Are you feeling lonely from coronavirus isolation?
Learn how to cope with loneliness and build connection
We are living in unprecedented times with the coronavirus. The current pandemic has forced people all over the world to seek space from others. Social distancing of 6 feet is now commonplace. 9 in 10 Americans report that they are practicing social distancing, and many parts of the country under shelter-in-place orders. This makes it more difficult to experience social connection. One of the main effects of social distancing and social isolation is that more people are feeling lonely. Coping with loneliness from social isolation can feel really hard, especially when you live alone. From my experience as a psychologist, here are some tips on how to cope with loneliness.
Here’s how to cope with loneliness and feel more connected during the coronavirus shutdown:
1) Cultivate your relationship with yourself.
This may not be what people who are feeling lonely want to hear. “I don’t want to feel lonely anymore” you might say. However, being alone and feeling lonely are two different things. ‘Being’ means existing or living. It means experiencing yourself across multiple senses in the moment. Being ultimately involves coming to know yourself more clearly and deeply. And this can happen whether you are alone or with other people. In fact, becoming more comfortable being with yourself will actually help you in your relationships with others.
But wait, you might say, ‘how do I do this?’
Meditate… but not in the way you might expect. You don’t need to clear your mind and go to an alternate plane by repeating a mantra. You also don’t need to fill your mind with the presence of the moment. There’s nothing wrong with those meditation practices. But they may not be right for someone who is feeling lonely as a result of coronavirus isolation.
Instead let me offer a suggestion from my expertise in hypnosis:
Use your mind to create a vivid experience across the senses that leaves you feeling engaged. Imagine yourself in a lush scene with seeing, hearing, sensing, touching, smelling, tasting, etc. Maybe it’s a place you’ve been to. Perhaps its a place you’ve wanted to go. If there’s a particular sense that is particularly strong, use it. For example, for a tactile experience, you might imagine yourself walking through a textile store touching different fabrics and imagining what each feels like. When you take yourself somewhere in your mind, it becomes a way of knowing yourself more deeply.
Move. Obviously it’s great if you can get outside and walk or exercise, but many people in affected cities are having difficulty with that right now. Consider an online yoga class. Do jumping jacks, lunges, or bicycle sit-ups. Connecting with our bodies through movement is a great way to re-establish our connections with ourselves.
Read. A great process of self-discovery is losing yourself in books. Whether it’s pleasure reading or taking up new interests in non-fiction, there’s something for everyone.
Learn. Take up a new hobby or interest. With how-to’s all-over the internet and plenty of time on your hands, this is the time to engage yourself in an activity you’ve always meant to pick up. Why not now?
Now, let’s discuss how you can increase social connection in the times of coronavirus.
2) Re-establish your relationship with others.
I know, I know – if you could do this you would! Hear me out. For those of you who went to college, you’ll appreciate this metaphor. Right now, everyone is in the first week of freshman year. Coronavirus has completely scrambled the social order. For someone having difficulty coping with loneliness, this can actually be seen as a tremendous opportunity. I am hearing all kinds of anecdotes of people reconnecting with old friends on text, phone, social media, and best of all: video chats.
This is a time where you won’t be judged for reaching out to someone who you’ve long been out of touch with. So why not try to re-build your social connection? If you have decent enough family relationships, of course this is a great avenue as well to get in better touch. But even if your family relationships are distant or estranged, this could be the opportunity to get things started again.
3) Meet new people.
If you’re feeling lonely, but all of the normal social channels are closed off, then how do you build social connection? Believe it or not, quarantine socializing is real. Meetup groups for all kinds of interests are now forming in virtual online mode. People are creating virtual happy hours. ‘Club Quarantine‘ had 100,000 viewers dancing in their homes. In a way, this can make it easier to socialize because you never have to leave the comfort zone of your home.
4) Consider talking with a therapist.
In the times of coronavirus, social connection takes many forms. Relational connection is about finding ourselves in the attuned responsiveness of another person. Talking with a therapist helps get to the deeper and more meaningful experiences underneath loneliness. Feeling lonely is often also about unmet yearnings and strivings. Therapy is a way to make meaning of those needs and experiencing transformative personal growth.
While online video tele-therapy may not have quite the same immediacy as in-person, clients of mine who have made the switch have had positive reviews. Video sessions offer the same visual and auditory ability to be present with complex non-verbals and challenging content. Although out-of-state licensing laws for providing telemental health have temporarily been waived during this crisis, I recommend meeting with someone that you can continue with in-person when things get back to normal.
5) Join an online therapy or support group.
Online group therapy and/or support groups are also another option for how to cope with loneliness. Although online group therapy is a relatively new area, there are already resources available to group therapists and group members for this modality. Participating in an online support group or therapy group in this period of time allows for many of the benefits described above, with the benefit of a therapeutic framework.
The ‘New Normal’: Feeling lonely is okay, but there are ways to build connection
As we settle in to this ‘new normal’, it is important to remember that there are many options for learning how to cope with social isolation and loneliness. Feeling lonely during the era of coronavirus social distancing and staying-at-home is understandable. However, coping with loneliness can be manageable and even beneficial. There are many ways you can practice self-care and build social connection with others.