Loneliness in the Time of COVID-19
Over the past 2 weeks, we have addressed many different aspects of mental health wellness during the COVID-19 crisis. One very important piece was also need to talk about is loneliness. Isolation caused by social distancing and quarantining can and has inevitably and understandably taken a toll on our mental health and well-being. Coronavirus has changed our work, school, social activities, and ability to do what we want to do and go where we want to go. The loneliness that can result even changes our brain, decreasing the levels of “feel good” chemicals, specifically dopamine and serotonin. Loneliness is not an illness or disorder. It is a normal response to all of these adaptations we have had to make in this abnormal situation. It is also important to consider that loneliness has been a growing cultural issue even before we knew what COVID-19 was.
It is important to make the distinction between being alone and being lonely. Being alone is simply being by ourselves and having no one else around us. This is not necessarily negative and can even be positive for us. This is where personality factors such as being an introvert or extrovert come into play. Situational and environmental factors also play a role in how we experience being alone. Loneliness is different from being alone in that it has negative emotions like sadness or feelings of abandonment attached to it. Because of that, we need to be proactive and address it so it does not have a harmful impact on us. It is important to remember that there are no rules when it comes to loneliness. Not everyone may experience loneliness. It may vary greatly from person to person in its frequency, intensity, or duration. Things that help us deal with it successfully may also not look the same. What works for one person could look very different from what works for someone else. This is all ok. Remember, negative emotion is part of being human. Also remember that emotions are not permanent and will change.
Loneliness may be part of what comes with our situation facing COVID-19, but we are not at its mercy. There are some things we can do to protect our emotional health while coping with loneliness.
- Take charge of how, when, and how often you want to connect by phone or video.
One day you may want to spend a ton of time on virtual interactions with others. The next you may not want to talk to anyone. The important thing is that you tune into and listen to yourself. Regulate it based on what YOU need.
- Create a routine and make sure self-care is a regular part of it.
This has already been mentioned many times. That is because we need it so much to maintain our well-being. It makes a big difference on our mood, outlook, and how our brain functions. We need to intentionally schedule our self-care in, or we are not so likely to fit it in. We will need it to make it through this marathon successfully.
- Use journaling to tune into and process emotions.
In our world, it can be extremely difficult to pay attention on what it going on internally. All the external noise can really get in the way. Journaling helps us do that and increases self-awareness. This can help us gain perspective and stay positive. It can also help us see what we may need. There are no rules to journaling. It doesn’t even have to be writing. It just means stopping and spending time with what is in our head and heart. That, of course, is very, very good for us.
- Lighten up on yourself.
You have heard the adage that we are own worst enemy. That is a cliché for a reason…IT IS TRUE. But, that can be a good thing. If we are the obstacle, we are also in control of it. There is a tendency to expect ourselves to feel, perform, and produce the same way we did before this all began. As you know from all of the information we have shared, this is UNREALISTIC. This is a very different reality that changes us and our world. So, take the pressure off of yourself. Be gentle. And don’t forget to take stock of all of the good stuff that you do, accomplish, or experience. (Hello? Journaling. It is great for that!)
We hope this has be helpful in putting loneliness into perspective. Below are some additional resources on the topic. Take care of yourself and be well.