This DocTalk is part of our series, Emotional and Mental Health in Pandemic. Join psychotherapist, Jamie Friddle, as he covers some of the common emotions and symptoms many of us are experiencing in the COVID-19 pandemic while we are apart from our friends, family, and loved ones.
Understanding the difference between being alone and loneliness.
Loneliness can be defined as the acute or ongoing sense of unsatisfied longing for quality relationships with yourself or others. Some amount of loneliness is good for us, as it drives us to seek out meaningful relationships and to be social. But prolonged loneliness can result in developing a preference for social isolation, eventually leading to poor health.
How the pandemic has increased loneliness for some people.
Mandates in many local areas have essentially forced people away from their friends and family. These measures do help us to slow the spread of COVID-19 and save many lives, but can also result in video-chat fatigue if the relationships we are engaging in remotely are not fulfilling.
Who is most at risk for experiencing loneliness?
Extroverted people and younger age groups have been experiencing more unmanageable loneliness. These groups are usually accustomed to being around others who help them identify their sense of self, or “recharge,” while at work with their peers, socializing at gatherings, or spending quality time with family. During periods of social isolation, they are unable to access their most needed resource for supporting their sense of self.
Ways to reduce feelings of loneliness and enhance connection to others in other ways.
Introspection: Identity what loneliness means for you, and get involved in things that bring you joy such as art, cooking, exercise, or spirituality.
Connection: Spend time building your relationships with people who know you well. If you are experiencing video-chat fatigue, try writing letters by hand which can help you feel a sense of physical connection.
Interaction: Be of service to others, whether that means volunteering virtually or in a socially distanced activity, or caring for pets or house plants. Contributing to the welfare of others can be very beneficial for our own well being.
Resources for seeking help when loneliness is overwhelming or causing other symptoms.
The first thing to do when you are experiencing severe loneliness is talk with your primary care provider, as they are your first defense. You can also try an online search at psychology.com or zencare.co for helpful tips or to find a therapist near you.
Find community resources listed on Valley’s Public Advisory webpage if you are experiencing unmanageable loneliness or social isolation.