Loneliness in the Era of COVID: Tips for the Holiday


Many people don’t like to discuss loneliness because of the prevalent stigma around it. When we’re surrounded by friends and family, loneliness can be counter to what we think is acceptable. But everyone experiences loneliness at some point.

Loneliness can cause emotional distress, making you feel like you are all alone, even in social situations. Though being alone can bring on loneliness, one can also feel lonely on a crowded subway, or even when they’re with loved ones.

The COVID-19 pandemic has brought the topic of loneliness to the forefront – it has delivered loneliness to everyone’s door all at the same time.

Social-Distancing and Loneliness

COVID-19 has turned the world topsy-turvy in many ways. With a majority of the population required to social-distance, we’re lacking the ability to nurture and support each other in the usual ways. We can’t hug or gather in groups; we can’t visit family members for fear of infecting them (and vice versa), at least for the time being. The pandemic has created situations primed for loneliness.

Social-distancing is a necessity during the pandemic, but the loneliness it brings is not without risks. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), loneliness comes with its own health concerns, especially for older adults:

  • Loneliness or social isolation increases the risk of heart disease and stroke by a third.
  • Loneliness is related to higher depression and suicide rates.
  • Loneliness increases the risk of hospitalization in heart disease patients by 68%.

Recent studies show that loneliness during the COVID pandemic is more common in “individualistic” societies (like America). Men are experiencing higher rates of loneliness, though they may be hesitant to say they’re lonely due to social norms. Young people are also experiencing high rates of loneliness, most likely because they find themselves having to socially distance at a time in their lives when they’re at their most social.

Combating Loneliness

Although the pandemic requires us to socially distance, there are steps we can take to prevent loneliness:

Connect with Others

Find non-traditional ways to connect with others in a meaningful way. Start thinking outside the box. For instance, mobile and PC video games aren’t just for adolescents. Playing online games such as Scrabble or chess can offer opportunities to engage with others in forums for people with common interests.

You could also schedule daily or weekly video calls with friends and family. Video calls may not be the same as face-to-face conversations, and finding new ways to stay engaged may require a bit of creativity, but they could be worth your while. They might just save you from becoming lonely.

Make Efforts to Comfort Yourself

During the pandemic, pet rescues have seen a surge in people wanting to foster or adopt pets. Studies indicate that pets decrease feelings of loneliness and increase their owners’ sense of wellbeing. Pets and their owners have a special bond – just the act of having to care for a pet daily can have a protective effect against loneliness. Pets provide comfort, a welcome relief for people who are isolated.

There are other small efforts that can make a big difference. You could buy a weighted blanket to help you feel comforted when falling asleep. Or allow yourself some time alone in the bath to help soothe your mind. Finding small habits or routines that give you comfort is key to managing feelings of loneliness.

Find Healthy Distractions

These aren’t regular times, so treating yourself to healthy distractions is a must. Find a new hobby or pastime to get away from the magnitude of the pandemic. Watching an exciting television series can keep you from overthinking. Reading a book can transport you to another time and place. Watching or listening to stand-up comedians can make you laugh and put you in a better space.

Finding healthy distractions can keep you from feeling lonely and, for a little bit of time, transport you somewhere else. Loneliness is an experience, and creating healthier experiences can prevent loneliness from setting in.


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