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Coping with COVID-19 Loneliness

Loneliness has become a new normal for some during the pandemic. Understand why it’s important to address and learn creative ways to combat it.

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.

Routine

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.

Self-Compassion  

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.”

Resilience

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.

Tags

behavioral healthCOVID-19mental health
This Post Has 16 Comments
  1. My husband and I have figured out ways to stay connected with friends and family through social distance visits at parks on blankets 6 feet apart or either end of a picnic table: Face masks until eating, takeout with separated orders. It works and we feel a bit of normalcy, but we miss the closeness and hugs. Virtual is just that.

    We remain optimistic that there will be an end and are grateful that our friends and family have isolated, and distanced, or got it and recovered.
    Lucy

  2. I found that calling and talking to my family and friends keep me connected.
    Hearing their voice and talking helps rather than texting.
    I visit with family and friends; our visits are outside and we wear masks.
    I live alone and was very lonely the first 2 months, but my family and I have learned to social distance and still get to visit and share a meal.
    They bring fast food and we eat in the garage with the garage door open–it’s been great. I see my family 2-3 times a week, I go shopping for groceries a couple times a week, I have a routine. Has helped tremendously. Been in isolation 150 days.

  3. I am so glad I’m a bookworm and knitter. And happily married. I’ve knit a lot lately–things to give away one of these days.

    Miss visiting friends and neighbors, walks in the park, talking to people, working with children. Really, I have so much to be thankful for I’ve really no complaints.

    1. Thank you very much for your comment and interest. You can visit KP.org to check your local service area for online Spanish-speaking support groups and therapists. As well, you can visit the California Parent & Youth Helpline and Parents Anonymous’ online support groups that provide free trauma-informed, evidenced-based emotional support to parents, children, and youth in any language via calls, text, live chat, and email.

    1. I’ve been doing this with an elderly neighbor of mine. She is very kind, and so funny! We share the same birthday and so I wrote her a card and left some balloons outside her door. I’ve also baked her banana bread. We chat on the phone every couple of weeks to catch up. 🙂

  4. Yes, this is difficult times in the WORLD of COVID-19 and with hate.

    What is happening? During emotional and fearful times, people normally come together but, we here in America we are torn apart. Why? Is it because we no longer have some sort of control of our lives? Is it because of uncertainty? Is it because some of us are afraid of struggles? What is it? We haven’t thought much of this one thing which we touch and see daily … MONEY. On every bill and coin are the words “In God We Trust.”…

    All I do know, not only was America ordered back in their homes; the WORLD [was]. We all know everything starts in the home.
    What a long “Time out.” It’s self-evaluation time. Learn of U! Find out who U really are! Don’t be afraid of the noise of silence.

    May the Trinity bless U, your loved ones, and the WORLD. ⭕️😷

  5. Although I am alone, I find it very helpful and important to understand that we all still need “me time.” I use the last hour of the day (every day) to watch the sun set, reflect, and thank the lord for another beautiful day. (My dad always said, Any day above ground was a good day.) Amen.

  6. This indeed is a challenging time for all of us. I find Ignatian spiritual exercises to be helpful, especially rejecting the times of temptation to negativity and immersing instead in the strength, courage, love, and positivity of the giver of all things good for us. Sometimes we have to go through the dark nights of the soul to make us stronger and more resilient to face all of life’s journey.

  7. Yes, there is a big difference between loneliness and being lonely. The pandemic has taught us to learn to be with ourselves, get to know ourselves and the person we are and have become in this world. It also makes us tally the things about self we would like to change in our lives. Maybe reflecting on this time will help us to treat others differently and to reach out to those we feel maybe negatively responding to being alone or sheltered in place.
    Deb

    1. I can resonate with the comments generously provided by Carmen and Deb. Yes, I miss fellowshipping in person with my family and friends, especially at church. But we know things happen for a reason – now I have more time to reflect and attend to activities that really matter such as organizing very important paperwork that has been set aside for a long time. Reading spiritual books has been my companion and I am grateful for the opportunity to put my hands on them.

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