How to Cope with Loneliness While Staying Socially Distanced

You know physical distancing is important in the age of COVID-19, but it can make you feel lonely and isolated. Here's how to counteract that.

The year 2020 will certainly go down in history as one of the most challenging on record. Many of us are still trying to wrap our heads around the new normal, and trying to stay healthy both physically and mentally. And while the situation may not seem quite as dire as it was back in the spring, fall may bring new challenges. It’s clear that social distancing is still the responsible and ethical approach to keeping numbers down and preventing our hospitals from becoming overwhelmed.

That said, we’re all missing life before COVID-19. It’s so hard to be socially distant from our friends and family, but staying apart is what’s keeping us healthy. Fortunately, there are things you can do to make this time feel less isolating and bring a greater sense of peace and connection.

Start each day with something for you

Practising self-care is a great way to prioritize your mental wellness. Try to start your day on a positive note. Write in a gratitude journal or practise meditation. Listen to an uplifting audiobook or a podcast. Even if it means waking up 30 minutes before the rest of your family, making these little changes can help set the tone for your entire day. (Here’s what might happen when you start meditating every day.)

Limit your time on social media

It seems counterintuitive to limit your time on social media, but despite having your entire network at your fingertips, constant scrolling can lead to higher levels of anxiety and sadness, and heighten your sense of FOMO (fear of missing out). Dedicate a few social media “check-in” times throughout the day to stay in the loop, but otherwise try to stay off your phone and use your screen time more purposefully. (You can even plan “watch parties” around your favourite Netflix series with your friends!)

Be social

We’re all getting weary of looking at our friends and loved ones on a screen, but this is our reality and we need to make the best of it. Make an effort to maintain your virtual get-togethers, because without them, the risk of feeling lonely and isolated increases. Go old school and talk on the phone, or have a glass of wine with a friend over FaceTime. Social interaction, whether virtual or in person, will help you feel less alone and more connected with those around you. It’ll also provide you with support if you’re having a difficult time coping. (Read the inspiring story of how COVID-19 taught one man how to be a better friend.)

Stay physically active

Doing exercise releases endorphins and serotonin, which has a significant impact on mood. Going for a walk with a friend is a great way to combat loneliness. Playing tag in the yard or a park with your kids or grandkids, or even challenging yourself with push-ups or an exercise app will also help elevate your overall mood and energy levels. (Lost the spring in your step? Find out how to make walking less boring.)

Act with purpose

If you do wind up with an extra moment to yourself, try to focus on the things in your life that make you feel good. Take charge and do tasks around the house that give you a feeling of purpose. Set a daily to-do list that allows you to see what you are accomplishing. Clean out your closet, read a favourite book series, sign up for an online course or put on your chef’s hat and experiment with a few new recipes. (Here are 25 ways to relax that don’t cost a cent.)

Seek professional help

If your feelings of loneliness and isolation persist, find a therapist who provides video or telephone sessions. These are great alternatives for people who want to practise social distancing but feel like they would benefit from therapy during this stressful time.

Know you are not alone

There is not a person in the world who is unaffected by COVID-19, so try to find some comfort in the idea that we’re all in this together. Also, do your best to reframe the experience into something more positive and productive. Count yourself lucky to have some bonus time with family, get things done that you haven’t had time for and challenge yourself with new fitness activities. Above all, if you’re struggling, don’t keep it to yourself. A friendly face is always just a video chat away.

Now that you know how to cope with loneliness during COVID-19, learn to spot the signs you could be suffering from high-functioning depression.

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Originally Published on Best Health Canada