A typical day for a working American in 2020 may be spent alone. You might get up in the morning and make yourself a cup of coffee or tea before reading through the news feed online. Perhaps you’re working remotely, or maybe you’re one of the millions who have lost their job. Maybe you’ll set out for a walk mid-afternoon or do some cleaning before dinner. After dinner, you might watch some Netflix or work on a quarantine-friendly hobby you’ve picked up. You might not see another person all day unless you’re at home with your children or partner. This is the isolated reality that the global pandemic has created.
Workplaces can provide vital social interaction with fellow employees and customers, so losing this connection to the “outside world” while quarantining can hurt your mental health. You also may not be able to spend time with extended family members or friends in person because of the risks involved. While social distancing is necessary, desocialization is not. Finding ways to relieve your loneliness while working at home can improve your mental health and make the pandemic a little easier to bear.
The Role of Socialization in the Human Experience
Even as many people tire of hearing about COVID-19, the effect it’s had on our lives cannot be understated. While the obvious effects of illness and death are understood, it can be more difficult to measure the emotional and mental toll that the virus has had on Americans and the world. However, scientists and doctors agree that socialization is a crucial aspect of our lives and that isolation can take its toll on our health.
Interpersonal relationships and social connections shape our health, both mentally and physically. Researchers believe that our relationships with others can have as much of an impact on our health as negative practices like smoking. Scientists have also concluded that good relationships with friends and family can reduce stress and fill basic needs like companionship and love.
The Understandable Experience of Loneliness
People who are feeling lonely may withdraw into themselves and hesitate to reach out to others for fear of becoming a burden. The reality, though, is that we’ve all felt lonely at one point and even more so during the COVID-19 pandemic.
In older adults, the dangers of loneliness and the importance of regular social interactions are well documented. However, loneliness is damaging to people of all ages. For example, adolescents who have limited social interaction may face the consequences all the way into adulthood in the form of impaired neurodevelopment and anxious or depressive behaviors. Middle-aged adults also often struggle with loneliness and meaningful relationships. The prevalence of loneliness in all age groups is evidence of its relatability.
People who are feeling lonely or isolated may chalk their feelings up to the blues or turn to unhealthy habits to ease their feelings. It’s important, however, to acknowledge feelings of isolation and take steps to combat them.
Tips for Dealing With Loneliness
Take Practical Steps
Because the pandemic has limited our activities to such a large extent, it may be that you need to take small steps to relieve your loneliness. One of these could be getting outside more often. Exercise is good for mental and physical health, and you’ll likely run into more people outside than you would alone at home. Even if you don’t have a full conversation with others, seeing people in your neighborhood and community can remind you of how connected you are to the outside world.
You can also consider getting a pet if your health and circumstances allow. Pets can add unexpected joy to our lives and provide needed companionship. Pet ownership also helps increase opportunities to socialize with others. Having animal interactions can help you while you’re dealing with loneliness.
Find Creative Ways to Interact With Others
While it’s difficult to get together with your closest friends during the pandemic, there are other ways to stay in contact with them. Video-chatting through a platform such as Zoom or Skype can give you the face-to-face interaction that many people crave. Text messages and emails are also good communication options for people who don’t have the technology for video-calling. If you’re looking for a more aesthetic or classic way to communicate with your friends and family, consider writing letters and sending them through the mail. If you’re in an area that has the pandemic under control and you’re relatively healthy, you may be able to have a socially distant picnic or other outdoor meeting with a friend or two.
Talk About Your Feelings With Someone Else
Besides looking for ways to relieve your isolation, finding outlets for your emotions and deep-seated feelings is another healthy step to take. Whether it’s a trusted friend, a school counselor or a therapist, speaking to someone you feel comfortable with about your struggles can lift a weight off of your shoulders. It can also put your situation into perspective. When you can sort through your muddled thoughts and feelings, it’s easier to look for solutions and regain control of your situation.
Do Something for Someone Else
Getting out of yourself is a good way to cope with loneliness. Make a list of people who might be struggling in a similar way and figure out ways to brighten their day. Some of the ways you could help someone else include buying them a small gift, bringing them groceries, giving them a call or providing a service they may need. If you’re feeling bad for yourself, doing good for someone else can improve your outlook and foster gratitude.
Whether you’re feeling lonely due to the pandemic and social isolation or your mental health has been suffering as of late, there are steps you can take to get help and to help yourself. While the COVID-19 pandemic has been devastating, you can practice self-care and maintain your mental health through this difficult time by implementing practical solutions.
If you feel that your loneliness has turned into something more serious, such as depression, it may be time to reach out and get help. FHE Health has a compassionate team that’s ready to help you through whatever you’re dealing with, whether it’s a period of anxiety or a lapse into substance abuse. Reach out to us today by calling (833) 596-3502.