Dec. 14, 2020

Coping with loneliness during the pandemic

Learn different coping strategies
working on Zoom

It’s likely that you’ve felt a sense of loneliness or disconnection at some point over the last 10 months. That’s one of the hardest things about this pandemic - whether you’re isolating due to exposure , because you’re high-risk, or  to help slow the spread and keep your community safe.

Loneliness can be a challenge no matter what situation you find yourself in. We are social creatures who thrive in an environment where we can feel connected and a sense of belonging. Prolonged feelings of loneliness are associated with higher risk for mental health concerns like anxiety and depression. That’s why it is important to do your best to find innovative ways to feed your need for social connectedness.

 Researchers have identified three different styles of coping:  problem-focused/approach coping, emotion-focused/avoidant coping, and meaning-focused coping. We might use a mix of approaches depending on our personalities and what’s most comfortable for us.

Problem-focused coping involves dealing directly with the stressor. In this pandemic, that looks like creating new and innovative efforts to increase social connections. This  can be as simple as calling, FaceTiming, or Skyping a friend or loved one. Or you could try joining a Discord server and playing fun virtual games like Among Us.

Emotion-focused or avoidant coping happens when we deal with the negative emotions associated with the stressor. If your isolation is making you feel stressed, activities that help to distract or soothe you from that feeling help you cope in this way. Maybe it’s binging movies on Netflix, listening to free audiobooks, or diving into podcasts about other people’s lives (Reply All and Heavyweight are two clever and engaging podcasts).

Meaning-focused coping, involves searching for meaning in the stressful situation, and using your personal values and beliefs to inform how you respond to the situation.  Now is a good time  to sit down and reflect on what we might take away from this experience, and think about how we can use those takeaways to add meaning and value to our lives and our role(s)  within our communities.