Understanding loneliness during the COVID-19 pandemic
Society and mental health

Understanding loneliness during the COVID-19 pandemic

It is natural to feel lonely at this time and finding ways to engage yourself proactively can help alleviate such feelings

Arathi Kannan

Loneliness is a common experience that can often have an emotional impact on a person. The COVID-19 pandemic has brought about multiple lockdowns, decreased social interaction, and unprecedented change to our lives.

The forced isolation that has exacerbated feelings of loneliness, to the extent that it can affect a person’s physical and emotional wellbeing.

White Swan Foundation’s Arathi Kannan spoke to Toronto-based clinical psychologist, Omar Bazza, who answers some of your questions on how loneliness can be experienced by people in different situations and what you can do to cope.

Q

I live alone in a different city from my family. Having to socially isolate myself in this period has been extremely difficult as I am by myself all day long. How do I care for my mental and emotional health in this situation?

A

Self-care is crucial at this time. For the first time in our life, we have been given a lot of time. We can use it to take care of ourselves however we see fit, and in a way that would be helpful for us. That could be home workouts, getting comfortable and drinking some tea or hot chocolate. Whatever it is you like doing, now is the time to do it, especially if you have some energy that you want to direct somewhere.

Q

Due to the social isolation, I feel like nothing interesting happens in my day, as if I have nothing to look forward to. Is there something I can do in this situation?

A

One of the side effects of isolation is that boredom can set in, and we can feel like we are not doing much with our days. This can add to our anxiety and mood because “We are left alone with our thoughts”. This could be a good time to try new movies, shows, games. There are even virtual games you can play with others. Trying a new activity, online class, or anything that you are interested in can be helpful.

Q

I feel like I have lost a sense of community, and this is something that is important to my wellbeing. How can I cope with this?

A

The sense of community can be something that we can experience without getting out of our house. If it’s possible, we can donate to hospitals and frontline agencies that are fighting the pandemic. We can text, call, make sure our neighbors are doing well. We can engage on social media to help out if we have any information that we think may benefit others. There are many ways to engage with our communities and feel a sense of belonging.

Q

I miss human contact to the point that I feel like crying. Is this normal? Will this feeling pass?

A

It is definitely normal to miss human contact. At the end of the day, we are a social species. This is how we evolved. We are not meant to function alone, outside of a society. It is normal to feel upset and want to cry, especially if we are living alone during this quarantine. The feeling will pass, especially once this lockdown is over. But we can also be proactive (if it’s something we can do) and engage with our loved ones as much as we can and want to. This will help alleviate that feeling of loneliness.

Q

I’ve always considered myself an introvert and I am surprised by how hard this period is for me. Is this to be expected? What can I do?

A

Even for introverts, it can be very hard. Introverts are people who need time alone to recharge their social batteries and energy. It doesn’t mean that we like isolation, or not being able to go out at all. There is also the added anxiety for our loved ones. The best thing to do is to keep in touch virtually with your friends and family. Whether it is by text, email or phone calls, it is always good to stay connected. The good thing is that we can choose the form of media that we are most comfortable with, to check on our loved ones.

Q

I find a disconnect between how I feel right now, and what I see of others’ lockdown lives on social media. They seem to be doing several exciting things, and I can barely keep going each day. I know we’re all going through the same situation, but I feel so alone. How do I cope?

A

Social media is very interesting. We glimpse only what is positive from others. It may be that they had ten very exciting minutes and documented it on social media, giving the impression that everything they do is interesting whereas that may not be true. Social media doesn’t reflect all our life, and we mainly post about things that make us look good. If social media is triggering, it may be a good idea to only check it sparingly and focus on our self-care instead.

White Swan Foundation
www.whiteswanfoundation.org