July marks the beginning of Social Wellness Month, an awareness campaign that promotes socializing and bonding with others as well as self-love and acceptance – all of which has been severely impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.
With talks of the pandemic phase nearing its end, it’s essential to push for a global focus on social wellness in order to repair the mental and physical health of those who were unable to thrive under COVID’s restrictions.
What Is Social Wellness?
The concept of social wellness has existed since 3000–1500 B.C., where the Vedas, the oldest scriptures of Hinduism, discussed the importance of social interaction as a way to fulfill individual needs. This belief is one of the pillars of Ayurveda, an ancient form of holistic medicine that seeks balance between the body, mind, and spirit that is still in practice today.
Over the centuries, the importance of social wellness has appeared again and again. From Traditional Chinese Medicine based on the beliefs that health and wellbeing can be achieved through harmony to Ancient Greek philosopher Hippocrates, the first physician to focus on preventative care through diet, exercise, and environmental factors.
However, the term “wellness” as we know it today began to take root in the 1650s as a way to describe a state of being in good health, and by the 1970s, had evolved into a term commonly used in modern medicine alongside wellness models, assessments, and tools.
Why Is Social Wellness So Important?
Fostering strong, healthy relationships is not only important on a societal level, but on a physical level as well. Those who deal with social isolation often have risks that are comparable to those who suffer high blood pressure, obesity, or smoke cigarettes.
On the other hand, people who are actively engaged in their community often reap the benefits of a healthier lifestyle, including but not limited to:
- Longer lifespan
- Better blood pressure under stress
- Healthier endocrine system
- Enhanced immune system
With social distancing and isolation being a key part to preventing the spread of COVID, social wellness has taken a massive hit – an unfortunate byproduct of healing a global pandemic.
How Has COVID-19 Impacted Social Wellness?
At the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, strict lockdowns were put in place, which eventually lessened to mask mandates, social distancing, as well as online schooling and remote work. While these measures were set in order to protect the physical health of the public, there were undeniable side effects to the mental health of the masses.
With both parents and children alike unable to leave their homes to interact with their peers, relationships became strained. By June 2020, a mere three months into the pandemic, a study showed that 27% of parents felt that their own mental wellbeing had worsened, and 14% of those polled reported a significant increase in their children’s behavioral problems.
What’s more, with social distancing came the inevitable increase in social media usage, which created its own problems. A study in China reported that those who frequently interacted with social media during the COVID outbreak showed a higher likelihood of developing symptoms of depression and anxiety.
Today, the original COVID-19 restrictions have lessened considerably; however, the public is having a harder time bouncing back from two years of social isolation. The reality is that there has been a global 25% increase of mental health illnesses since the beginning of the pandemic, which in turn has impacted socializing and hindered meaningful bonds with others in a group setting.
Social Wellness Starts With Physical Wellness
The pandemic has significantly altered how society interacts with itself, and it’s going to take a lot of work to return to a sense of normalcy. Among the many restrictions set in place for health and safety, sports were stopped for much longer than other social activities. This had a massive impact on not only athletes, but fans with a strong sense of community.
That’s why with the return of team-based sports, it’s time to focus on reestablishing physical wellness in anticipation of the next big game, be it on the field with the other players or at home with friends!
How Can Physical Therapy Treat Anxiety?
Anxiety is known to display some very powerful symptoms, from poor sleep and tremors to high blood pressure and difficulty thinking. While it’s commonly thought that poor mental health can only be addressed through medication and counseling, physical therapy does play a major part in recovery as well.
Harvard Health reports that exercise not only can serve as a full-body distraction from depression and anxiety, but that movement, in general, can decrease muscle tension, release anti-anxiety neurochemicals, and enforce stronger cognitive willpower!
Other benefits of physical therapy and exercise include:
- Relaxing exercises to improve sleep
- Massage therapy to release cortisol
- Exercises to release endorphins
- Regular activity to manage blood pressure
Additionally, physical therapy offers more opportunities to socialize with others who can empathize and bond over similar experiences, whether it be in person, through telehealth, or in pursuit of physical activity outside of therapy.
So What Happens Post COVID?
With COVID-19 restrictions fading away, it’s important to stay mindful of contagious variants when pursuing social activities. Social distancing has been proven effective at slowing and preventing the spread of COVID, as well as other illnesses, such as influenza. Remaining wary of crowded venues and respectful of those who need space can keep further mutated strains at bay, pulling the true end of the pandemic closer.
For up-to-date information on how to test for COVID-19 as well as learn about the proper precautions for quarantining after exposure or a positive test result, visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) dedicated webpage.
Advocating For Social Wellness
To promote social wellness, The National Institutes of Health (NIH) has created a toolkit with six in-depth strategies to help foster strong, healthy bonds between friends, families, and the community as a whole.
- Make connections
- Take care of yourself while caring for others
- Get active together
- Bond with your kids
- Build healthy relationships
- Shape your family’s health habits
For additional resources that address self-care for caregivers, relationship communication, and guides for parenting, check out the NIH’s comprehensive list of educational guides, PDFs, tips, and tricks!
Social Wellness And Technology
Along with the pandemic came the urgent need for the healthcare industry to evolve and cater to a new form of virtual care. Raintree has been at the forefront of these changes, offering patient engagement tools that stabilize continuity of communication without ever impacting the quality of care. From embedded telehealth and digital self-service features to automated messaging and virtual payment options, our all-in-one EMR software strives to foster real relationships between patients and therapists without sacrificing wellness.
Join us this month as we advocate for physical health, self-care, and social wellness as we transition from the COVID-19 pandemic into the new normal – it’s about time!