Shelter-in-place orders, physical distancing, and mask requirements have led to increased isolation, especially for people living alone. Isolation can lead to feelings of loneliness. Even before the pandemic, loneliness was a serious issue for many people.
If unchecked, loneliness can have negative effects on mental and physical health, including increased blood pressure, sleep deprivation, depression, anxiety, and a higher risk for suicide.
“We are social creatures and thrive on human interaction,” said Heather Tegeler, a licensed marriage and family therapist at Kaiser Permanente in Northern California. “When that is lacking, it can be hard to manage and cope with daily life.”
“Loneliness can be serious and should not be ignored,” Tegeler said. Read on for her ideas on effective ways to see the light at the end of the tunnel.
Everyone can benefit from a routine, and it’s particularly important for people living solo. Routines provide a sense of control and stability, and can help fight anxiousness and boredom. Set a regular schedule for sleep, eating, and exercise and stick to it.
Get face-to-face contact often — virtually, of course. Even if you share your home with others, it can be helpful to connect beyond the people you see every day. The leading factor in loneliness is lack of human connection. Call a friend, schedule a virtual game night with family, or go for a walk in the neighborhood to feel part of your community.
“Pleasant activities lead to pleasant feelings,” Tegeler said. Allow time for painting, reading, baking, watching a movie, or anything that makes you feel good.
Meditation and breathing exercises are an effective way to be present, elevate your mood, and release regrets about the past and anxiousness about the future. Explore our broad range of self-care resources — including apps, audio activities, articles, and more — designed to help you thrive in mind, body, and spirit.
Love yourself. “The more you indulge in negative thinking, the more it festers and the less likely you are to reach out for support,” Tegeler said. Treat yourself with the same level of kindness you show others. Practice gratitude, positive affirmations, and self-care, and tell yourself “It’s going to be OK.”
And don’t forget, the pandemic is affecting everyone. “It’s a protective factor to know we are not alone, and that we are trying to get through this together,” Tegeler said. “Trauma can lead to growth and help build resilience.”