Is the Corona Crises making you feel lonely?
e corona crisis can make us feel lonely
Although the UK is cautiously opening up, many are affected by the corona crisis and have more or less isolated themselves. If you are used to a busy everyday life, the time in relative isolation can be a big upheaval. Especially when it is unknown how long it will last.
We humans are social beings, and we typically thrive best when we are in groups. Now that we have to be at a distance, it leaves many with a void that can be difficult to fill: colleagues are missing, grandparents, children and grandchildren no longer have the opportunity to meet, we also often have to meet our friends at a distance. We have been deprived in our need to be physically together.
Although some of the UK has slowly been opening up, and many have returned to their daily work places, many people are still affected by the corona crisis and are more or less distancing themselves. The latest development shows an increase in people infected during this difficult pandemic and so new restrictions will follow and our pace will continue to be slowed down, tasks changed and social contact reduced.
Many people are used to having a busy day with a variety of chores where they are busy with people around them. This time in relative isolation can therefore be experienced as a major upheaval.
Limited social contact affects differently
There can be a big difference in how isolated and alone you are. There are those who live alone. Those who have isolated themselves for fear of becoming infected. And those who have been infected. Some naturally have a greater need to be alone, while others thrive best in the company of others.
How we react individually is therefore different. Some have noticed changes in mood and are affected by having to be at a distance from others. We know from research on isolation that it can have a huge impact on our mental health and our mental well-being.
Isolation is the most restrictive intervention in our prisons. Although not at all comparable to isolation in the corona crisis, there are still some similarities. The Department of Human Rights describes how isolation as punishment can lead to mental illness. Many people experience with the corona crisis that the changed everyday life with limited social contact affects their mental well-being.
Isolation can make us lonely
When we are isolated, many experience more loneliness. Loneliness is a discomfort that can occur when we are alone - or with others. You can easily be alone without being lonely or lonely, even if you are in the company of others.
Right now, we are almost all, to a certain extent, cut off from our daily chores. Some are busy both looking after jobs and teaching children from home, while others are repatriated, laid off and perhaps alone. It can be a difficult time in many ways. We are at a distance from family, friends, lovers, colleagues and those we otherwise meet and socialize with in our daily lives. It is hard to miss, and many are alone and lonely or feel lonely, even when they are with their loved ones - for example, their children.
Loneliness can occur suddenly and be short-lived, and in other cases it can be long-lasting. Some personality types, such as introverts, may find that they have never felt better than they do now. Other more extroverts may experience an increased tendency to worry, lack of togetherness and social contact, anxiety, stress, depression and loneliness.
If you feel lonely, you are not alone. Loneliness affects a wide range of age groups: Young people, middle-aged and older people may experience feelings of loneliness at times. In our modern society many of our households consist of one person, so many are currently demarcated and limited. The limited socialising can make us sad, depressed and have a hard time motivating us to attend to our daily chores. Others become restless and irritable. Some get tired while others have sleepless nights.
We need touch
As humans, we also need touch - it can be hugs or handshakes. When we are now isolated and at a distance from others, the urge for a hug can arise and some even experience skin hunger. It is a condition in which a human being lacks physical touch. The longer the crisis lasts, the more people will hunger for togetherness and closeness with other people - and especially many of those who are alone.
When we are touched carefully, the hormone oxytocin is released - also called the love hormone. Oxytocin gives us a sense of calm and well-being. But skin hunger can also be relieved in other ways than by physical touch, as we know that, for example, the sun's heat, a shower or a trip to the sea - even when it's cold - can trigger this ‘rockstar’ among hormones.
The burden of uncertainty and waiting
Not only physical distance and lack of touch affect us. Uncertainty and waiting for better times can also be difficult. ‘Waiting Time Load’ is a term used in connection with the dissatisfaction seen when people in uncertainty have to wait for a decision about their future.
We all know this to some degree from when we have had to wait for big decisions in our lives: when we have waited to see if we passed the final exam or whether we survive the announced firing round. In these situations, thoughts often revolve around the possible scenarios that may unfold and we typically end up thinking of the worst imaginable.
When the corona crisis restricts our free movement
while the future is uncertain, our minds can get overworked with sad thoughts and worries - and we may experience symptoms such as worry, anxiety, stress and depression. Right now we have to wait at a distance from each other for the worst to be over so that we can return to the everyday life we have put on pause. But no one knows the expiration date of this severe period we are in the middle of.
The future can therefore feel uncertain, and it can lead to insecurity and make us sad and anxious. Right now we can only hope for the best and put our trust in getting out of this crisis quickly and safely. Hoping in itself, for the best possible outcome, can help a different and more positive focus. None of us knows for how long we will be distancing and what the landscape looks like exactly, once society gradually reopens. We do know, however, that many will be affected by the situation; both physically, mentally and financially.
Good advice for dealing with loneliness
Limited social contact, skin hunger and waiting time coupled with uncertainty can make us feel lonely to a greater or lesser degree. If you find that loneliness is difficult to deal with, the advice below may help you get better through this unusual time:
Limit the sad thoughts:
Limit the attention you give to your negative thoughts. Practice becoming aware when you dwell on sad thoughts and worries and practice shifting your attention to something else. Many naturally turn their attention inward toward themselves and they become very self focused; this is not always the most helpful way. Try to shift your attention to something else. Revisit your sad thoughts at a time of your choosing. Share them if necessary, with others you trust - just not for too long at a time.
Keep social contact:
Talk to others and keep socially up to date by calling friends and family, talking to the neighbor over the hedge or across the balconis, greeting passers-by on your walk, and talking to friends and family on online platforms. Today, there are many digital platforms that can help us be together at a distance. For example, agree to have a cup of coffee with a friend online or pick up the phone and call an old friend you have not spoken to in a long time.
Structure and planning:
Make a plan for your day so that time does not feel like it is passively slipping through your fingers . Plan your day and put in things you need to do during the day and do something that makes you happy. Do not wait for you to feel motivated. Motivation often arises as a result of being in progress and often does not come before we get started. Maybe you can make a list of the things you have been dreaming of doing for some time but were too busy. Learn something new; start online yoga, learn to knit, learn a new language, write a book or get your photos organised and have those photo books made - or something only you know makes you happy.
Exercise and fresh air:
We need fresh air and exercise. We are not made to sit indoors, but to be more outside than most of us are, even when there is no corona crisis. Get out for a walk and get your heart rate up daily, even if it's short. Use the time outside to divert your attention from worries and sad thoughts and feelings. Notice if trees have sprung up, birds are singing, and what people you meet. The point is, you can give your mind a break by moving your attention outward toward what you see, hear, and experience.
Sleep is important for everyone. You may have experienced that problems and worries grow and tend to feel bigger and more unmanageable if you do not get some sleep. Try to keep your normal circadian rhythm. Get up and go to bed roughly as you normally would. If you have difficulty falling asleep, instead use the time to rest and postpone problem solving until the next day.
If you find that loneliness is increasing and that you need help to deal with thoughts and feelings, there is help to be found. Right now, most psychotherapists offer therapy online or by telephone or Walk and Talk Therapy outdoors, typically in a large park. We are ready to help you.