Shelter-in place orders, physical distancing, and masking have led to an increase in isolation, especially for those living alone. Isolation can turn into feelings of loneliness. One in 3 respondents of a recent study said they were affected by COVID-19 loneliness.
If unchecked, loneliness can have negative effects on mental and physical health, including increased blood pressure, sleep deprivation, depression, anxiety, and suicide.
“We are social creatures and thrive off human interaction,” said Heather Tegeler, a licensed marriage and family therapist at Kaiser Permanente South San Francisco. “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.
This is particularly important for people living solo. Get a regular sleep, eating, and exercise schedule down and stick to it. Routine provides a sense of control and stability and can help fight anxiousness and boredom.
Connection Is Vital
Get in that face-to-face contact, virtually of course. The leading factor of 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.
Have a Little Fun
“Pleasant activities lead to pleasant feelings,” Tegeler said. Allow time for painting, reading, baking, watching a rom-com, or anything that makes you feel good.
Engage in Mindfulness
Meditation and breathing exercises are an effective way to be present, release ruminations on the past and anxiousness about the future, and are a mood-elevator. The Calm digital tool has more than 100 guided meditations and is free to Kaiser Permanente members.
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, self-care, and tell yourself “It’s going to be OK.”
We are all in this together.
“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.”
Kaiser Permanente members: Go to healthy.kaiserpermanente.org for resources and to schedule a virtual therapy appointment. Discover wellness coaching that connects members with a provider to help with emotional wellbeing.