Loneliness has reached epidemic proportions during this time of imposed isolation. And uncertainty over when it will end prevents us from dreaming and making plans. We’re deprived of the pleasant distractions of life, like travel and live events.
For young people, the uncertainty carries heavier weight as they miss out on rites of passage that help them gain independence and learn how to become an adult. Young people face real barriers to development as a result of the time we’re in.
My teenager’s driving test got cancelled when the government imposed another lockdown. Learning to drive is a major stepping stone on the road to independence.
We’ve suffered through social isolation for the better part of a year, and our loneliness is now long term. Science shows us that long-term loneliness affects our health by creating depression, anxiety and stress.We've suffered through social isolation for the better part of a year, and our loneliness is now long term. Science shows us that long-term loneliness affects our health by creating depression, anxiety and stress. Click To Tweet
In addition to mental stressors, we hear of people gaining weight due to overeating, and drinking too much to self-sooth out of boredom and frustration.
Health experts used to advise us to avoid loneliness at all costs. Now they tell us to embrace it for the sake of our collective health. Here are 4 tips for dealing with our modern loneliness.
1. Video chats curb loneliness
Zoom calls have become a lifeline for many of us. They help us reach out and connect with others when physical bonding proves impossible.
I’ve heard Zoom gives us 80% of the benefits of an in-person meeting. I can attest that regular video chats with friends, family and professional contacts have kept loneliness at bay.
It’s important to maintain the quality of relationships in these chats to curb loneliness. If you present a false persona or talk about superficial topics, your loneliness will only increase. Keep it real.
2. Helping others
If your finances stayed intact during the pandemic, you could donate to charities that help those less fortunate during this time.
Giving Christmas gifts to children in need through charitable organizations helps others. Bonus: we feel more valuable and connected to the society at large.
I gave a bundle of clothes and toiletries to a mother and newborn through a local organization. Even though we never met, I felt tenderness toward the baby and mom, and good about helping them.
3. Shared experience curbs loneliness
Self-compassion researcher Dr. Kristin Neff stresses the importance of remembering we’re not alone in our struggles.
It’s natural to feel lonely and down at a time like this. The rates of loneliness have skyrocketed and there’s no shame in feeling this way.
But we can find solace in the reality that we share a common stressor during this time. Of course, surviving a pandemic is easier for some than others. However, feelings of loneliness due to isolation are common to all of us.
Pretending you’re okay when you’re not causes more harm than good. You feel brave keeping your chin up during this difficult time. But denying natural feelings of loneliness and disappointment will not make them go away.You feel brave keeping your chin up during this difficult time. But denying natural feelings of loneliness and disappointment will not make them go away. Click To Tweet
When we bury our feelings, they tend to come out in ways that harm us and others. Or they turn inward and transform into depression and anxiety.
Masking difficult emotions prevents us from receiving the help we need. If no one knows you’re suffering, there’s no way for them to reach you.
That doesn’t mean you have to unload all your negative feelings onto someone else. But sharing honestly that you’re struggling during the pandemic creates human connection.
Chances are the listener will feel freed to share their own discomfort. And if they shame you for your feelings, that’s good information. Maybe they’re not safe to go to when you need a friend.