Combating Loneliness During COVID-19
“Loneliness and the feeling of being unwanted is the most terrible poverty.” – Mother Teresa
As our nation takes steps to stem the spread of COVID-19, many aspects of our society are heavily affected in obvious ways.
Businesses are closing their doors, employees are working from home (or have lost their jobs entirely), children have had school cancelled for the rest of the school year, and countless events have been postponed or cancelled.
One of the biggest effects of social distancing that has affected many of us in a more personal way is loneliness. Since the beginning of time humans have been communal beings, needing and wanting to be connected in a meaningful way for both survival as well as fulfillment. The need for community spans the height of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, from the bottom to the very top.
Though modern technology has made it easier to connect with people online, there is no replacing the human experience of being together in the same place, breathing the same air. In light of this reality, and as mental health providers, we want to assure you that loneliness in this time of social isolation is natural. We also want to encourage you to be aware if you are feeling lonely and recognize it for the natural reaction that it is. Without this awareness, loneliness can become even more stressful than it should be.
Although there is little we can do to change the reality of the social distancing we are currently experiencing, there are some practical things we can do to help cope with these feelings of loneliness.
1. Be kind to yourself. Stephen King has famously said that instead of writing about extraordinary people in ordinary circumstances, he prefers to write about ordinary people in extraordinary circumstances. Understand that you are an ordinary person in an extraordinary circumstance, and therefore you’re going to need a lot of grace for yourself during this crisis.
2. Pay attention to the little things. They say that the devil is in the details, but so is the divine. Those little moments that make you feel good are the moments worth sharing. Not sharing as in the Facebook share button, but sharing as in sending a text or calling a friend to share your small but significant moment with.
3. Optimize your screen time for connection. It’s so easy to be online without purpose these days, with all the content that is vying for our attention. Instead, try to be intentional with your screen time, and use it to connect with friends and family; have a video call with a friend, play a game with them online, join a forum where you can contribute your ideas, to name a few.
4. Get out of the house. Social interaction with others is a bad idea during this epidemic, but nature is still available. Find a quiet park, or a walking trail to get some fresh air in your lungs and remind yourself that the world outside is more alive, beautiful, and peaceful than the news would lead you to think.
5. Pick up a new skill. Try something new that you’ve never tried before. In a day where almost any activity has a tutorial on YouTube, we have an opportunity to learn something new. Like baking a cake from scratch, or making homemade mozzarella, or building a bookshelf.
6. Remember that this is temporary. COVID-19 has an expiration date, which many doctors and specialists have been trying to predict since the beginning of this crisis. Whatever date that ends of being, the important thing to remember is that this period will not last forever.