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  • Writer's pictureDena Lampert

The Impact of Loneliness on Re-Integrating Ourselves Into the World

While it feels for some of us that life is back to normal now with no masks and no social isolation, the effects of the loneliness we suffered will stay with us for a long time to come — some of us more than others. Covid threw us into isolation very suddenly and it’s been very difficult for many of us to reconnect with friends and family in the same way that we did before. Conversations might not be the same as they used to be and the activities that we used to do we might not be comfortable doing anymore.


For many of us, getting back into “normal life” will be a long and difficult process and the feeling of loneliness has made this even more difficult. As this New York Times article explains, “The human brain, having evolved to seek safety in numbers, registers loneliness as a threat. The centers that monitor for danger, including the amygdala, go into overdrive, triggering a release of “fight or flight” stress hormones. Your heart rate rises, your blood pressure and blood sugar level increase to provide energy in case you need it. Subconsciously, you start to view other people more as potential threats — sources of rejection or apathy — and less as friends, remedies for your loneliness.”


Loneliness can be described as the sense of emptiness and longing that arises when you notice a gap between your current situation and your desired social life. It’s a subjective feeling. For example, someone could have a lot of contact with others but still feel lonely, and others can live alone, not have much social interaction and not feel lonely.


These feelings of loneliness can perpetuate symptoms of depression and/or anxiety. Often when people feel lonely they might start to become more isolated, which in turn, will make these symptoms of depression and anxiety worse.


As loneliness is caused by a multitude of different factors, the solution will be different for everyone. What works for someone else might not work for you. However, by committing time and effort, you will find ways to stay connected and start to feel less lonely. Below are some coping strategies that might help you slowly push yourself back into the world.


Strengthen existing relationships


Since the beginning of the pandemic, you may have noticed that you’ve become more distant from friends or family. Maybe you used to speak to your friends more often and had deeper conversations with them than you do now. A great way to combat loneliness is to try strengthening these existing relationships. If you used to call your friend once per week then try starting that again. Or if you used to see your family once per month then try arranging that again. If you’re struggling to motivate yourself to reach out to friends and family then start slowly. Think of one person who you feel the best about reaching out to and start from there.


Widen your network


If there are no existing relationships you have that you feel you’d like to strengthen, then widening your circle of friends can be a great way to feel less lonely. Try joining a club or a class. It could be sports, pottery, painting, a book club, whatever you’re interested in! And remember that you don’t have to be good at something to give it a try. Joining a club or class of something you’re interested in automatically exposes you to a group of people who share at least one similar interest.


Practice self-care


When we’re feeling lonely, self-care can be a difficult thing to motivate ourselves to do, but it is extremely beneficial. Maybe you don’t have the motivation to find new friends or speak to existing friends all the time and that’s ok. So for those times when you’re spending time alone, make sure you’re looking after yourself. The importance of eating healthy, nutritious food, getting outside for fresh air, and sleeping 7+ hours a night can’t be overstated.


Express your feelings


Expressing your feelings can be something that doesn’t come naturally to you but it’s important to have ways to express yourself. If you don’t feel like you can express how you’re feeling to a friend or family member, try keeping a journal instead. Keeping a journal is a great exercise to help you be more objective about how you’ve been feeling. Reading back journal entries from the past week can help you observe your feelings from an outside perspective. And if keeping a journal isn’t for you, try expressing your feelings through other means such as drawing, painting, music or any other creative outlet you enjoy.


Improve your communication skills


After mandatory social isolation and distancing for so long, lots of us might find we are a bit rusty when it comes to communicating with people we haven’t seen or spoken to in a while. Making an effort to work on your communication and conversation skills can be a great way to improve your confidence and will in turn increase your chances of making new friends and strengthening your connections with old ones. One great way to start or maintain a conversation is to ask open-ended questions and let the other person speak — but remember to listen! When thinking of open-ended questions to ask, think of some questions involving who, where, when, what, why, and how.


Address mental health issues


The stigma around mental health issues is one of the main reasons that people may become isolated and lonely. Therefore by treating these mental health issues, you might find your loneliness also improves. If you’re in need of some mental health support, don’t hesitate to reach out. Our professional therapists and counselors are here to help. You don’t have to do it alone.

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