COVID loneliness has helped create a mental health crisis in 2020 and 2021. While there are several reasons the pandemic has affected mental health, one of the biggest has been feelings of isolation caused by social distancing. While important for public and individual health, social distancing can take a huge toll on our mental health since we need the support of others in our lives to avoid anxiety, depression, and mental illness. Because this year has limited that connection, we have to make up for it in other ways while we wait to be able to get back out again when COVID-19 restrictions are lifted. In the meantime, here is our guide to the top five ways to cope with isolation and loneliness while social distancing:
1. Use COVID loneliness as an excuse to reach out to old friends
Social distancing is a great excuse to reconnect with some of the people we have lost contact with, and rekindling some of those old connections can remind us of all the wonderful people we do still have in our lives. 2020 was hard on most of us, and it has led to feelings of isolation as we begin the new year. Not being able to see the people we are used to going out and having fun or relaxing with isn’t easy. However, there is a bit of a silver lining since this difficult year can be a great reason to reach out to some of the people we’ve lost contact with. Consider sending an email, text, or making a phone call to someone you haven’t spoken with in a while. Just make sure you really want this connection—psychology experts say it’s best to consider why you stopped speaking with this person and whether you really want them in your life. If you do, go ahead and reach out!
2. Get outdoors
COVID loneliness can take a toll on mental health, and having to practice social distancing can make us feel confined. Making a conscious effort to get outdoors a little more often can make a huge difference to both of these things. Research shows walking or exercising outdoors—especially in a green area like a park—can lead to a boost in mood and less feelings of stress. Adding some outdoor time to your routine can be a great way to cope with feelings of loneliness and feel less confined.
3. Practice gift giving
This year, many of us have a little extra time on our hands. Using some of that time to make personalized gifts for the people we care about can be a wonderful way to show them some love from a distance. Studies show giving gifts increases happiness, so taking some of our time to find or craft the perfect gifts for our loved ones can boost our mood while making us feel more connected.
4. Practice meditation
This year has been more quiet and solitary than many of us anticipated. However, that makes it the perfect time to practice some inner stillness and get in touch with our more meditative side. Meditation can help some people calm anxious thoughts and improve mental health, but it’s best practiced without outside distractions. That makes this quieter winter season a perfect time to drown out the distractions and get in touch with our inner selves. Using the time as an opportunity to get in touch with your inner needs can be an empowering way to take advantage of this more socially distant time. For some people, meditation can cause feelings of increased anxiety or even panic, so be cautious when practicing it for the first time.
5. Focus on the future
Many of us find ourselves wondering if social distancing will ever end. However, eventually it will come to an end, and focusing on the positive plans we make when social distancing comes to a close, it can remind us to have hope for the future and that this will pass. Brainstorming plans and goals for the people we can visit, the places we will be able to go again, and the experiences we can have when the shutdowns end is a great way to focus on the positives of how life will be when this difficult time of COVID loneliness has passed.