That Thing that is More Harmful Than Obesity

I was working with a patient that was just released from a 2-week stay in the hospital with Covid pneumonia.  We had the most emotion-filled interaction.  He was so full of gratitude while walking in humility.  He is doing great, by the way 😊  Let’s say his name is Rip (yes, I’m a Yellowstone fan!).  Rip testified that the TURNING POINT in his recovery is when the hospital allowed his wife to visit him.  He was adamant that the destruction of humanity was packaged in isolation.  I’d like to further describe, Rip is a very healthy, Christian, Enneagram 7, 48 yr-old male without any complicating health conditions.  I don’t describe that to contribute to growing statistics of affected populations, but to emphasize that he has a healthy perception of reality and truth. 

When he described the despondency that he experienced in isolation, I instantly thought of multiple people that I know professionally and personally that whether they discussed it or not, I witnessed their health decline in relationship to isolation.  Most experienced exacerbations of their existing conditions in the absence of any germ involvement.  Some experienced Covid and faced fear and anxiety that surfaced buried traumas, complicating their mental health and slowed their healing.  Others have been faced with very difficult decisions surrounding how family members feel about gathering/isolation that have impacted them deeply. People are suffering!

I began to look at the psychology side of isolation.  Can it impact physical and mental health?  I looked at the Bible and the internet – isn’t that what everyone does??  Lol! 

Hebrews 10:24-25

And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.

Ecclesiastes 4:9-12

Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil.  For if they fall, one will lift up his fellow.  But woe to him who is alone when he falls and has not another to lift him up.  Again, if two lie together, they keep warm, but how can one keep warm alone?  And though a man might prevail against one who is alone, two will withstand him – a threefold cord is not quickly broken.

1 Corinthians 1:10

I appeal to you, brothers, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same judgment.

Dr. Julianne Holt-Lunstad, a professor of psychology and neuroscience at Brigham Young University, co-authored a meta-analysis that reports lack of social connection heightens health risks as much as smoking 15 cigarettes a day or having alcohol use disorder.  She also found that loneliness and social isolation are twice as harmful to physical and mental health as obesity!

It is without question that our best self is that around others!  I’m often reminded that I live in a bubble where most people are healthy and mindful about their health.  So, I don’t want to speak in generalizations as I think the line between my personal perception and professional opinion is too fuzzy.  But….I will say, please don’t assume AND don’t be compliant against your better judgement.  Speak up for what you personally need – loudly if needed, and be kindly respectful of what your neighbor needs, even if they differ.  I’m NOT saying to be reckless, irresponsible, or obstinate – I think you all know me better than that.  If there’s confusion in what you should say or do, ask someone you love and trust.  These are big decisions that directly impact your health and vitality!

If you need relief from isolation, and it is not in the best interest of your situation to be in contact with people, please consider the following from Rush University with my ideas sprinkled on top:

  • Learn new ways to gather – technology can offer lots of options
  • Find things related to your loved ones that you can celebrate – send a card, gift, photos
  • Get outside – sunshine and nature are alive and are fun to interact with
  • Use mindfulness tools to increase your calm
  • Make your brain work daily – puzzles, sudoku, word finds, math, etc
  • If you don’t already, please consult with a professional

I hope that seeing the direct correlation between isolation and your health can offer you some motivation in pushing away fear (whatever that looks like for you), and taking action to nurture health in your body and mind!!!  You, above everyone else, needs YOUR care!

In Love and Service,

Dr.T

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