Loneliness is something all humans share around the world. It can be defined as a state of mind rather than an emotion or physically being alone. One can be surrounded by people and still feel lonely or be alone but not feel lonely at all. As we humans are social creatures, we often have a desire and need to find social and physical contact with others to help us survive. Social contact literally helps us feel more energetic and positive about ourselves and improves our cognitive function and general well-being. There for loneliness can have a detrimental impact on us. There has been research supporting the perception that loneliness can cause serious health risks for individuals. The most common health risks are depression, substance abuse, cognitive decline, heart diseases and increased stress levels.
Often loneliness is caused by different situational variables such as losing a spouse or family member, moving to a new location or psychological disorders such as depression. However, in 2020 the obvious factor affecting loneliness and self-isolation has been the Covid-19 pandemic. Due to social distancing rules and guidelines it is even harder for people to stay in contact with others. This puts already vulnerable people at risk of experiencing high amounts of loneliness and social-isolation and furthermore aggravate the recovery from these symptoms. When one’s mind is already heavy and stressed about an external factor like the Coronavirus, having to worry about one’s mental health can become very difficult and overwhelming.
The most vulnerable groups for feeling lonely and being socially isolated are the elderly and people with existing psychological disorders. The elderly might not have the same access to technology as the younger generations do, that can help provide social contact through the realms of social media, video calls and even regular phone calls. Physical contact with your support group is limited by denying access to care homes and hospitals for these people to come and visit their loved ones. Whereas for people with existing psychological disorders the amount of stress piling up due to all the new rules and regulations may easily trigger anxiety and depression that leads to extreme self-isolation and feelings of loneliness.
Despite all the restrictions and changes to our normal life, this year has helped us in some ways to fight loneliness and social-isolation. We have come up with more creative ways to be active and stay connected with each other. Access and platforms for online contact have improved and multiplied significantly. Regularly checking up on your friends and family through phone and video calls have increased tremendously as it has been made more accessible. Online platforms for various activities have been created or improved to connect people all around the world.
But also talking about mental health has become more of importance and visible in everyday life through all the different social media platforms. It’s also more accessible and easier for people to find information about mental health, loneliness and social-isolation as it is being highlighted on a daily basis. And not only talking about it but finding ways to overcome the feelings of loneliness. Finding ways of not feeling lonely even if you are alone. Making the taking time for yourself as a priority and a positive event. Doing things you really enjoy doing and learning new skills to relax the mind and create positive thoughts and energy around you. This way the time spent alone won’t feel so much lonely anymore but more like well-deserved alone time to connect and take care of yourself.