While some are lucky enough (or unlucky enough, depending on who you ask) to be quarantined with their partner, many are riding out quarantines due to coronavirus alone. Sure, working from home and doing your own thing can be nice and relaxing for the first few days, but in many parts of the country, we’re already a week deep into quarantine — the gravity of the situation has hit. No one likes feeling lonely, but it’s especially challenging to manage when the length of our isolation is uncertain.
So, before you start having that conversations with your plants, again — or with the dust bunnies you inevitably find when you get bored enough to truly deep clean your apartment — here are some tips for staying connected and fighting loneliness during social isolation.
Mental Health Dangers Of Social Isolation
Unfortunately, loneliness really can put our mental health at risk, which is why it’s so important to be proactive in a time like this. Don’t, I repeat, do not wallow in your loneliness. “Social isolation puts individuals at a greater risk for developing anxiety and depression and may worsen other pre-existing mental health conditions,” says therapist Haley Neidich, LCSW. “Furthermore, isolation that is ongoing has the potential to be traumatic, particularly for people with trauma histories or a past diagnosis of PTSD.”
She urges everyone — particularly those with preexisting mental health conditions — to take self care and digital social contact seriously. Neidich says keeping in touch with your therapist (if you’re already seeing one) is crucial in this trying time. Many therapists have moved their practices to online or over the phone. If they haven’t switched over to an accessible online, HIPAA-compliant plan, try an online therapy platform like Talkspace as a solution for continuing treatment.
How To Cope With Loneliness
One of the main things you can do as a single person coping with loneliness during social isolation is to keep in close contact with friends and family online — and that doesn’t mean just scrolling through Instagram and liking their photos.
Talking via video chat is the best substitution for real deal of socializing. Neidich recommends at least two to three calls a day for managing loneliness. Some platforms you can use include Facetime, Facebook Messenger, What’s App, Skype, or Zoom. There’s even an app called Houseparty that allows you to not only video chat, but also play games with your friends in real time.
You can even schedule your calls to add some structure into your days, as well as to have something fun to look forward to. For example, maybe you can have a standing date to have a group video chat with a few of your best friends every Friday at six for a virtual happy hour, or Saturday trivia nights on Houseparty.
Deena, 27, who lives by herself, says that Facetime has been crucial for her in fighting loneliness while social distancing. She has a group of people who she “sees” everyday, to help keep her sanity in check. “I video chat with my sisters and aunt everyday,” she says. “It’s hard not to feel lonely, but luckily there’s Facetime, and I feel like I’ve actually been keeping in touch more than usual while being alone.”
What about online dating?
Dating apps and sites haven’t slowed down and, in fact, are as hopping as ever, even if the people matching have no intentions of meeting in the upcoming weeks. Neidich has given the green light for chatting through dating apps, as long as you aren’t meeting in person.
“While online dating may feel futile right now, due to the fact that the actual dating-in-person part is not an option, singles are being given a chance to really get to know one another prior to meeting,” she says. “I am encouraging my single clients to take things slow, FaceTime and really get to know one another.”
Laura, 28, has been continuing to actively “date” through apps to beat loneliness. “[A Bumble match and I] decided to video chat, spoke for an hour, both had a beer and were in sweats. We both have cats who made constant appearances and made for easy conversation,” she says. “It was nice to know that even with us all going through this there is still some grounding in getting to know another human. It almost feels like it’s easier to be vulnerable because we are all feeling it.”
And hey, if you end up meeting up with someone you’re chatting with once this is all over, it will be that much more exciting with all the build up.
Ideas of things to do by yourself that are good for mental health
Keeping in contact with other human beings is the most important thing you can do to fight loneliness. Another thing that’s great is getting outside for a walk or something similar. Neidich recommends taking two walks daily. If you live in the suburbs or somewhere rural, it should be pretty easy to take a walk and stay 6 feet away from anyone else who might also be on a walk. If you’re in a more urban area, just be sure to keep your distance from passersby. You could also go for a bike ride or skate, if that’s more your style.
Aside from those tips, here are some other things you can do alone to keep your mental health in check:
- Meditate — the Talkspace app now has meditation tools, free of charge
- Do some at home workouts via YouTube videos, fitness studio live streams, or just some simple stretching
- Gratitude journaling
- Work on learning a new skill through an online course — many colleges (even Harvard) are offering some of their classes for free online
- Do something creative like drawing, painting, coloring, or playing an instrument
- Avoid checking the news / social media first thing in the morning
- Listen to music and dance
- Take regular breaks from work if you’re working from home
Keep the pressure low
With all this free time at home on our hands, you might feel pressured to be extremely productive during this time, especially if you’re by yourself. Hayley says to be mindful of “quarantine perfectionism.”
“Social media is sending the message that we need to be uber productive with our new-found free time. You don’t need to write a new novel or perfectly organize your closet,” she says. “I invite people to give themselves permission to use this time in the way that is most loving. So long as your coping mechanisms are varied, just allow yourself to do what you need to do in order to get through the day with as much ease and grace as possible.”
When To Seek Professional Help
There’s no sugarcoating it: it’s a really stressful time to be alive. We’re being inundated with information about the coronavirus and many peoples’ anxiety is at an all time high.
If your coping mechanisms or behaviors turn unhealthy, if you start drinking more than usual or abusing drugs, you might need to take a step back and reach out for help, whether it’s opening up to a trusted loved one, or your therapist.
Additionally, if you’re feeling like your mental health is really suffering and you’re not already in therapy, now’s a great time to reach out to an online therapist, which can be beneficial not only now, but also in the long run! If you’re feeling suicidal or having thoughts of harming yourself, don’t hesitate to seek immediate help via the Crisis Text Line or the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline.
Remember, you aren’t the only one dealing with this. If it brings you any comfort, all of us singles are alone together! Getting through this will be trying, but we’ll make it out stronger than we ever were before.