Staying home for long periods can adversely affect a person’s mental and physical health. However, a person can take steps to safeguard their health.

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While it may be necessary during the COVID-19 pandemic for a person to stay home to protect themselves and others, there are ways to lessen the potential adverse mental and physical health effects.

In this article, we discuss why staying home all the time during quarantine or lockdown can prove difficult. In particular, we focus on how to treat or lessen the mental and physical health impacts of staying home.

Staying home all the time can be difficult due to an increase in loneliness and social isolation.

Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, researchers considered loneliness and social isolation a behavioral epidemic across the United States, Europe, and China.

Experts have defined loneliness as a negative experience of feeling alone, regardless of whether the person is around friends and family.

People who feel comfortable in their own company may be able to be alone without feeling lonely, whereas others may experience loneliness even when among a crowd of people.

People who stay home for long periods may experience loneliness even if they live with friends and family.

The authors of a 2015 review article define social isolation as a lack of social resources, such as companionship or support.

Social isolation also includes having a small social network and infrequent social interaction. Staying home for extended periods can contribute to infrequent social interaction.

Not leaving the home can affect mental health in various ways.

A 2020 systematic review found that the mental health problems that people most commonly experience due to social isolation are depression and anxiety.

The authors noted research suggesting that children who stay home for long periods are more likely than those who do not to experience future mental health conditions. They may also be more likely to experience symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder.

A 2020 study involving older adults also found an association between social isolation due to COVID-19 and poorer quality of sleep, including sleep disturbances.

Extended periods of social isolation can also affect a person’s physical health.

Researchers note that studies have associated loneliness with high blood pressure and an increased risk of heart disease.

They also highlight findings suggesting that loneliness and social isolation might increase the risk of coronary artery disease and related mortality, even for adults who have no previous history of cardiovascular conditions.

Other research findings link loneliness and social isolation to a higher risk of obesity, stroke, infectious disease, and mortality. Experts believe that loneliness may also progress Alzheimer’s disease.

A 2020 study suggests several ways to treat or lessen the adverse impact of staying home for long periods.

Below, we look at some of these measures:

1. Keep up social connections

People should try to utilize their social connections to limit the feelings of loneliness and social isolation and prevent or lessen their adverse effects.

Where possible, people should try to see and spend time with their family and friends in person while maintaining a safe and appropriate physical distance.

In cases where this is not an option, people can use technology to maintain their social connections.

Using a telephone, social media platforms, and video chats to talk to and spend time with family and friends may help lessen any feelings of loneliness and social isolation.

2. Maintain basic needs

People should try to ensure that they meet their basic needs while at home.

For example, it is important to have an adequate supply of food, water, and medication.

It may also be beneficial for people to structure their days. Sticking to a schedule that sets out when to wake up, shower, eat, exercise, and do other activities may help combat feelings of loneliness and social isolation.

3. Exercise

Exercise has both physical and mental health benefits, and it can also strengthen the immune system.

People may wish to use online platforms to follow home exercise, yoga, or meditation programs.

Outdoor activities, where possible, may also help. Going for a brief walk may provide a distraction from feelings of loneliness and social isolation.

Having exposure to the sun and seeing other people may help with both mental and physical health.

4. Manage and treat any psychiatric symptoms

Living with a condition such as anxiety or depression may worsen feelings of loneliness and social isolation.

Although relaxation techniques can sometimes help decrease feelings of anxiety and depression, some people may need to seek emotional support from family and friends. Others may find talking with a healthcare professional beneficial.

If a person believes that they are experiencing symptoms of anxiety and depression or any other behavioral, emotional, or physical changes as a result of staying home, they should seek medical assistance.

Staying home for long periods can increase a person’s risk of experiencing several mental and physical health conditions.

People should keep a note of any adverse symptoms that they experience and seek medical assistance if these symptoms affect their daily life.

Keeping social connections, structuring each day, and managing symptoms may help combat the effects of loneliness and social isolation.

Staying home for long periods may sometimes be unavoidable, such as during the COVID-19 pandemic.

However, this can cause feelings of loneliness and social isolation, which may, in turn, lead to mental and physical health conditions.

It is important to try to combat the feelings of loneliness and social isolation by connecting with friends and family through in-person interactions, where possible, and phone calls or video chats.

It is just as important to continue physical activity in the home.

Anyone experiencing any symptoms of mental or physical health conditions should speak with a doctor.