2020 has been a lonely year. Here are some ways to deal with loneliness, especially during the winter season.
Words by Lola Méndez. Art by Marta Lebek.
If there’s one emotion we’ve felt just as relentlessly as fear this year, it’s loneliness. Winter is upon us, and with that comes the holidays. While this time of year is commonly about togetherness, many of us may be feeling more lonely than ever.
If you’ve been rigorously following COVID-19 social distancing protocols to keep your closed ones and community healthy, you probably haven’t been able to see friends or family for over nine months, and it’s only natural to feel homesick. It’s especially difficult to be lonely right now as our nation faces a crisis with rising COVID-19 cases and deaths.
Psychologist Dr. Nekeshia Hammond says that feeling loneliness is completely normal. “There are millions of people throughout the world who are experiencing sadness with you. You aren’t alone in your situation. You can get through these difficult times,” she says.“Give yourself credit for making it this far during an unprecedented global pandemic.”
For some folx, loneliness comes in waves, and for others, it’s been a constant presence during this unprecedented year. There’s no one-size-fits-all practice to help alleviate loneliness—what soothes one person may make things worse for another. Loneliness is a temporary experience, but if your “winter blues” become serious and you’re falling into a depression, reach out to a mental health professional to learn ways to cope.
Lean Into Your Comforts
Don’t confuse boredom with loneliness. Prioritize filling your day with meaningful activities and habits that fulfill you. “Do things that make you happy daily. To combat feelings of isolation, consider engaging in activities that bring you joy. Try reading a new book, practicing yoga, watching a comedy, or starting a new hobby,” Dr. Hammond says.
Talk To Your Loved Ones
“Being socially distanced doesn’t mean you have to socially disconnect with others,” Dr. Hammond says. “Find ways to stay connected to positive individuals daily. Reaching out to others can provide some relief from loneliness.”
More Zoom calls may seem tedious, but always remember to check in on your friends and family. Chances are, they feel just as lonely as you, and will appreciate the caring gesture. It can be overwhelming to spend hours talking about how the world is imploding and difficult to share exciting life updates when you and your loved ones are cooped up at home. Instead, arrange a virtual book club and host a monthly chat to discuss a book, schedule a monthly self-care call where you and your pals do face masks and paint your nails while gabbing about the shows you’ve been watching.
Indulge in Self-Care
Being alone doesn’t always have to equate to loneliness. “Find self-care that includes being alone. In this alone time, you can work on learning more about yourself. While it is important to connect with others, it is equally important for you to spend time alone to recharge,” Dr. Hammond says. She suggests creating a positive and uplifting environment at home and following positive social media content.
“It can be beneficial to focus on gratitude, especially when spending this holiday season alone away from friends and family,” she continues. “Take time to reflect on the fact that you made it through an incredibly stressful 2020, full of unexpected changes and a global pandemic. Be kind to yourself and make sure your self-talk is the way you would talk to someone you deeply care about.”
She also says it’s crucial to replenish your physical and emotional energy supply. If you enjoy meditation, listen to a guided practice about acceptance on Glo. After your mindful activity, make a gratitude list and write down everything you’re happy to have in your life now such as your health, food security, technology for video calls or the end of the Trump era.
If you feel inclined, write yourself a love letter. You deserve a huge hug after surviving this year. A cocoon shows that being alone is not a flaw, and you can emerge beautifully from isolation.
Here are a few resources and tools in support of healthy emotional wellness.