Loneliness and COVID-19
As social creatures, the introduction of the idea of “social distancing” has been hard for many of us. Limiting human connection can have immense impacts on us all, for a variety of reasons. Learning that our social interaction carries inherent risk can also have long-lasting impacts on us.
Loneliness over time
Though the feeling of loneliness has been immensely amplified during COVID, it is important to note that social isolation has been a growing issue for quite some time. Certainly one of the important lessons for us to learn during this pandemic is that the way our world was structured pre-COVID was unsustainable. We were working long hours, reporting low levels of life satisfaction, and burning ourselves out. Memes and pop culture began picking up on this theme, fuelling jokes about our burning desires to cancel plans with friends in favour of just staying in.
Making the shift away from the feelings of loneliness and isolation, therefore, will take more than simply waiting for lockdown to be lifted.
Coping with loneliness
The first step here is establishing a new normal. We are lucky to be living through this crisis during a time of technological innovation, and have to get better at viewing the tools we have available in a different light. Though things like FaceTime, Zoom, and Netflix Party have existed for a long time many of us have looked at these as secondary or second choices. Of course, nothing can truly replace a face-to-face interaction, but these tools can certainly come close. In times like this we need to begin viewing our “e-interactions” as similar or equivalent to in-person meetings. Great things can come out of this – we can reconnect with friends, create better balance to our schedules, and support loved ones during their time of need.
The next thing we need to focus on is strengthening our relationships to ourselves. We are our own constants; one of the only certainties we are guaranteed in our lives. In strengthening this relationship it means putting in the practice so we can get better at being in our own company and actually enjoying it! Some great ways to start: set your intention so you know what you’re working towards; practice being your own best friend by being KIND to yourself; accept yourself for who you are; stop identifying things you want to “change” about yourself and instead view them as things you wish to improve upon; and prioritize self-care.
Lastly, talk about your feelings! Loneliness is a difficult feeling to cope with, but is made much worse by the fact that in isolation we don’t have the opportunity to bounce ideas off one another, to be comforted by the experiences of others, or to gain clarity by voicing how we feel. The antidote to this is to connect with others. Connect with family and friends with the tools we have available – schedule a video chat, watch a movie with an old friend using Netflix Party, text the people you feel connected to! If you are searching for people to connect with, try out Bumble for Friends or try out MeetUp’s listings of online events. Get creative and think outside the box. Be open to trying new things, like intergenerational friendships (which have other huge perks since you can learn so much from one another!).
Loneliness and health
There is a clear and established connection between loneliness and health. Did you know that loneliness can actually lower our body’s temperature? This is why loneliness is often associated with feeling left out in the cold. There are numerous ways that our emotions interact with our bodies and cause results that we may not know are associated to the initial emotion. The best thing we can do for ourselves is acknowledge that mind-body connection is a real thing and work to keep both aspects of ourselves healthy. In doing so we are creating conditions under which we are less likely to experience stress and are far likelier to experience happiness.
Apart but together
COVID-19 has certainly created difficult conditions for us to be at peak wellness, but it is good to remember that we have adapted over the ages to better integrate these types of challenges into our lives. Since COVID is so new to us we haven’t yet established a new sense of this adaptation, but it starts here! Work to implement these coping strategies and don’t forget that we are all in this together but will experience things differently. The more connection we build to one another the more we can help and be helped. Let’s embrace our nature as social beings and create new ways to facilitate that!