There are a lot of people in the world right now who are in quarantine, self-isolating or social distancing. Despite the fact that we’re all sharing this experience, it’s easy to feel isolated and lonely when you’re stuck inside all day.
Loneliness is common: according to Relationships Australia, most Australians will experience loneliness at some point in their lives, with one in six experiencing emotional loneliness — and that was before the COVID-19 pandemic.
Loneliness isn’t just unpleasant. It’s also linked to a range of health issues, including poor physical and mental health, dissatisfaction with life, emotional distress, suicide, the development of dementia, physical inactivity, and more.
If you’re feeling lonely, know that you’re not alone, and you’re also not powerless.
Just because you’re staying home socially distancing doesn’t mean that you have to emotionally distance yourself from others.
With a little bit of effort and some creativity, you can not only offset some of your own feelings of loneliness, but help other people to feel less isolated as well.
Here are a few different strategies to try:
Hearing someone’s voice over the phone is one thing, but being able to see their face is even better. Remember that your friends, family and colleagues are probably struggling with social isolation as well. Checking in with them and seeing how they feel may help you feel better about your situation.
It’s natural to want to talk about COVID-19, but it’s also important to talk about other things in life. Discussing everyday topics can help distract you from dwelling too much on the current situation, and remind you of the things that you enjoy.
Hearing about how another person is feeling, what they’re doing and how they’re coping can help to distract you from your own negative thoughts. Helping other people naturally makes us feel good about ourselves, and actively listening to the other person is one of the best ways to deepen your relationship.
Seeing a movie together is a fun, social experience that many of us enjoy. Just because you can’t be in the same room together, doesn’t mean you can’t share a film.
“Netflix Party” is the perfect app to use during self-isolation. It allows you to invite your friends to watch Netflix with you. There’s also a built-in group chat, so you can chat about the film while you watch.
Of course, there’s also the option to have a group phone, Skype or Zoom call where you can manually synchronize the start of the film and chat while you’re watching.
Make the experience as comfy and cozy as you please by wearing pyjamas, popping some popcorn and snuggling up on the couch with a blanket.
Part of effective social distancing means avoiding unnecessary trips outside. However, you’re still permitted to exercise outside with one other person. Whether someone in your household is able to accompany you or not, getting outdoors can help you feel less isolated.
You can also spend time in your balcony or backyard if you have one (so long as you’re still maintaining distance from others), or by opening up the windows and allowing some fresh air and sunlight into your space.
Speak to a professional
Sometimes loneliness isn’t just because of our physical circumstances, but also because of our emotions and feelings. Speaking to a psychologist or licensed therapist can help provide support and help you get to the root of why you’re feeling this way.
Investing in therapy isn’t just good for coping with immediate feelings of loneliness, but also equip you with tools to deal with these kinds of feelings in the future, giving you emotional resilience.
Physically visiting a psychologist may not be the best idea given the current circumstances, but there are lots of ways that you can access therapy online through virtual services and programs. For more information, check out Better Health Online or the options available through HealthDirect.
If you need immediate assistance or support, call Lifeline on 13 11 14. They are available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
Listen to a podcast
Sometimes, just hearing a person's voice can make a huge difference when you’re feeling lonely. If you’ve been watching lots of TV, it might be a good idea to change it up and listen to a podcast.
This is an especially good option if you’ve been watching the news, as all of the COVID-19 information and updates can begin to feel overwhelming.
There are so many different podcasts to choose from. Why not immerse yourself in a true crime series like “Casefile”, laugh out loud with “Hamish and Andy” or choose a professional or personal development podcast that suits your work or personal life.
Read a book
A study from the UK’s The Reading Agency and Demos reports that reading books has found to significantly reduce feelings of loneliness for people aged 18 to 64.
Perhaps this is because books highlight the shared experience of being human, or help us to be more compassionate and understanding of other people. Or maybe it’s simply because immersing yourself in another person’s story can help to distract you from the reality of your own circumstances.
Either way, it’s certainly worth turning off the TV, curling up with a book and savouring a literary escape.