The Void of 'Lockdown Loneliness'
Lockdown after lockdown after lockdown...whatever the reason for being cloistered, it still takes a significant toll on our mental health. People were meant to gather in both large and small groups. No matter what your stance or definition or experience of communing with others, it is an integral component of the human experience. The idea and practice of being made to stay away from such activity can be interpreted as a threat to life and freedom. Of course feelings of defensiveness well up...however, what if we took that seething energy and used it more ourselves and that which we have more immediate control over.
I was recently inspired to visit this topic after hearing about more and more people who were struggling greatly with the anguish of endless lockdowns caused by the necessary safety precautions. Mental Health Ireland posted a wonderful blog about this very issue. I made a few minor changes to the writing by Amy Gibney, but I whole-heartedly recommend you visit the original posting full of resources and tools.
Loneliness is often associated with being alone, or in isolation, or in solitude but these states do not necessarily equate to loneliness. A person may happily live alone, prefer to spend time alone, or seek solitude and not experience loneliness. It is our sense of connection or lack thereof that can result in feeling lonely.
Remember that loneliness can be experienced by all people of all ages (as this last year has taught us all-too-well). By having a greater understanding of loneliness and opening up conversations around this we can help in creating a pathway for people to reach out.
There are things we can do for ourselves, and for others to help ease the burden.
Understand that you are not alone
Now more than ever, conversations about loneliness are essential in opening up a dialogue and letting people know that even if they are lonely, they are not alone.
Reach out to someone when you feel alone, perhaps a close friend, a family member, or a classmate, and tell them how you feel. You may be surprised by how many people can relate to what you are experiencing. In fact, you might be helping them by reaching out to them.
If your loneliness is long-term or chronic and affects your wellbeing, there are peer support groups or networks that might help ease your loneliness. This may not be for everyone, but being part of a group of people that understand what you are experiencing can be very comforting.
Volunteer, join a club or community group
Engaging in a group, forum or community can help you feel included, valued, and empowered. Meetup is a platform that provides opportunities (mostly now virtual) to meet new people and try new things. It can feel daunting to join something new, especially when you feel vulnerable (or out of the habit like most of us are this year), but often taking that first step can make such a difference.
If you feel overwhelmed or like things are too much to handle alone, counseling might be an option for you. Your local medical health provider is always a good first step. They can refer you to psychotherapy or counseling services. Call your Mental Health Information Line (24/7) free on 1-800-662-HELP (4357) to find out about supports in your area. There are a number of free or low-cost options included. Counseling can help us gain perspective on our lives, support us as we process feelings, and encourage us as we build new roadmaps for ourselves.
Remember, it is okay to feel lonely and there are steps we can take to feel less alone. If you think someone else in your life is feeling a little lonely, don’t be afraid to ask them how they are and really listen to the answer. It can be a relief to someone just to know you care and are there to simply listen.
As always, you are very welcome to reach out to me for a complimentary 20-minute consult. I am happy to connect and field your questions no matter where in the world you find yourself.