Day: October 5, 2020

The Hidden Cost of Social Distancing

I’ll admit it, when COVID-19 came to town this past March I was secretly excited that we were ordered to quarantine. Finally, I thought, a legitimate excuse to hunker down at home and stop the hustle!

Work slowed down. I embraced my role as chief laundry-doer-dinner-maker-house keeper. I created a cleaning schedule, tackling one section of the house each weekday. I planned all the meals. Once a week I put on my mask and headed to the grocery store to stand in line and wait for my turn to head inside.

With my freshly wiped down cart, I social-distance-shopped while dozens of personal shoppers walked through the aisles, glancing at their phones and filling shopping carts with someone else’s grocery list.

Life felt simple. Every day felt like a staycation. As someone who regularly practiced yoga at a local studio, I was thrilled to be able to rotate through a roster of classes with my favorite instructors, all in the comfort of my own home.

I was so happy and content—until I wasn’t.

Over the last six months of self-imposed quarantine I have gone from feeling secretly validated as a closet introvert, to feeling trapped, aimless, purposeless, disconnected and depressed.

social distancing effects

I know that I am not the only one.

We’ve been asked to stay home in order to stay healthy and to stop the spread of the coronavirus. But a healthy society requires more than the physical health of its members. A healthy society requires its members to be healthy in body, mind and spirit.

Tragically, our collective society is experiencing an erosion of mental and emotional health, because isolating ourselves, or limiting healthy social interaction, has negative consequences, including the manner in which it impacts our neurobiology.

Research shows that social isolation and perceived loneliness are associated with activation of the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenocortical (HPA) axis and the sympathetic nervous system (SNS), otherwise known as the stress response (fight/flight/freeze). This response is designed to provide us with the ability to quickly defend ourselves from harm (fight), or to help us escape danger (flight).

In moments of perceived danger, our brains and bodies are turbo charged with hormones and biochemicals that are very useful in times of threat or danger. But when this system is chronically activated, as a result of social isolation, it turns from helpful to harmful.

The global pandemic brings no shortage of stressful realities and has impacted every one of us. Loss of jobs and incomes are creating financial stresses. Those who are employed as essential workers are facing health risk stressors. Those who have been impacted by the virus experience the stress of illness and loss.

And all of us are (ideally) practicing social distancing as the new public health initiative, which means that we are all at risk of experiencing the negative impact of the associated chronic stress. These impacts can be felt in a variety of ways, ranging from constant fear or anxiety, to general malaise, to depression, which can cause us to feel constantly exhausted, stuck, unmotivated or immobile (freeze).

Engaging in healthy social interactions does much more for us than we might think. When we have meaningful connections with others, we experience important human emotions like empathy and compassion (which we do when we reach out to someone for support, or lend an ear to someone we care about during a hard time).

These social/emotional experiences stimulate the production of important hormones and biochemicals like oxytocin and vasopressin, which can be mitigators to the development of stress and stress-related issues like depression and anxiety. Unfortunately, the fewer healthy social interactions that we have, the less our brain is able to produce these “feel good” hormones, further heightening our risk or of developing depression and anxiety.

As our mental health erodes, we become susceptible to developing social anxiety or social dysfunction, leading us to isolate further. This becomes a self-perpetuating cycle that feeds itself. Over time we feel like our feet are stuck in quicksand. Reaching out for connection feels impossible, even if we know it’s the helpful thing to do.

If all these weren’t concerning enough, continued isolation and the associated continuous activation of the HPA axis (stress) creates inflammation in the body. Chronic inflammation is the source of many autoimmune and physical ailments ranging from arthritis to cancer. The negative health implications of prolonged social isolation could be very dire, and won’t be fully recognized for years to come.

What to do?

It’s important to recognize how you are feeling (in your body), even if you don’t necessarily know what you are feeling (in your mind). To become aware of the physiological effects of the chronic stress associated with long-term social isolation, it helps to turn your awareness inward—to your body.

Distressing sensations in your body are the visceral impact of all those toxic stress hormones and can be felt in any number of ways, including a heavy feeling in your chest, sick feeling in the pit of your stomach or tightness in your throat. You might also notice you are experiencing any of the following:

  • Shortness of breath
  • Racing heart
  • Jittery legs
  • A general feeling of being trapped or confined

These sensations underpin emotions like fear, anger, irritation, resentment and so on. They are also a good indication that you’re experiencing a feedback loop of stress.

Practicing a variety of simple stress-reducing activities such as meditation, yoga, tai chi, qigong, and even dancing can interrupt this feedback loop. But if you feel unable to proactively engage in these types of activities (remember that quicksand feeling), simple breathing exercises (like the one described below) can be just as effective.

Breathing can be used anytime and if done correctly, your nervous system will shift from the high rev SNS to the calming and relaxing parasympathetic nervous system (PNS). It’s like turning the flame on a stove from all the way high, to a manageable simmer. If done regularly, your body will eventually learn how to stay calm and relaxed on its own.

Balloon Breath

balloon breathing

Sit or lay down. Place one hand on your belly and one hand on your chest. Inhale and inflate your belly and chest like a balloon (feel your hands moving as your body inflates). Exhale and let your belly and chest relax. Repeat at least ten times.

Breath and mindfulness practices are a good start for calming your body’s stress response. But to reverse the long-term negative impacts of social isolation, authentic connection with other human beings is a must.

Socializing (as we knew it) is still tightly regulated, but we can find opportunities for authentic connection with friends and family via apps like Facetime, House Party, or the video chat option on Facebook. Support groups like AA, Alanon, cancer support groups and others have all shifted to Zoom, allowing us access from anywhere in the world.

These are some ways in which we can connect with other humans, express care, empathy and compassion, and feel the benefit of all those good biochemicals.

