13 Aug How COVID-19 Can Make Us Feel Alone: 5 Ways To Help That
As the coronavirus pandemic continues, many of us are feeling lonely. Our usual routines of seeing friends, family, even colleagues, are no longer the norm and the social habits we used to adhere to have changed.
Consequently, loneliness is a genuine and growing problem. But there are ways to combat it yourself.
The lockdown has eased and social gatherings are now permitted, albeit with certain restrictions. But even then, some of us may not feel comfortable coming into contact with groups of people. We may still be shielding as a precaution and the thought of socializing after such a prolonged period in isolation might seem daunting.
If COVID-19 has left you feeling lonely, read on to discover a few ways that you can help it.
Live in the moment
If you’re feeling lonely, it can be tempting to think that this will last forever, especially with the world in such disarray. Indeed, with questions persisting of how long this ‘new normal’ will last, when the next spike will arrive, how to prepare for the future, and so on, you might be feeling physically and mentally exhausted.
If you are diabetic, for instance, you might be in a constant state of apprehension at the thought of shielding for the foreseeable future. Government programs that provide financial relief for self-isolating workers won’t last forever, and the question of whether to remain shielding or return will only amplify that further.
Trans people are also in a similar situation. With medical resources being diverted toward coronavirus, effective and inclusive treatments have become increasingly difficult to find. The uncertainty of when (or if) they will receive their required medication causes immense stress and apprehension, impacting their mental health as a result.
And there are doubtless many parents who relied on school or summer camps to help ease the burden of childcare.
For single parents, this will only be exacerbated — when your life is a balancing act of work and childcare, it leaves little time for socializing, amplifying feelings of loneliness as a result.
Consequently, it’s important to live in the moment as much as possible.
Enjoy the physical and sensual things around you. The smell of coffee, the sound of leaves rustling in the wind, the feel of the sun on your face — these are all simple pleasures that we often overlook while focusing on the what-ifs of the future.
Mindfulness is an especially effective technique for helping you achieve this. Focus on the situation around you and try to shut out other thoughts. You might find it helpful to use a mindfulness app such as Calm to help you achieve this.
Seek therapy where necessary
Loneliness is something virtually everyone experiences at some point in our lives. Even the most bubbly and vivacious people feel lonely at times. But in some cases, loneliness can be so debilitating that it requires professional, informed insight to help us work through our issues and find the answers within.
One can even feel lonely in relationships, even during the lockdown. Someone might be struggling with their mental health and retreat into themselves, even isolating from their partner, housemates, family, friends, colleagues, even their own children. Professional insight can give us a sense of perspective, helping us navigate these difficult and unusual times.
This applies whether you’re in a relationship or solo. Independent, informed exploration of your feelings gives you valuable insight into your relationships, both romantic and otherwise, so you can understand better how to love yourself on your own terms.
Start a project to distract the mind
Being alone isn’t necessarily a bad thing — it’s just how you deal with being alone that matters. Some people are quite comfortable being alone, while others struggle.
Introverted people, in particular, might find the new easing of restrictions actually exacerbates their loneliness. It can seem as though everyone else relishes the chance to meet and socialize again, with introverts feeling like the odd one out for not sharing that excitement.
Starting a project is a great way to distract your mind and help you enjoy your alone time.
A good project gives your mind something practical to focus on, other than ruminating on your loneliness. It forces your brain to think, challenging it to solve a problem.
Jigsaws are a good example of this. A complex puzzle requires the mind to think, and the final result makes one feel productive. Similarly, you might find painting a therapeutic project to fill your mind for the same reasons.
Whatever project you choose, remember to pour yourself into it. Let it fill your mind and give purpose to your solo time, distracting yourself from your negative thought cycle.
This is easier said than done, of course — some may have deeper traumas that are more difficult to manage. But a common CBT technique might prove useful for some here.
View your mind as a clear blue sky, and your thoughts as clouds. If an intrusive, negative thought drifts into your mind, don’t fixate on it. Instead, simply acknowledge it is there, and return your focus to the task at hand.
This helps you push past intrusive thoughts, giving you some degree of control, not over your thoughts themselves, but certainly how they manifest within your mind.
Make the most of video calls
During the lockdown, it’s easy to neglect the usual relationships we have. Unable to see friends, family, and loved ones in person, we can easily stay inside without talking to anyone for days, and it becomes a habit.
But it’s crucial that you take steps to pursue those connections. Video technology like Zoom or Houseparty makes it easy to stay in touch with loved ones.
You’ve likely played an online quiz with friends, family, loved ones, or colleagues, for instance. But some people have taken video calls to creative new heights — virtual picnics, virtual card games, even a virtual happy hour.
For introverts, these activities can still seem quite daunting, even with loved ones via a video call. Instead, something like Netflix Party offers a more subdued social activity that you can enjoy via video.
This is a particularly great option for parents too. Reach out to a fellow parent and stick on a film for the kids, while you can have a catch-up via video.
If you are LGBTQI2S+ and have suddenly found yourself living at home again, you might experience difficulties with your family members. Not all families are as inclusive, and video calls with fellow LGBTQI2S+ offer welcome relief.
It’s worth trawling LGBTQI2S+ Reddit communities here — reach out to others in the same situation and arrange a video call. Connecting with someone in the same situation can be a wonderful salve for loneliness.
Just as you might usually meet up with a colleague for a lunchtime coffee or have an evening walk with a friend, take those meetings online with a video hangout. Arrange to have an online quiz or game of cards — whatever it is, as long as you’re staying in touch, even virtually.
No, it’s not the same thing as meeting up with someone in real life. But it builds social habits that will tide you through these difficult times.
Make a plan for your day and beyond
A good plan is essential for staving off loneliness and building a positive mental mindset. This is particularly true during the lockdown, as our usual routines have been thrown into disarray.
Plan your day, week, and month so you know what to expect. Create a routine and wake, eat, exercise, and sleep at the same time every day (as much as possible). This builds good mental stability and prevents you from wallowing.
But this planning extends beyond your day ahead of you. It’s also worth planning what you want to do once the lockdown has lifted. Think about loved ones you want to visit and places you want to see — this gives you something to look forward to and buoys your spirits when you need it most.
Loneliness can happen to us all, and if left unmanaged, it can lead to serious mental health issues over time. Follow the tips above and take steps to help manage your loneliness and keep your head above water during the pandemic.
Written by Orion Talmay
Orion Talmay is a wellness expert and love coach. Through her integrative approach, Orion’s Method, she helps women awaken their inner goddess and nurture their feminine confidence. Orion is a graduate of Tony Robbins’ Mastery University and holds certifications with the AAPT, KBA, and AFFA.”