Can you cure deep-down, black, bottom-of-the-well, no-hope, end-of-the-world, what’s-the-use loneliness? That’s a question Peanut’s Charlie Brown once asked Lucy. Lucy’s cavalier response was that she could cure anything for a nickel.
It feels like the whole world, especially older adults living alone or in long-term care settings, could use Lucy’s nickel right about now.
This pandemic, also known as COVID-19, is fueling loneliness in epidemic proportions. Visitation restrictions in healthcare settings and the need to continue practicing social distancing have many of us feeling isolated. Feeling disconnected from the people we count on creates stress which can result in sleeplessness, depression, higher blood pressure, inflammation, weakened immunity, and a long list of other detriments. Visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to learn more about the health risks associated with social isolation and loneliness.
We, at Capital Health Care Network, are deeply concerned about the plight and well-being of older adults. We are also concerned about each other. Life has been harder than any of us could have imagined just a few short months ago.
What to do? How can we combat loneliness during these trying times?
1. Admit you are feeling lonely!
Many people are embarrassed about being lonely. And then there are those who are reluctant to acknowledge loneliness as a serious health concern. There is no shame in feeling lonely. There is absolutely no reason for embarrassment. Loneliness is a common, widespread human experience. Read more about shame and loneliness here.
2. Know you are not alone!
You may feel alone. You may physically be alone. But there are still good people in the world who care. If you were fortunate enough to have a caring family prior to COVID-19, they most assuredly still love you, and they are probably missing you as much as you are missing them. In addition, you are not alone in what you are experiencing. This “new normal” has all of us out-of-sorts and struggling day-to-day.
3. Talk to someone about your feelings!
According to the Mental Health Foundation, talking about your feelings is not a sign of weakness, but rather a way of taking charge of your well-being and doing what you can to stay healthy. Dr. Edmund Bourne, author of The Anxiety and Phobia Workbook, warns that holding your feelings in might cause anxiety, depression, headache, and more. Bourne adds that learning to identify and express feelings is literally good for you. Please consider “letting your feelings out” by talking with a trusted confidant or counselor.
5. Use technology to stay connected!
Social distancing does not have to result in self-isolation. Studies show that friendships and social connections can act as buffers against stress during difficult times. Friends and family can provide engagement and support via the phone, Facetime, and Skype. Find more about using technology to stay connected here.
6. Refresh your faith!
Trusting your faith can help carry you through the fear and uncertainty of COVID-19. There is a growing body of evidence that suggests religion and faith are meaningful ways to cope with trauma and distress for those of us who need this simple truth quantified.