you don’t know how to deal with these emotions it can be very, very scary. These strong emotions can lead you into some dark places that can be hard to get out of.
So what do we do if we’ve ignored this aspect of health for most of our lives and now here we are forced to face it? Are you going to blow up on your kids or significant other because you don’t know why you are agitated? Are you going to indulge in alcohol or drugs? Are you going to disappear in fantasy worlds while binging Netflix? Or…. are you going to face your feelings and thoughts, break them down, digest them and process them? Working through them to come up with manageable solutions and dismiss those you see as harmful and do not serve your wellbeing? SCARY THOUGHT, RIGHT??
This current epidemic is a curse to many people who are stuck in a way of life that is counter-intuitive to their wellbeing. They may seek validation from others and need reassurance that they are good, attractive, funny, stable, etc. Now with social distancing, they are robbed of many of those avenues of validation. But on the other hand, I see it as an opportunity for those who are open to find a way to face their struggles to develop practices that will help them deal with the issues stuffed way down inside. They will be the ones to grow and flourish through this. They will become healthier human beings for themselves, their family and friends. I see the potential for a true emotional awakening in the world.
If you find yourself in a dark place reach out to someone, this is not a sign of weakness. Sometimes we just need to remind ourselves we are not alone, that can be completed by just calling a friend to say Hello. Who knows, maybe they need to hear your voice too. Through community we all prosper.
I’m planning to continue this thought process and going to share some of my favorite practices. I would love to hear some of your practices that I can incorporate into the next blog and share with others. So please message me, send me an email, text, call and let’s discuss ways to share and help each other. Take care and God bless.
Thomas Knapp / The Code 9 Project
Tom Knapp is a Marine Corps Vet of 17yrs reaching the rank of Gunnery Sgt.(1993-2013) serving two tours in Iraq (2003, 2004). Tom is also a NJ Police Veteran with 11yrs service having done his duty as a patrol Sgt. SWAT operator and Sniper.