June 11, 2020
Experiencing Loneliness is Normal
Human beings are hard-wired to crave human connection. When we’re seeking social connections, feelings of sadness and longing can come up that we often recognize as loneliness. These feelings can start after it’s been a few days since you’ve been able to connect with friends and family, and they can be further intensified by the impact of social distancing orders that caution human contact like hugs and other acts of comforting touch during a time when they’re needed the most.
Between navigating the current wave of the Coronavirus and the regular stress that happens during the week, feeling lonely without the presence and comfort of other people is valid. It’s easy to compare yourself to others who seem to be adjusting easily to all of this change and wonder if what you’re feeling is normal. But you are not alone! There’s plenty of explanation for why you’re feeling this way — and how to cope.
Juggling a lot during Coronavirus? Check out our Avoiding Burnout series to help you maintain balance
I Have So Many Ways to Stay Connected – Why Do I Still Feel Lonely?
One of the blessings of the technological age is that it’s easier to stay connected on a day-to-day basis through social media, text messages, video meetings, and other apps. These tech-savvy solutions help us see faces, hear voices, and make it possible to catch up with each other – so why doesn’t it feel like enough sometimes?
Studies have shown that human touch releases oxytocin, a hormone that has been shown to restore the balance between stress and calm. Human touch can also decrease levels of the stress hormone cortisol, so during a time when touching is limited, that important balance between our stress and calm responses can get thrown off. Although our home is often our sanctuary, the absence of other safe, familiar spaces in our lives – such as therapist’s offices and the homes of friends and family – can also create cravings for human interaction outside of the home.
It’s helpful to stay connected through the apps and technology that are available to us, but screens cannot replace human touch, and it’s okay to still have feelings of loneliness after your Zoom meetings or Marco Polo video messages.
Learn more about how to navigate discomfort with our Being Present with Discomfort on-demand content
Finding Comfort During Loneliness
Having limited human companionship and physical touch, especially while social distancing orders are in place, can be challenging but rather than trying to avoid the feeling of loneliness or push it away, but what if you leaned into it? There are things to learn from loneliness, and here’s how to practice listening to what it can teach you.
Create a safe, comfortable space. This may look like a comfortable chair with a window open so you can hear the wildlife outside, or you may prefer a patio setting so you can feel the warm sunshine and experience the smells and sounds of your backyard. Whatever a safe space looks like to you, having one available as a little retreat for yourself can be helpful when uncomfortable feelings arise.
Give yourself permission to sit with your feelings. Rather than trying to push away any feelings of loneliness or other emotions that may come up, allow yourself to accept your feelings as they are. Sit in a comfortable space and begin bringing awareness to your breath, noticing the rise and fall of your chest or belly. Notice any areas where you’re holding tension. As you observe these areas, allow them to exist, releasing with each breath and softening into your body.
Feeling present and connected to yourself in the moment doesn’t replace the touch or interaction of another person, but these mindfulness tips can help you navigate quarantine as we all wait for the virus to pass. Explore a few ways you can find presence in the current moment, be it going for a mindful walk and noticing the details of your surroundings as you move, or preparing a delicious snack or meal and savoring not just the flavor in every bite, the ritual of gathering ingredients and preparing it.
Build the skills to manage feelings of loneliness while connecting with others by registering for an upcoming Mindful Daily session
Leaning Into and Learning From Loneliness
All of the emotions that come up for you in the absence of human touch and companionship are real and valid. It’s important now more than ever to stay connected with loved ones safely, but screens, video, and pictures are not a replacement for in-person connections and can still cause loneliness,depression, and other uncomfortable emotions.
Adding mindfulness practices such as mindful breathing and bringing your focus inward to your emotions and body sensations can help reinstate feelings of safety, peace, and inner calm while social distancing guidelines are still in place. Giving yourself permission to lean into and learn from your loneliness can be challenging, but allowing yourself to feel that discomfort can also teach you a lot about what your own needs are.
Written by Becky Greiner.