Humans are inherently social beings. We are wired from birth to develop relationships and bond to others. We enjoy being surrounded by our family and friends. We look for opportunities to talk and share our feelings. According to Psychology Today, “Evolutionary biologists, psychologists, and neuroscientists agree that we evolved together, surviving best in (small) groups and thereby developing natural propensities for altruism and reciprocity.”
Since the COVID-19 epidemic began in the U.S. in early 2020, people have faced multiple lockdowns, quarantines, social restrictions and lifestyle changes pushing them to socially distance and avoid being with others. While this has been an important strategy in preventing the spread of COVID-19, it has also resulted in changes. Because of this, more people than ever are dealing with the mental health pitfalls that come with being excessively lonely.
Vaccines are now being rolled out. An end to such severe social restrictions is on the horizon – but a return to normal life is still a very far off reality. Many countries still face strict social distance guidelines. Working from home – while restricting social affairs and travel – will still be regulated well into 2021, if not longer.
But just because we are feeling lonely does not mean we shouldn’t continue to fight to enjoy our lives, look after our mental health and maintain our connections with loved ones.
We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again: using online platforms (Facetime, Snapchat, Zoom, Skype, online games etc.) are great ways to keep in touch with your friends and family, or even meet new people all around the world!
“No matter how you choose to stay connected, hearing voices and seeing faces can really help you feel more connected even if you can’t see your loved ones in person,” says an article in a Community Health Network post.
If you’re not sure how certain online apps work, Youtube.com has thousands of ‘How to Use’ videos you can watch for free.
Considering the psychological toll the pandemic is taking on everyone – it might be tempting to curl up on the couch and let your self-care fall to the back burner. It’s important to do things that support your own well-being, so in turn you can feel better and work to support others.
Make an effort to do your favorite self-care activities, and when needed, adapt them to be done from home. For example: conduct an at home spa day or do at home exercise. Taking online classes from home is a great way to stay busy and focus on your personal passions. If you can’t commit to online classes, YouTube has thousands of free videos that can teach you almost anything. Practice your skills in art, music, cooking, dancing, or learning a new language. Just search what you’re interested and go for it! You can even share your screen with your friends at home and learn together.
It might seem counter intuitive, but don’t forget to schedule yourself some alone time if you need it. Many people are quarantined, locked down, or working from home 24/7 with their spouse or significant other. Humans need social interaction, but everyone has a different capacity for it. Some extroverts are drained by being alone, but some introverts might feel drained from living elbow to elbow with their partner and family members for so long without getting a break.
According to Maddy Savage writing for the BBC, “Divorce rates are increasing around the world, and relationship experts warn the pandemic-induced break-up curve may not have peaked yet.”
The pandemic’s addition of mental stress, financial issues, and feelings of isolation, has become a catalyst for the breakup of relationships. Remember to take care of yourself in these difficult times.
Stay Active and Get Outside
Physical health is closely tied to mental health. It’s crucial to keep eating healthy and stay physically active. The serotonin boost that we get from fresh air and sunshine might be exactly what is needed to get out of a slump. Walks, hikes, gardening, tanning, or even going for a drive are beneficial ways to get out of the house and still maintain social distance with others.
Volunteer to Help Others
If you aren’t in an at-risk group, consider volunteering in your community. Helping others is a great way to feel connected to people and has positive repercussions for yourself and the community. Psychologists also confirm that helping others improves our own self esteem.
Seek Professional Support
Some people might be suffering from very serious mental health issues and feelings of loneliness. “Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, public-health experts were concerned about an epidemic of loneliness in the U.S. The coronavirus has exacerbated that problem, with most face-to-face socializing for people still under lockdown orders indefinitely limited to members of their own households. For the 35.7 million Americans who live alone, that means no meaningful social contact at all, potentially for months on end,” writes Jamie Ducharme in a Time Magazine article.
If you are struggling with feelings of loneliness or isolation, and would like to speak with a therapist, please reach out to us at Family and Child Development. We are here to support you virtually or in-person, depending on your specific needs.