How to feel less lonely during a pandemic

By Jenny Haykin, Puget Sound Energy Integrated Leaves & Accommodations Program Manager, M.A., CRC

When sheltering in place or quarantining removes us from the regular interactions we have with others, it can lead to feelings of loneliness. Although we no longer have control over who we can see and when, we can take control over what we do about it. Making a commitment to take daily steps to address loneliness is important, as loneliness is known to promote depression.

If you’re feeling lonely, today and every day is an opportunity to make a positive difference for yourself. Below are ways you can reduce feelings of loneliness:

Set a daily schedule or routine that includes things you need to get done and things you enjoy.

This could include a hobby you would like more time for, or home projects you’ve been meaning to get to. The most important things to include are enough time for sleep — keeping to a regular schedule, eating nutritious meals, and exercising regularly.

If you don’t have a regular exercise routine, or if your old routine required special equipment, now may be the time to buy some equipment you can afford, have it delivered, and start an at-home exercise routine. If equipment doesn’t interest you, consider vigorous walks or jogging if you’re not already doing that.

Additionally, many yoga studios and gyms are currently offering free online workouts via YouTube.

Renew connections by reaching out to others you haven’t talked to in a while.

Schedule regular virtual gatherings with supportive family or friends using apps you may already have access to such as Apple’s FaceTime and iMessage/group chat, or the popular and free messaging app called WhatsApp. Some online resources will even set you up with your own conference line at no cost (just be sure to check that the site is secure). You can plan to meet weekly or bi-weekly, monthly, or whatever works best for everyone.

Keep in touch with co-workers.

Share clean jokes, fun facts, and check in with your favorite people to see how they’re doing. Even if you’re not working, keep in touch with your favorite work colleagues.

If you have a furry pet, spend extra time petting, cuddling, and playing.

This offers many health benefits including decreased blood pressure, decreased cholesterol levels and decreased feelings of loneliness. If you’ve been thinking of getting a pet, you can adopt a pet or foster one during this time. Closed shelters need to place pets quickly.

Find a friend to play games with online.

If video games don’t interest you, consider other types of games such as Words with Friends, mahjong, cribbage, bridge and more. Some formats make online tournaments possible.

Consider online volunteering opportunities if you want to help others.

Currently, there are many organizations in-need and many offer virtual volunteer opportunities. VolunteerMatch.com is a great resource to explore hundreds of possibilities across a range of causes and areas.

Seek out humor.

Whether it’s watching your favorite sitcom or listening to musical parodies online, find a way to laugh.

Stay connected with neighbors.

Through Nextdoor.com you can read about what is happening in your neighborhood. If you want, you can assist neighbors in need by helping with yardwork or other projects they may not be able to do themselves. On sunny days, go outside and chat with neighbors from afar.

Take time to express appreciation and gratitude for others in an e-mail, phone call, or online platform.

Make this a daily habit — as you prepare for sleep each night, think of three things you’re grateful for.

Plan for the future.

The pandemic will end. With extra time at home, you may have time to plan the itinerary for your dream vacation, or make a list of all the things you want to do that you haven’t been able to during this time.

If you don’t feel you currently have the energy or ability to take action for yourself, know that you’re not alone through this and there are resources available to help you! Please consider using the resources available through your employer or community.

Jenny Haykin has worked for PSE for 12 years and is a certified counselor who is a national lecturer and columnist on mental health in the workplace.

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