Neanderthals, Broken Bones & COVID Isolation

There is a lovely quote attributed to anthropologist Margaret Mead where she explains that the earliest sign of civilization is a healed femoral fracture, showing that early hominids were caring for their injured.

My research tells me this anecdote, though powerful, is fabricated. I can however give you other similar examples.

The earliest healed fractures on a hominid are probably from Croatia during the Middle Paleolithic, about 130 000 years ago. This tells us that Neanderthals were caring for their injured and ensuring they survived.

As early as this, before modern humans, hominids were social creatures, to an extent dependent on their social group for safety.

It can be extrapolated from this that Neanderthal social systems likely provided individuals with emotional support as well.

Neanderthals either went extinct or were assimilated into the modern human gene pool and modern humans became more and more numerous but the same pattern still persisted. We have drastically altered the face of the earth with accelerating leaps of technological advancements, but in 130 000 years one thing has remained the same.

We need each other.

Our evolutionary process’ constant is the connection between humans and the benefits of living in organized groups.

Here’s where I’m going with this. For the past year we have felt increasingly isolated, lonely and cut off from our circles both at home and at work. Humans are not programmed for isolation.

I’m going to guess that for at least some of you, isolation and loneliness are the most difficult parts of this pandemic.

How are you staying connected with loved ones? How are you staying engaged at work?

Here are some things to keep in mind when you feel lonely and isolated:

- Find gratitude and share it with others: Gratitude can help us find more happiness, and connect more with others. Try finding gratitude for 3 things each morning and 3 things each night. Write them down if that works for you. If you are grateful for someone, let them know. A text or a quick phone call will do the trick, it isn’t necessary to dive into a long, drawn out conversation. But who knows, that one piece of gratitude may create a moment and next thing you know, you’ve been talking for 2 hours.

- Shorter but more frequent connections: Zoom fatigue is real. Video calls are a different way of engaging and they can be exhausting. Instead of having a 1-hour call every other week, try checking in for 15 minutes but doing so more frequently. Having check ins more often will help you feel more consistently connected to people without becoming emotionally drained from long conversations.

- Don’t push your feelings aside: When you’re feeling lonely, put a name to that feeling. Be honest and self-aware. Don’t tell yourself you’re tired or stressed and then push through more work, or put on a happy face for your family. Name your emotion, acknowledge it and check in with yourself about how it feels. Once you face the emotion and take the time to process it, you can better figure out how to help yourself get through it.

The isolation, the loneliness and the disconnection we have been feeling have taken a toll on everyone. We are not meant to be self-sufficient, to exist as an island, to be able to meet all of our needs ourselves. Check in with the people close to you and let them know if you need them to check in on your more frequently. This sucks! But there are ways to alleviate the hard feelings and get through it.

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