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