If you live by yourself and are experiencing feelings of isolation during these trying times, you’re not alone. Human connection is vital for our sense of well-being. Limiting social interaction is likely to have an impact on our mood, health, and mental state if we don’t consciously work to maintain connections.
Below are a few ideas to help you reach out, feel connected, and remember that you’re not alone.
Identify one person with whom you can share your worries and feelings over the phone. Is there a comforting friend, family member, therapist, or chaplain you can call and talk to openly and privately? In these challenging times, it’s perfectly natural to feel afraid, lonely, or overwhelmed. If you’ve previously seen a psychotherapist or faith-based professional, consider reaching out to them.
Make a contact list of people who live alone and take the initiative to call and check in with them daily or every few days to practice good listening skills. Start with those in your close circle of friends and then move outward. You can go through old letters, address books, alumni contacts, email addresses, and memorabilia to reconnect with “long-lost” friends, classmates, and coworkers you’ve lost touch with. It might be uplifting and reassuring to reach out to them, and they would likely love to get a call. Provide empathy, understanding and comfort by listening with acceptance and compassion.
Try not to judge others or hand out quick advice without listening first, and also share what’s on your mind. Believe it or not, we can often find support by offering support. We can exchange knowledge about local resources for medicine, medical services, stores, food pantries, supplies, and news updates on the coronavirus.
Many people utilize videoconferencing services such as FaceTime and Zoom. This enables connections to happen when we crave good conversation and also have the need to “think out loud” as we cope with COVID-19 issues. It can be helpful for a family member or friend to teach you how to use these services and apps if you’re unfamiliar with them.
Other suggestions include reaching out the old-fashioned way through greeting cards and letters, or sending text messages or emails with photos to check in with loved ones.
Offering your time to volunteer and assist others in your community can be helpful for handling anxiety and feelings of helplessness. Some volunteer programs can be accessed from home. When we reach out to others who may be feeling even more isolated than we are, it’s psychologically healing as well as calming. Humans generally feel better when they have a sense of purpose and feel more in control when taking action. Contact local volunteer coordinators or your local senior center to find out about volunteering from home opportunities.
Get creative and make homemade gifts. Write, paint, or knit and make crafts, cards, pillows, or puppets. Find projects that are creative and rewarding, especially if they’ll cheer up someone you love. Share podcasts, emails, and links about your favorite books, radio shows, and movies with your loved ones and friends. Listen to music with soothing and cheerful sounds to boost your mood.
When people aren’t part of a couple, they can easily imagine everyone else is happily enjoying the comfort of a shared home and family. However, the reality is oftentimes a lot less idyllic. Many people are separated, divorced, unhappily married, or widowed. Those in happy marriages might be experiencing serious illnesses, have people living with them who require extensive help, or be experiencing financial problems or major conflicts within their families.
At the end of the day (or this pandemic), your overall happiness doesn’t depend on whether you live alone. Rather, it depends on what you do with your life and how you nurture relationships in general, both during the lockdown and beyond.
Lisa Alexander is a freelance writer