One of the feelings many people are experiencing during the ongoing coronavirus pandemic is loneliness. Our usual ways of seeing family, friends, or just familiar faces have been put on pause, in our combined efforts to stay safe and save lives. Add to that the feeling of loneliness that usually comes when facing life challenges, and it’s no wonder that many Circles members report feeling more lonely than ever.
Though hope is in sight with the coronavirus vaccine, it will probably be months before we see the end of restrictions and social distancing and the return to some sort of normalcy.
So, what can we do when we’re feeling lonely?
Find your circle of support and share your feelings. It can be a friend, family member, or online support group, but make sure to talk about your feelings.
Find a hobby that will help you connect with others, like an online exercise class or book club.
Stay active outside your home. Going for walks in your neighborhood while maintaining safety procedures isn’t complicated and will make you feel better.
This is a challenging and sometimes lonely time, but it will pass. There will be lots of hugs, lunch dates with your loved ones, parties, and celebrations in the future. For now, let’s be as kind as possible to ourselves and others.
Helping others who might be experiencing loneliness
One idea is to get in touch with someone who lives alone or may not have relatives or close connections checking in on them. A message or a phone call could make a big difference to someone who hasn’t heard from anyone in a while. Another thing you can do is suggest that they take part in an online support program. Circles has a variety of daily support programs that people can join at any time. Spending time with like-minded people can help alleviate the feeling of loneliness.
If it’s a neighbor, you could even share something you’ve baked with them (at a safe distance!). If you know someone who struggles with technology, now could be an excellent time to talk them through setting up Skype or Zoom at home. This could make a huge difference in their social interactions.
How does loneliness affect our mental health?
Many of us feel lonely from time to time, and these short-term feelings shouldn’t harm our mental health. However, the longer the pandemic goes on, the more these feelings can become long-term.
Long-term loneliness is associated with an increased risk of specific mental health problems, including depression, anxiety, and increased stress. The impact of long-term loneliness on mental health can be tough to manage. That means we need to adapt to how we connect with people and find new ways to stay in touch during this period. Now more than ever, it’s time to keep up those strong social networks that act as a buffer against poor mental health.
Throughout 2020 and now into 2021, we’ve had to rely on technology for a great deal of our communication. While it has been a valuable tool, many are experiencing ‘Zoom fatigue.’ However, staying connected to friends and family is vital to protect our mental health. Attending an online support program can also provide tools to deal with this Zoom and pandemic fatigue.
If you miss having hobbies or social outlets, joining an online book club or online language exchange is another great way to connect. Some sports broadcasters even allow fans to select matches to watch in an online video room with friends. With a little research, you can find something that’s right for you.
Remember – it’s not just you
No one is exempt from feeling lonely at times. At some point or another during the coronavirus pandemic, all of us will feel cut off from our loved ones. However, some of us will have greater access to technology than others or to more social connections.
By caring for each other, checking in on more isolated people, and joining a circle of support, we can help reduce the loneliness epidemic, while feeling better ourselves.