Paula LabrotBy Paula Labrot      November 26, 2021

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Paula’s mom turns 100 in January 2022
Many of us will have spent the beautiful Thanksgiving holiday connected, once again, with loved ones. It has been two years since COVID-19 shattered our gatherings, sending people all over the world into isolation, separating friends and families from celebrating the greatest rites of passage in life—birthdays, graduations, marriages, new life, anniversaries, promotions, retirements, performances—even leaving people to die alone. Undaunted, people found ways to connect. Thanks to technology like the Zoom and Skype platforms, people were able to share Thanksgiving meals with each other over the internet. During the last, almost two years, people worshipped, taught, learned, entertained, worked, collaborated, shopped, got married, shared celebrations, even mourned together in cyberspace. For these connections, we are grateful, but this kind of social distancing has had its price. The Costs of Social Isolation According to the Bronfenbrenner Center for Translational Research at Cornell University, “The COVID-19 pandemic is having a significant impact on the mental health and well-being of people across the globe. Measuring its impact and designing interventions to help improve mental well-being is currently underway and a top priority for researchers.” Symptoms of depression, anxiety and insomnia are results of isolation. The long-term effects on children are not even known yet. Stressors like the fear of getting the virus or giving it to a loved one, disruptions of routines, lack of opportunity for social development and developing problem-solving skills, increased violence at home, increased substance abuse at home, virtual learning effects on neurological development, limited outdoor play and exercise, all have affected a whole generation of children for whom depression, anxiety and suicide numbers have risen. There Are Physical Costs As Well As Mental Costs. A study led by an epidemiologist at Newcastle University concluded that deficiencies in social relationships are associated with a higher risk for coronary heart disease and stroke. A study published in the “Journals of Gerontology” concluded that loneliness was associated with a 40 percent increase in the risk of dementia. Links between social isolation and serious medical conditions are not fully understood, but ample evidence supports the connec tion. A study published in the “American Journal of Epidemiology” linked social isolation with higher risks of premature mortality. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) points to loneliness and isolation as serious public health risks.” Coming Out of Isolation Have you ever rehabilitated a wild animal? I had a hawk that was released to the wild after rehab. When the crate door was opened, the hawk did not shoot out of its captivity. It felt safe in the crate. It tentatively found its way out before flying to a branch close by. It took a while before it threw itself into freedom, taking control of its own life once more. I see this same phenomenon among people now. People have become accustomed to their “COVID caves.” Marney White, a psychologist and public health professor at Yale School of Public Health, said that those anxious about re-entering society as more things start to open back up, may want to try an anxiety reduction treatment known as “fading.” That is when a person very gradually introduces themselves to their phobic situation. In this case, people may want to ease out of their homes by first going on a walk, then doing an outdoor get-together with other vaccinated individuals, going somewhere indoors with a mask on, and so on. White said “They can continue to approximate normal by taking gradual steps…. Once you get used to a setting again then you can take the next step toward the next setting.” My Gratitude Pilgrimage G and I took a trip this fall. We faded into hotel rooms, restaurants, roadside attractions. I’m not going to lie. It was a little weird, even for me, who still went out to shop and visit family during these last couple of years. I had some antiseptic wipes for hotel remotes and bathroom handles. But it was good…it really was. The best was visiting dear friends face-to-face, being able to hug them and get a hug back, being able to catch up with all the nuances of body language and facial expressions, feeling so loved, so happy to be with them. I am overwhelmingly grateful to have had the chance to hug and kiss and thank my best friend, who will be traveling soon far past the ugly reach of fear. To thank them all, all these dear friends, personally and intimately, for all the years, all the love, laughter, tears of friendship, was really emotional, let me tell you. As will be Thanksgiving, with my whole family present—from my nearly 100-year-old mom (this January), to coming attractions (another January expectation)—All Things Connected. Vamos a Ver!
Paula Labrot
      November 26, 2021

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