“I Feel Lonely”
Help for when you’re feeling isolated, alone, and disconnected from family.
Human beings are social creatures, so it’s no wonder we feel the effects of quarantining, isolation, and social distancing so acutely, especially if we’re in areas subject to lockdowns or stay-at-home orders. Feeling isolated and lonely can take a heavy toll on your mental and physical health. It can send your stress levels soaring, trigger anxiety and depression, and increase your risk for heart disease and stroke. But even in the darkest days of winter during this pandemic, there are steps you can take to alleviate loneliness, protect your health, and strengthen your sense of connection with others.
Find creative ways to keep in touch
Face-to-face contact with friends and family is integral to maintaining mental health. For many of us in areas of lockdown or social restrictions, that’s not possible at this time, so it’s crucial to find other ways to connect.
Video chat. It can help you to:
- Keep up with friends and family.
- Arrange group hangouts with friends to play party games, enjoy happy hour drinks, or watch sports events together.
- Schedule meetings or lunch breaks with your co-workers.
Call on the phone. If you feel uncomfortable about calling people out of the blue—even on days when you feel especially lonely—text to set up a good time to call. Or better still, schedule regular times each week to talk on the phone with a friend or loved one.
Rekindle the art of letter writing
Handwriting a letter or postcard to a loved one may not be the fastest way to send a message, but there’s a reason why people keep and cherish handwritten notes.
- The time and effort required to write and mail a letter or card makes it so much more significant to the reader than a text, email, or Facebook post.
- Writing your thoughts down on paper is a great way to come to terms with what you’re going through at the moment and help you to find things you can feel grateful or positive about.
- Writing a heartfelt letter can help relieve some of the stress of loneliness.
- Receiving a letter or postcard in return can brighten your day and make you feel more connected.
Engage with online communities
Connecting with others online doesn’t have to be limited to close friends, family, or work colleagues. Even communicating with strangers can help to combat loneliness and the negative effects of social isolation.
- Attend peer support meetings online—such as AA or Weight Watchers.
- Find people with similar hobbies and interests on community platforms like meetup.com.
- Use social media to reconnect with old contacts and expand your social network.
- Participate in social media groups and online forums for topics that interest you.
- Join an online book club.
- Play multiplayer games online or join a fantasy sports league.
- Try a dating app if you’re single. Even if you can’t meet up in person at the moment, you can still lay the foundations for a future relationship.
Helping others can foster a sense of connection and provide meaning and purpose during these turbulent times. In fact, volunteering to help others can be just as beneficial for you as it is for those you help.
Volunteer for a cause that’s important to you, whether it’s campaigning for a political cause, walking shelter animals, or feeding the homeless, for example. In many cases, you can help out without leaving home—making or answering calls, sending emails, etc.
Run errands for a neighbor in need, such as fetching medications or groceries.
Donate to food banks. Widespread unemployment and economic difficulties have reduced supply and increased demand at food banks. You can help older adults, low-income families, and others in need by donating food or cash.
Many of us are living, working, and exercising within the same four walls every day. It’s easy for the monotony to grind you down and add to the sense of isolation. But you can still make the time to safely get outside each day, see other human faces, and hear their voices.
Walk around your neighborhood. Take a different route each day and discover new places. Walk with a friend if it’s safe to do so.
Spend time in public places, like a park or an outdoor mall. Even socially distanced, simply being within eyeshot of others can help you feel less alone.
Engage with neighbors from a safe distance. Just a wave or a few words can help you feel more connected to the world.
Talk to yourself like a caring friend
Many of us fill hours of solitude by focusing on the negative, rehashing past mistakes, or dwelling on worst-case scenarios. But you can challenge negative thoughts and talk to yourself in a kinder, more realistic way—like a caring friend.
- Note any negative thought that leaves you feeling upset or lonely, such as “I’ll never see my friends again,” or “I can’t make it through this alone.”
- Challenge the thought by asking yourself: “Do I know that for sure?” or “What would I say to a friend who thought the same?”
- Change the thought to a more helpful way of thinking. “I feel lonely and miss my friends, but I’ll see them again,” or “I’ve made it through bad times before. I can do it again.”
Focusing on a hobby or interest can help you to feel less alone and add a sense of purpose to your days. If you’ve always wanted to learn a new language or a musical instrument, this could be the perfect time. Once the pandemic is over, you can look back proudly at having achieved a goal.
- Create a family tree using a genealogy website.
- Do something creative, like writing your memoirs, painting, practicing a craft, or learning to cook.
- Improve your home—make repairs or decorate a room.
- Take a class online, listen to a lecture or concert, or take a virtual tour of a museum.
- Adopt a pet.
- If you’re out of work, update your resume and LinkedIn profile, and explore ways to network online.
Take care of your overall mental health
Feeling lonely can add to your stress levels at what is already a very stressful time. To compensate, take extra care of your mental health by taking time to nurture your spirit.
Learn to relax. Practicing a relaxation technique such as meditation is an excellent way to relieve stress, tension, and anxiety.
Get active. Even if you’re under lockdown or a stay-at-home order, there are still creative ways to exercise safely at home.
Draw comfort from simple daily pleasures. Take a relaxing bath, read a good book, or watch your favorite Netflix show.
Watch what you eat and drink. Self-medicating with alcohol, drugs, or food may offer short-term relief, but over time will only worsen your mood and make the loneliness even harder to bear.
Remember this isn’t forever; it will pass
As bleak and lonely as today may seem, there are plenty of reasons to feel hopeful about tomorrow. The rollout of coronavirus vaccines mean that the end of the pandemic is at least in sight now. While social distancing may still be necessary for some time to come, keep in mind a quote that has been circulating in Italy: “We’re standing far apart now so we can embrace each other later.”
In the meantime, if loneliness becomes too much to bear and you feel overwhelmed or in despair, please reach out. Read Are You Feeling Suicidal?, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline in the U.S. at 1-800-273-8255, or find a helpline in your country at Befrienders Worldwide.