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May 29, 2020

Feeling Lonely in Quarantine? Dr. Jess Addresses These Viewer Questions!

quarantineloneliness

This morning on Global TV’s The Morning Show, Jess shares a few hacks with Carolyn and Jeff about how we can feel less lonely during quarantine. She also discusses managing work and personal relationships in isolation. Check out her notes and video segment below.

1) I’m single and live alone, it’s been 10 weeks and I’m still lonely.  I have video chats with friends and family every day, I take my walk outside and even still I’m so lonely! Is there anything I can do or do I just have to wait this out until things go back to normal?

This is a common experience and I appreciate your speaking up. I think we need more dialogue about how our policies and many of the discussions around the distancing regulations don’t necessarily address the needs of the over 4 million Canadians (a number which has more than doubled in the last 35 years). Living alone is not only associated with higher risk of depression and anxiety, but when you’re alone during the pandemic there are additional fears with regard to how you’ll cope if you do get sick — and it’s important to note that people who live alone are at higher risk for heart disease and cognitive decline.

So as governments begin to ease restrictions, not only do I hope they consider the health and safety of older folks and poor folks, but I also hope they take into consideration the needs of other at-risk groups like those who live alone.

Some potential ways to offset loneliness and the related anxiety:

  • With regard to the lack of physical affection, consider the ways you can connect to your body. There is a therapist on Instagram named @VanessaCarlisle who hosts a Somatic Self Support class for free every Saturday at 11am PST/2pm EST and you can watch the replays too. She shows you specific ways to move, tap, stitch and massage your body — for connection and soothing anxiety.
  • Create rituals that support your emotional and physical comfort. Allow them to be indulgent if you can. For example, take a bath with a fancy oil or bubble concoction, make a date with your favourite vibrator, order takeout from a local restaurant on Fridays, or bake something tasty just for you.
  • Give if you can. Acts of kindness can help to reduce anxiety and create connection. So, for example, if you’re sharing someone’s artwork on Instagram, can you spend a few dollars on their Etsy account. Or if you’re shopping and pick up a little extra, can you share with a neighbour (with a distanced drop-off to their door)?
  • You also mention that you’re connecting online with friends and family, which is great! I’d also consider whether or not you’re open to exploring new connections online (e.g. taking a class, joining a group, participating in a book club). Also be mindful about how you spend time online; limit the more mindless scrolling and superficial reading we tend to do when we’re bored in favour of purposeful connections and reading/consuming things that really matter to you.
  • You may want to find a buddy with whom to pair up (perhaps someone who also lives alone) to share daily activities like having a coffee or tea in the morning or sitting down for lunch while you take a break from work.
  • Plan for the future. Give yourself something to look forward to once we return to socialising and the physical distancing restrictions are lifted. Research suggests that dopamine, a chemical associated with reward, pleasure and motivation, is released as soon as we begin to anticipate a reward – not just when we receive it. This is why planning a vacation is often more exciting and pleasurable than the trip itself and why dopamine levels can rise dramatically when we dream of future plans like retirement. Daydreaming about a happier future can help to elevate your mood.
  • Acknowledge your feelings, but also accept that you may not be able to work through them all right now; it’s okay to find healthy distractions (e.g. exercise, reading, watching movies, writing, creating art, dancing, playing music). Go easy on yourself. You may find that looking for opportunities to be creative will help to soothe uncomfortable feelings.

2) I’ve been in a relationship for 3 years and while it was never perfect, it’s become increasingly obvious during this intense time together that this isn’t the right fit for me. I’d like to end the relationship but have NO IDEA how to do that in the midst of a quarantine?!

  • Be honest with yourself about your feelings. If you know that it’s not working out, it’s okay to speak up.
  • Many people who are looking to break up right now report feeling guilty for abandoning or hurting a partner during an already difficult time. But you do need to look out for your needs, so you don’t want to stay in a relationship that isn’t working for you.
  • When it comes time to breakup, try to do so face-to-face. If you live together, this is more obvious, but if you live apart, schedule a video call as opposed to communicating via text. Be honest about how you’re feeling and don’t focus on the pandemic as an excuse (e.g. if it weren’t for Covid, things might be different). In other words, don’t offer false hope.
  • Make an attempt not to hurt your partner’s feelings without lying and accept responsibility for your role in the relationship’s dissolution.
  • If you’re living together, come up with some options or a plan for moving forward with the breakup.
  • Focus on taking care of yourself once you’ve split. Reach out to friends and family for support and consider some of these strategies for getting over an ex.

3) I never thought I’d say this but, I miss going to work! So much! Even more, I miss my co-workers! How can we connect outside of our normal work-related meetings like we used to?

I’m hearing this from so many folks who admit that they may have taken their work and co-workers for granted up until now. I suppose this development of appreciation is a positive outcome of this situation.

Here’s what I’m hearing from clients:

  • They’re joining one another for breakfast before they start their work day.
  • They’re meeting up for happy hour on Thursdays afternoons.
  • They’re working out together online — taking turns leading the class or signing in to a free IGTV workout together.
  • They’re sending one another snail mail unrelated to work.
  • They’re skill-sharing and leading workshops after work on everything from floral arrangement and gardening to wine tasting and engine repair. For the first time, they’re engaging with one another’s personal interests.
  • They’re doing online team building events (e.g. online escape rooms).
  • They’re creating separate Slack or WhatsApp groups for funny memes.
  • They’re picking celebration buddies to promote one another’s personal and professional achievements to the whole group.
  • They’re running contests (e.g. number of steps taken during the day or most time away for social media) and offering silly prizes along with bragging rights.
  • They’re creating Zoom trivia nights in their specific areas of interest/expertise (e.g. knowledge of Game of Thrones or Rennaissance Art).