Ask a Therapist: How Can I Hold on to Hope When I’ve Been Feeling Lonely For So Long?

Published on: 04 Mar 2021
Ask Ashely Ertel

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Q: Last year for Valentine’s Day, pre-COVID, I was single, and it didn’t really have a huge impact on me. My close friends and I celebrated the day by going out and having a fun night on the town. This year though, I’m single again, and this past Valentine’s day was awful; I felt so lonely and isolated, and the pandemic has made it so much worse because my friends and I don’t feel safe to go out and celebrate. I can’t believe it’s been almost a year since COVID. How can I hold on to hope when I’ve been feeling so lonely for so long?

Dear Alma,

Thank you so much for asking a question that has undoubtedly been on many people’s minds this year! A year of COVID has really taken its toll on all of us, and your situation is certainly one that a ton of us can relate to! Loneliness may very well be dubbed the tidal wave of the pandemic. Why the tidal wave? Well the first, second, and third waves have already been assigned–and, frankly, loneliness can feel a whole lot like the entire ocean is crashing down on top of you right? So what do we do with all of these big, sweeping feelings? How do we maintain hope during such daunting times?

  1. Stay connected with those that you do have in your life. I know it isn’t the same as going out for a night on the town or Sunday brunch, but small get togethers and even online social meetups are vital right now to maintain our sense of connection to those we love. Humans are wired to be social. We need human contact to survive and to continue growing. Look ahead to the new, creative ways to find your joy. I was just opened up to the world of renting out the movie theater. In my current city, for $100 you can rent an entire theater room and invite 10 friends – plenty of space to spread out and remain socially distanced yet still having fun together. (That’s only $10/person which is way cheaper than pre-COVID, packed-seating prices!) 
  2. I want you to think about your connection to yourself. Independence is a vibe all on its own. Connection is key and so is learning how to thrive in our current environment. While being alone is totally not a mindset, it’s easy for our situation to turn itself into an ugly habit of negative thinking. Because of that, I challenge my clients to have some productive, thoughtful quiet time. How? Listen to podcasts, music, and audiobooks that energize and inspire–ones that challenge the negative thoughts and replace them with more productive ones. Have a “Positivity Playlist” in your phone, host a virtual self-love book club for women, in part. Challenge yourself to stay on top of putting healthy information into your mind in an attempt to ward off the unhealthy thoughts that like to creep in.
  3. Find creative ways to contribute to your community—and it can look like anything that is important to YOU. It could include: leaving candy grams on your neighbors’ doorsteps with a little note letting them know you’re thinking of them, donating money to a cause you are passionate about, dog sitting for a friend, or really anything else. A ton of research has been put into understanding how to improve happiness, and a couple of things always seem to shake out in the results: Practice gratitude. Give back. It really comes up over and over again that the equation to a more fulfilling life includes being thankful for what we do have and contributing to others in ways that add value to your own life.

Thank you again for the vulnerability needed to reach out and share your struggle. We really are all in this together.


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