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Dealing with social isolation during the COVID-19 pandemic

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MILWAUKEE (CBS 58) -- Hundreds of thousands of people all around the country are working from home and isolating themselves from social situations because of the coronavirus (COVID-19), but experts say there’s evidence that social isolation may bring depression, poor sleep quality, poor cardiovascular function and a weakened immunity.

Doctors say humans are naturally social beings and it’s not healthy for people to be isolated for long periods of time, but there are tricks to help get through a season of social isolation.

Rogers Behavioral Health psychiatrist, Dr. Shikha Verma, says having to limit social contact isn’t a reassuring sign for people and tends to create more panic, but she says some people are more prone to feeling the negative effects.

“Of course it is not healthy to stay isolated for long periods of time, but people at higher risk will include those who already have existing mood disorders or anxiety,” said Dr. Verma.

Dr. Verma says maintaining a regular schedule and even getting dressed for work at home will help keep a healthy mind and body while in isolation.

”Doing exercises, maintaining your nutrition and hydration, and sleeping adequately at night,” said Dr. Verma.

It’s something fitness experts agree with.

"I know people are stressing out and so what they're doing is eating comfort food, but that's weakening their immune system and it will make them more susceptible to disease,” said Shannon Vick, owner of Iron Fist Fitness Gym in Wauwatosa.

Denise Tuttle-O’Donnell says her husband is working from home and she will soon join him, but she’s keeping a positive mindset.

“It’s extremely important to stay healthy and stay mindful because I know people can get sad, lonely and bored,” says Tuttle-O’Donnell.

The couple and their son have been limiting time out in public because of COVID-19, and are learning how to keep busy with board games and hobbies.

“Scrabble, Family Feud, fun things like that, but it kept you going,” adds Tuttle-O’Donnell. “I’m also doing some writing, reading and drawing.”

”Think about in the moment what you can do for yourself and for your families,” said Dr. Verma. “Continue to work on the schedule that you create. Don’t let it slack.”

Dr. Verma says if you find your mental health declining, do not hesitate to seek professional help. She says with the COVID-19 pandemic, behavioral health professionals at Rogers Behavioral Health are working on making virtual mental health visits more accessible.

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