What Can We Do About Pandemic Related Loneliness?

Much is written about isolation of elders, disruption of normal life and the consequences of essential public health prevention methods to stop the spread of Covid-19. I admit to a bias strongly in favor of those measures, as I am a retired public health nurse. I understand contagious disease and disease spread. I wear a mask everywhere I go outside except when exercising at a great distance from others outside. OK, many also do this. For those who are following guidelines about disease prevention, there is a price we have to pay. It's not the economic one I'm addressing here--it's the personal way it feels. We are still isolated even when not locked down.

If you are doing what public health experts recommend, you are cut off from your normal way of doing things. If you belong to any group that believes in prevention methods, it meets virtually only. That means no handshakes, no hugs, and no hanging out close together in person. We must stay apart, but it doesn't feel the same as in-person contact.

If you were in the exercise habit as I've been, and you're used to working out with a group, a team or going to any gym, that has also changed. We're restricted even if we can go to a gym, and it's necessary to keep us healthy. No sense of camaraderie we used to get from seeing friends there.

Family gatherings with those who do not live with us are out, unless you want to take a huge risk of infection. People have gathered and multiple family members have gotten infected from each other and some have died. No thank you, I want to stay alive. What's left?

We have to make do. We have to accept that this pandemic is getting worse, not better at this moment and we can't get around the restrictions that keep us protected. It feels sad to me but I know I have to live with that sadness for now. I see it this way: feel loss and disconnection or throw caution to the winds and find one's self in ICU? Those could be the alternatives!

What Works To Combat Loneliness?

I'm trying lots of things and here is what is helping.

  1. Make frequent, regular calls to friends. I have a friend whom I've known all my life. She lives in another state. When we reconnected during this pandemic, it was awesome and still is! Long conversations, reminiscing, catching up on what she's doing and finding common ground is reassuring. Don't wait for a friend to contact you. Initiate. I feel better after every call with her.
  2. Get rid of junk and stuff you no longer need or use. At the beginning of the pandemic, people started cleaning out garages and other things. Charities closed around here. You couldn't give away your good but unneeded items. Now they are open again and I'm making regular trips to the Salvation Army. It feels great to purge the things we no longer use. We connect them to a charity that does good work and help follows for the charity as well as the folks who can get those items.
  3. Listen to books, preferably while walking or doing work that doesn't require concentration, such as folding laundry. There are funny, silly, entertaining things around and Audible is my favorite source. Distraction from the distress of our world helps me.

There are other things on my list but these are some of the big ones. We can create a feeling of connection to friends and loved ones by initiating the conversation by zoom or phone ourselves and doing it regularly. We can clean closets and drawers and do the low priority things you would only do if you are stuck at home. And we can find entertainment while in motion, such as audiobooks that make us laugh or simply take our minds off difficult news around us.

Above all, never give up hope. Know that this is temporary and will end one day. Loneliness is manageable, and does not have to defeat us. We are strong enough to make it through this and we will.

Related: A Great Reckoning: One Way Covid-19 Permanently Changed My Life