If you find yourself feeling anxious and lonely – even if you are surrounded by family, a partner, or a roommate- you are not alone! So many of us who have been home-bound for more than a month are feeling anxiety and loneliness. For example, when you look back at weeks of monotony without the variety you crave, you may feel bored and disoriented. You are missing out on the novelty of new things that usually mark your days. Any of us can forget what day it is, and the meaning of minutes or hours seem to drag on.
On top of boredom, you may feel anxious about the threats of potential sickness, economic hardship, and social instability. This is enough to make anyone uneasy. The most challenging feeling many of us have is loneliness, since, as human beings, by our nature, we require social interaction. There is plenty of brain research proving that people who are sheltering in place experience the same symptoms as prisoners in solitary confinement. You may be experiencing panic attacks, nightmares, trouble sleeping, or paranoia. Creating a schedule that approximates normal life can help you from falling into disorientation and confusion. For example, going to bed and getting up at the same time each day can help calibrate your body’s internal clock. This promotes deep sleep and prevents daytime grogginess.
To address your loneliness, you can use Zoom calls and FaceTime chats, as well as regular phone calls, text exchanges, and other ways to digitally connect. These are certainly better than nothing. And while finding your happy place is essential, what is even more critical is making your connections with others meaningful. Our anxious brain craves “flow activities” – activities that induce “flow” or the experience of complete enjoyment or absorption. These activities distract your mind from those anxious thoughts. How can you make your connections more meaningful and satisfying?
Here are some tips for making your video chats meaningful:
Schedule the call ahead of time.
This helps you and others prepare to be engaged.
Hold your phone or tablet at eye level.
No one wants to see up your nose or talk to your forehead.
Remove all other distractions.
Turn down the music or flip off the TV. Give your friend your full attention, just as you would if you were in person.
When you schedule the chat, give expectations upfront, so everyone’s on the same page.
For example, alert them to things such as: “we’ll have 10 minutes of chat time.” “Have your favorite drink handy,” or “Think about the best vacation you ever had and tell us your experience!”
Try out some other creative ideas for having more than just a catch-up chat.
- Do a joint pre-chat activity! Before your call, you and others can do something in advance, such as a new recipe, a creative craft, or watching the same show on Netflix). Then, use your face-to-face time to share and talk about it.
- Do a joint live activity. Establish what you’ll do ahead of time, so you have time to gather the materials. Maybe it’s baking cookies, reading a book out loud, or doing an art activity. It can be fun and meaningful to do something together (but apart).
- Have a book club with your friends. Commit to reading a certain number of chapters every few days and then pour yourself a glass of wine and have a virtual book club to keep in touch!
Do whatever you can to maintain some sort of structure and meaningful socializing during this time. It will go a long way to bolster your resilience and reduce feelings of anxiety and loneliness.
Disclaimer: The insights of this article are the opinion of the author.