As you’re reading this, we are knee-deep in the COVID-19 pandemic. Social distancing and shelter-in-place are phrases that are all-too-familiar. In such situations, when you’re forced to stay indoors, work remotely and avoid social gatherings of any kind, it’s very easy to feel isolated and lonely. Especially, if you live by yourself or are an extrovert who thrives on social interactions. So in today’s time, how do we find ways to remain connected and overcome loneliness?
- Call in Your Support Network
In stressful times of uncertainty, it can be easy to self-isolate and keep to yourself but it’s crucial to maintain human interaction to reduce anxiety levels. Call friends and family especially when you feel low or lonely. Reach out friends whom you haven’t spoken to in a while. Maintaining strong connections with loved ones will help you feel supported and help overcome feelings of loneliness.
- Schedule Virtual Group Activities
If you’re unable to have face-to-face interactions, schedule virtual interactions via Facetime, Skype or Zoom. Thanks to technology, it’s easy to “see” someone even if they are thousands of miles away. Schedule virtual happy hour with your friends – where everyone has a chat over video with a beverage – alcoholic or non-alcoholic kind, whatever your preference. Synch up a time to do a workout or meditation together where your group participates in the same activity. You’ll have benefits of the workout or meditation plus the social interaction.
- Get Plenty of Light
According to Dr. Phyllis Zee, professor of neurology and director of the Northwestern Medicine Sleep Disorders Center, “It’s essential to have plenty of exposure to outdoor light, particularly in the morning, for a strong immune system and positive mood.” She recommends aligning our biological and social clocks with the sun for better sleep, more efficient metabolism and healthier cardiovascular and immune functions. In addition to these health benefits, light signals reach brain areas that regulate mood, and exposure to bright light during the day can boost mood and performance.
- Limit Consumption of News and Social Media
While social media can be a great way to connect, it can also have a negative impact. Take breaks from watching, reading, or listening to news stories, including social media. Reading and hearing constant negative news can be upsetting. Turn off notifications on your phone. Limit to only reading news from trusted sources. Instead, take care of your body – stretch, meditate, take deep breaths, etc. Try to eat healthily and move your body as much as possible. Read that book sitting on your nightstand.
- Pay Attention to Thoughts of Loneliness
Loneliness is a state of mind, more than a fact or reality. Being alone for long periods of time can evoke feelings of loneliness and it may feel like that state will last forever. Try to notice your thoughts about loneliness as they pass, and remind yourself that you don’t necessarily have to buy into the idea of loneliness. Practice mindfulness by becoming more aware of where you are and what you’re doing, without becoming overly reactive or overwhelmed by what’s going on around you. Meditation or yoga are other practices that help center your thoughts.
Remember that feeling lonely doesn’t mean you are alone. Especially in times of global crisis, this feeling of isolation or loneliness can be a shared experience. The more you make yourself vulnerable and reach out to others and talk about your feelings, the lesser the sense of isolation there will be.
Please note, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, if you, or someone you care about, are feeling overwhelmed with emotions like sadness, depression, or anxiety, or feel like you want to harm yourself or others, please call 911 or the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s (SAMHSA’s) Disaster Distress Helpline: 1-800-985-5990 or text TalkWithUs to 66746. (TTY 1-800-846-8517)