I think we can safely assume that the COVID-19 pandemic has left just about everyone feeling a little more alone than usual. Community events are being rescheduled, classes are taking place virtually, and family gatherings are getting cancelled. Even if we do spend time with others in person, we do so from six feet away with half of our faces covered by masks. There’s no doubt that we’re all feeling a little bit less connected to others in one way or another, and oftentimes that loss of human connection can lead to feelings of loneliness. Especially during the holiday season, like we are now, these feelings can be even more prevalent. So how can we combat this lonely feeling that has become so pervasive during the pandemic?
Acknowledge your circumstances
The first step is to notice the context in which your loneliness is occurring. Like I talked about above, life is looking a lot different than it normally would right now. The pandemic is forcing a lot of us into a lot more solitary of lifestyles than we’re used to. Take a moment to reflect on how you are experiencing your day-to-day life these days. What’s different? What’s the same? Have the changes you’ve experienced been adding stress or relieving stress? In what ways? All of these factors inform the way you process and cope with your feelings during this time. Acknowledge your circumstances and allow yourself to recognize how plain hard life is right now. When you’ve created space for your loneliness to exist in context, it feels a little more approachable.
Create the right moments of connection
Loneliness is different than being alone. Loneliness can rear its ugly head for a lot of different reasons. Maybe you’ve been home spending quality time with your partner while in quarantine, but you still feel like you’re missing some sort of social engagement. Maybe you’re an essential worker and have been continuing to see people face-to-face this whole time, but you come home at the end of the day to an empty apartment. Or maybe you’re a college student living with a roommate and other friends in a dormitory, but you haven’t gotten to see your significant other in weeks since they go to another school.
What kind of connection are you seeking in your life right now? Are you missing getting together with friends or do you just want someone to keep you company? Are you wishing you could go on a romantic dinner date out with your spouse, or perhaps remembering how nice it was to see a stranger smile as you pass each other in the grocery store? There are a lot of ways to create moments of connection in our lives, even now. But if we’re continually trying to smile at strangers when what we really need is to chat with a friend, the itch will never be scratched (so to speak).
Take care of something
Maybe you’re sitting there reading this article and thinking to yourself, “Nice try, Tabitha, I literally can’t do any of the things you’re talking about so I’m just going to be lonely forever.” Not so fast! You haven’t stumped me yet. If you have no way of contacting other human beings to create connection (whatever the reason may be), find connection in something non-human! A great way to reduce feelings of loneliness is to take care of something. Why do you think so many people adopted dogs over the past six months? Take an hour or two to pull weeds in your garden, rescue a homeless kitten, or plant a few seeds in a pot in your kitchen. Having something to nurture, whether that’s a pet, a plant, or a caterpillar you found on the sidewalk yesterday, can be a significant remedy to your lonely feelings.
Hold on to hope
One of the most important keys to surviving loneliness is to hold on to the hope that one day you won’t feel as lonely anymore. If you can find a way to expect the best for yourself (i.e. that your feelings of loneliness won’t last forever), you create a self-fulfilling prophecy. When you focus on the light at the end of the tunnel, you will begin to find more little moments of connection in your daily life and notice the times when your lonely feelings aren’t as strong. As the days pass, loneliness loses its power, and at the same time, you regain your strength.
If loneliness is a struggle for you right now, or even if it has been for a while, the therapists at EVOLVEwithin can help. Call us at (262) 649-3297 to reserve your spot. We are here for you!
Article contribution by Tabitha Schroeder, MS, MFT-IT
When I say "COVID-19" or "Coronavirus", what does that evoke in you? For many of us, this is an extremely difficult time in our world full of unprecedented change and lack of preferred routine and structure. Whether it be working from home when you usually spend 40 hours a week in the office, or learning how to be a “homeschooling parent,” or having to social distance and isolate because it is harmful to our health to go to any social gatherings or public places.
Maybe your wedding got postponed. Perhaps your child’s graduation ceremony got cancelled. Whatever the case is, we are all experiencing a time of turmoil and increased stress amidst trying to find our new normal. With these drastic changes and increased stress comes increased anxiety and depression, both in individuals who already experience these mental health struggles and in individuals who have never had anxiety or depression before.
The purpose of this article is to briefly describe signs and symptoms of anxiety and depression in yourself and in your loved ones. With this information, it is our hope as mental health professionals that you feel some sense or normalcy and calm knowing that you are most certainly not alone, and that there are some wonderful resources available to you in the form of self-care (i.e. taking care of yourself and your anxiety/depression) as well as professional assistance.
The current pandemic is causing levels of uncertainty that many of us have never experienced before. With that said, increased stress, anxiety, and/or depression is normal and expected, especially due to the fear that COVID-19 has created in society and in our personal lives. How do you recognize anxiety and depression? What are the signs and symptoms that you or a loved one may be feeling? Let’s start with anxiety.
Ultimately, anxiety is a feeling of worry or unease that may be associated with a particular event or situation and is often made worse by apprehension over an uncertain outcome. You can look at anxiety as stress’s older, more cumbersome and intense brother. Below are some typical signs and symptoms of anxiety, although keep in mind that anxiety may present itself differently from person to person and this is not an exhaustive list.
Signs & Symptoms of Anxiety:
Next, let’s look at the definition and signs/symptoms of depression. Depression is referred to as a mood disorder that can cause an intense and consistent feeling of sadness, lack of interest, or low self-esteem in an individual. Depression can present itself in various ways can can vary significantly from person to person, including the severity of symptoms.
Signs & Symptoms of Depression:
If you or someone you know is experiencing any of the above signs & symptoms of anxiety and/or depression, related to the COVID-19 pandemic or not, there are an abundance of resources available to you when reaching out to a mental health professional.
From your local therapist, the following are suggestions for self-care related to stress, anxiety, and depression that you can do at home.
If you feel as though these home tips just aren’t enough, please seek help from an appropriate therapist or counselor. Many therapists are now seeing clients via telehealth (through a computer, smart phone, or phone calls).
Here at EVOLVEwithin, we are taking new clients via telehealth and will soon return to in-person sessions when it is safe to do so. You can contact us directly at 262-649-3297 to schedule an appointment!
Take care of your inner self. Both COVID-19 and mental health are pretty invisible, but that doesn’t make them less important. These areas of focus within our health is not something to overlook.
Article contribution by Hannah Stadler, MS, MFT-IT