It’s no secret that the world has been struggling with mental health since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. Cases of depression have tripled in the United States, according to a recent study. Our daily lives look vastly different than the beginning of 2020, and there is an epidemic of loneliness flooding our country.
Many working individuals who used to enjoy group meetings and lunch breaks with coworkers are now isolated in an office at home. Teenagers and young adults who live and breathe for social experiences have been stuck behind a screen, trying to connect—even if it’s just not the same. Gradually over the past year, we’ve all distanced ourselves from others—likely, unintentionally.
So how do we slow this epidemic?
Turn to Your Higher Power
If you’ve felt the effects of the epidemic, invite God in. Don’t fight the battle of loneliness alone. Your higher power can give you strength beyond your own and provide comfort, unlike any other worldly thing. Sometimes I find myself turning to a big bowl of ice cream or binge-watching my favorite show to numb the pain of loneliness. I promise there’s a better way to find comfort and connection. Find a way to nourish your spiritual core and turn to God.
This may look like engaging in your favorite exercise to rejuvenate your mind and body, which are intertwined with your spirit. Or maybe a quiet reflection in nature will expand your soul and help you realize this lonely moment is just that—a moment. However you connect with heaven, take the opportunity today. It’s the first step out of the lonely darkness you are experiencing.
Seek Outward Connection
Your soul, the core of who you are, thrives off of connection. And when this central part of you doesn’t get this nourishing connection, it starts to break down. You’ve probably noticed your mind and body struggling as side effects of this loneliness epidemic as well. The mind, body, and soul are intimately connected. “Researchers have long understood the toll that social isolation and loneliness take on the body. People who do not feel connected to others are more likely to catch a cold, experience depression, develop heart disease, have lower cognitive function and live a shorter life. In fact, the long-term harm caused by loneliness is similar to smoking or obesity” (Scientific American).
So let’s fix your poor social health brought on by the pandemic. Human connection promotes wellness in all areas of your life. We are lucky to live at a time where technology allows us to connect, even if it’s not the same as in-person. Choose to use technology where you can see others’ body language and have a real-time conversation. Scrolling mindlessly and Facebook stalking a friend only feeds the feeling of loneliness. Don’t get sucked into the negative impact of social media. Decide to use your device wisely.
Get creative with safe ways to connect with others. I’ve started writing actual letters again. That’s right, snail mail. I’ve also heard of drive-by baby showers or brunch in the trunk. We’ll look back and laugh at all the ways we learned to still “get together” even during quarantine. But these unique ways of connection are exactly what our spirits needed. Learn the guidelines for socializing in your specific area and reach out. Others are facing the epidemic of loneliness too. Don’t give up on your social and spiritual health. You need to connect.
Set Boundaries With Yourself
There are going to be hard days. Days when the loneliness takes over and you don’t want to get out of bed. If you’re anything like me, you may struggle with the “all or nothing” mindset. So on these hard days, it’s easy to just give up. To stay tucked in the covers and put up walls.
Try something with me. Lower your expectations of this lonely day. But don’t throw it all away. Instead of your regular thirty-minute workout, attempt a five-minute stretch. If you had a fancy meal planned for your significant other, take a rain check but still invite them over. Find simple ways to move through this day with a different, more positive mindset. But make sure you give yourself grace. So much grace.
Have compassion for yourself. The way you treat yourself is one of the only things you have control over in this life. Loneliness is, well, lonely. But God is always there. Trust that this is only a moment. Open your soul and receive the gift of an expanded perspective. And know you aren’t alone.