Breaking the cycle of loneliness during the pandemic
Loneliness is nothing new – even before the pandemic, as many as 61 percent of adults in America reported struggling with loneliness (Cigna). As the COVID-19 pandemic has stretched from days into months, many of us are facing mental fatigue and struggling to connect with one another while we’re physically apart.
While no one knows when the pandemic will officially end, here are a few strategies you can use to combat loneliness and isolation.
Keep old routines – or make new ones
Think back to regular activities or organizations that you might have been a part of before the pandemic. Is there a way to recreate those events virtually? Maybe you could coordinate streaming a movie or TV show with friends, hold a virtual game night, or cook a meal together over Zoom, or participate in a virtual fitness class over FaceTime. Or, take this as an opportunity to gather a group of friends and create a new virtual tradition!
Silence your inner critic
When you’re alone with your thoughts, you may find yourself thinking negatively about yourself or your relationships with others. Loneliness can blind us to what’s actually true, increasing the struggle to keep our perspective grounded in reality. One way to fight these negative thoughts is to write them down as second person “you” statements, which helps you separate your inner critic from your real first-person point of view. Then, respond to those thoughts with your own positive first-person “I” statements.
Call a friend
Whether you prefer FaceTime, Zoom, Skype, or just a regular phone call, reach out to family and friends that you haven’t spoken to in a while. Maintaining these friendships can improve both mental and physical well-being – connecting and laughing with friends can help release oxytocin and endorphins, which have a positive effect on your overall health.
Being outdoors can help you get exercise and stay healthy. Head outside and walk for an hour. Try taking a new path or street that you’ve never taken before. As you walk, take a moment to notice what’s going on around you – whether it’s people walking their dogs, driving in their cars, or simply what’s happening in nature. Observing your surroundings can help you feel more connected to the world around you, which can reduce feelings of loneliness and isolation.
Get professional help
While the above ideas are a great way to break the cycle of ordinary loneliness, there are times when you might need professional help. If you’re struggling with depression, anxiety, or other mental health issues, please consult a mental health professional. Many therapists are now offering counseling services via telehealth, so you can stay home and get the care you need.
The pandemic won’t last forever – but while we’re waiting, it’s essential to stay connected with each other, even while we’re physically apart.
We’ll get through this together.