You’re not alone in feeling alone.
With the increase of isolation and social distancing due to the global pandemic, many individuals are experiencing heightened feelings of stress, anxiety, and loneliness. Though stress and anxiety have been receiving much attention, little attention is given towards how loneliness can influence one’s mental health.
Human beings are creatures of connection. We need social interaction to survive and maintain our well-being. Evolutionarily speaking, belonging to a social group quite literally kept you safe from threat or risk of harm. Thus, our need for connection is an evolutionary response and is part of our human biology!
Hence, no wonder we are feeling lonely during a time when physical interaction is discouraged and is deemed unsafe and against the law.
If social connection is so important to the human experience, why is it so hard to talk about loneliness?
Loneliness tricks us into thinking that we are the only ones who are lonely. It tells us to keep quiet about our challenges and pain and that we will be a burden to other people if we share how we are feeling. We are discouraged from reaching out because we are worried we will be deemed crazy, weak, weird, needy, or emotionally unstable, if we let people in on our struggles.
In reality, loneliness has been proven to be contagious, where if one individual is feeling lonely, chances are those in their close circle may be feeling lonely as well. Many of us are catching the lonely bug these days!
If we reach out, we can #BeThere for one another.
The less we talk about mental health, the more we are contributing to the false narrative that mental illness is “abnormal.” Talking about it is the best way to start breaking down the barriers associated with mental illness.
All humans struggle from time to time. It is a part of life. The more we talk about our challenges and hardships, the more we recognize mental health challenges as being a normal part of the human experience. Through continuing the conversation surrounding mental illness and loneliness, we can create unity amongst one another. It becomes a lot easier to attend to what we need and develop “real” connections once we share our struggles with other people.
What constitutes “real” connection?
You can have 10 000 followers on Instagram and still feel extremely lonely and disconnected. This is the difference between communication and truly feeling a connection.
Real connection happens when we receive advice, validation, concrete help, and emotional support from others. This is ironic because loneliness tells us to stay quiet, however sharing our feelings can simultaneously make us feel better and help us achieve real connection, thus attending to our feelings of loneliness.
It is ok to not feel our strongest right now. We have been experiencing the challenges of the pandemic for several months. Recurring distress can make it hard to feel as strong as we normally are. Lean on real connection for strength and support.
Here are 10 ways to feel connected during a global disconnect.
Turn on your video camera on zoom calls (if possible). Speaking directly to one another, responding to facial expressions and body cues are important for connection.
Check in often. Call the people in your life that provide you with “real” connection and genuinely care about your well-being.
Start meaningful conversations. #BeThere. Normalize conversations around “How are you?” “How are you handling the pandemic?” “What can I do to help?”
Make a list of people you want to connect with consistently. This gives you schedule and routine and holds you accountable to connect.
Enroll in a class that intrigues you or join a club. This way you are growing your supports and frequency of connection.
Hold on to your sentimental belongings. Photos, old cards, gifted objects remind you of your pre-existing connections.
Be present with your bubble. Put the phones away and make deliberate time for quality interaction and connection with those in your bubble.
Connect with nature. Nature soothes pain and helps you feel connected with others, your community, and the larger outside world.
Connect with your pets and animals. Animals encourage exercise and playfulness in your day, and answer to the human need for touch.
Connect with yourself. Ask yourself how you are feeling and what you might need. Engage in activities, hobbies or pass times that make you feel joyful and refreshed.