As for me, I’ve been facilitating online TIMBo (trauma informed mind body) groups for women since mid-March. The connection I feel with these women is surprising and remarkable. We may not be in the same room, but over an online platform we share our thoughts, feelings, and struggles.

We connect, resonate, feel compassion, empathy, joy and, sometimes, grief. I thank technology, this program, and these women every day because without the opportunity to connect in such a meaningful way, I’m quite sure the world we’re living in would get the best of me.

So if you’re feeling off, increased social isolation might be at the root. Be proactive, see what’s available, find something that resonates, and start connecting.

We all need each other right now to help us get through these uncertain times. Our health, and the health of our society really does depend on it.

To learn more about TIMBo, go to www.timbocollective.org. Suzanne’s award-winning book, There is Nothing to Fix: Becoming Whole through Radical Self-Acceptance, is available in paperback, kindle, and audiobook.

The post The Hidden Cost of Social Distancing appeared first on Dumb Little Man.

Google delays mandating Play Store’s 30% cut in India to April 2022

Google is postponing the enforcement of its new Play Store billing policy in India to April 2022, days after more than 150 startups in the world’s second largest internet market forged an informal coalition to express concerns over the 30% charge the Android-maker plans to mandate on its store and started to explore an alternative marketplace for their apps.

The company, which is going live globally with the new Play Store rule in September 2021, is deferring the enforcement of the policy only in India, it said. It is also listening to developers and willing to engage to allay their concerns, it said.

“We are setting up listening sessions with leading Indian startups to understand their concerns more deeply. We will be setting up Policy Workshops to help clear any additional questions about our Play Store policies. And we’re also extending the time for developers in India to integrate with the Play billing system, to ensure they have enough time to implement the UPI for subscription payment option that will be made available on Google Play — for all apps that currently use an alternative payment system we set a timeline of 31st March 2022,” said Purnima Kochikar, Director of Business Development of Games & Applications at Google Play, in a statement.

“We have always said developers should have a choice in how they distribute their apps, and that stores should compete for consumers’ and developers’ business,” she added.

Last week, Google said it would no longer allow any apps to circumvent its payment system within the Play Store. The move, pitched by Google as a “clarification” of its existing policy, would allow the company to ensure it gets as high as a 30% cut on in-app purchases made through Android apps operating in a range of a categories.

Google’s announcement today is a direct response to the loudest scrutiny it has received in a decade in India — its biggest market by users but also a place where, compared to Western markets, it generates little revenue. More than 150 startups in India last week formed an informal coalition to fight the company’s strong hold on Indian app ecosystem. Google commands 99% of the smartphone market in India, according to research firm Counterpoint.

Among the startups that have expressed concerns over Google’s new policy are Paytm, India’s most valuable startup, payments processor Razorpay, fantasy sports firm Dream11, social network ShareChat, and business e-commerce IndiaMART.

More than 50 Indian executives relayed these concerns to India’s Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology over a video call on Saturday, according to three people who attended the call.

Several businesses in India have long expressed concerns with the way Google has enforced its policies in India, but the matter escalated last month after the company temporarily pulled Paytm app from the Play Store for promoting gambling.

Google said Paytm had repeatedly violated its policies, and the company’s Play Store has long prohibited apps that promote gambling in India. Google has sent notices about warnings over gambling to several more firms in India in recent weeks.

A senior industry executive told TechCrunch that the company should have expressed these concerns months before the popular cricket tournament IPL was scheduled to commence. Fantasy sports apps allow users to pick their favorite players and teams. These players stand to win real money or points that they can redeem for physical goods purchase based on the real-world performance of their preferred teams and players. IPL season sees a huge surge in popularity of such fantasy sports apps.

“The IPL even got delayed by months. Why did Google wait for so long? And why does the company have a problem with so-called gambling in India, when it permits such activities in other markets? The Indian government has no problem with it,” the executive said, requesting anonymity.

Paytm mini app store

Paytm on Monday announced its own mini-app store featuring several popular services including ride-hailing firm Ola, health care provides 1mg and Practo, fitness startup Cure.fit, music-streaming service Gaana, car-rental provider Zoomcar, Booking.com, and eateries Faasos, Domino’s Pizza, and McDonald’s. The startup claimed that more than 300 firms have signed up for its mini store and that its app reaches more than 150 million users each month. (In a written statement to TechCrunch, Paytm said in June its app reached more than 50 million users in India each month.

Paytm, which says its mini-app store is open to any developer, will provide a range of features including the ability to support subscriptions and one-step login. The startup, which claims  said it will not charge any commission to developers for using its payments system or UPI payments infrastructure, but will levy a 2% charge on “other instruments such as credit cards.”

“There are many challenges with traditional mobile apps such as maintaining multiple codebases across platforms (iOS, Android or Web), costly user acquisition and requirement of app release and then a waiting period for user adoption for any change made in the app. Launching as a Mini Apps gives you freedom from all these hassles: implying lesser development/testing and maintenance costs which help you reach millions of Paytm users in a Jiffy,” the Indian firm said in its pitch.

The launch of a mini-store further cements Alibaba-backed Paytm’s push into turning itself into a super-app. Its chief rivals, Walmart-backed PhonePe and Google Pay, also operate similar mini stores on their apps.

Whether Paytm’s own mini app store and postponement of Google’s new Play Store policy are enough to calm other startups’ complaints remain to be seen. PhonePe is not one of the mini apps on Paytm’s store, a Paytm spokesperson told TechCrunch.

“I am proud that we are today launching something that creates an opportunity for every Indian app developer. Paytm mini app store empowers our young Indian developers to leverage our reach and payments to build new innovative services,” said Vijay Shekhar Sharma, co-founder and chief executive of Paytm, in a statement.