Managing loneliness during this never ending pandemic

I notice my loneliness more now than maybe I ever have. Can you relate? Granted, I remember I went through a big loneliness phase in my mid 20’s, when I first started remembering my childhood sexual abuse and needed space from my family. With lots of therapy and intentional friends connecting, I made it through that lonely phase.

Pandemic loneliness strikes

And here I am again. This pandemic is really challenging me. I miss seeing my coworkers at Great River School and at the University of Minnesota. I miss seeing clients at coffee shops to help them with their LinkedIn profiles. 

I’ve been a hugger for most of my adult life and I big time miss hugging. I miss going to see my therapist in person, granted she is really good at telemedicine, as is my endocrinologist. As I’ve mentioned in other recent blogs, I also really miss acupuncture and massage therapy – both of which I get, or got, on a regular basis. 

My physical body misses being touched 

Physical touch isn’t a top Love Language for me, but 15 weeks of no touch is difficult. I mention this because it’s the physical presence of people, whether they are hugging me or not, that I most deeply miss. It’s created reverberations of loneliness again. I’ve noticed sadness and a sense of loneliness lingers in the air around me. 

In late April, I happened upon Brene Brown’s podcast called Unlocking Us. The episode I found is called On Loneliness and Connection. I strongly encourage you to listen to this 57 minute podcast, it will be worth your time. In it she talks with Dr. Vivek Murthy, who was the 19th Surgeon General of the United States. 

Listening to the podcast and then reading the book Together: The Healing Power of Human Connection in a Sometimes Lonely World, by Dr. Murthy, helps me understand my loneliness and helps me navigate these socially distant times. One thing Dr. Murthy explains is that research has shown that there are three dimensions of loneliness. They are 1) Intimate, or emotional, loneliness is the longing for a close confidant or intimate partner – someone with whom you share a deep mutual bond of affection and trust. 2) Relational, or social, loneliness is the yearning for quality friendships and social companionship and support. And 3) Collective loneliness is the hunger for a network or community of people who share your sense of purpose and interests.

The loneliness that hits me the hardest is the lack of intimate connection. Since I grew up feeling very lonely in my family of origin, I can also get hit pretty hard by relational loneliness. Thankfully, I’ve learned to create strong relational connections. Granted I have to do things when the loneliness hits me.

Here are three things I’m doing to help me navigate the loneliness of these times. Please let me know what you’re doing to help yourself. Connecting with you helps both of us stay connected!

#1 Befriend myself

One of the things I’ve discovered in this moment of loneliness is the opportunity I have to befriend myself in deeper ways. On a daily basis I reach deep into my heart and soul and talk to my inner selves and remind them that I am with them. Sounds a little silly, perhaps. And at the same time, I find it very reassuring. Lots of self help books say how important it is to be your own best friend. At long last I am actually doing it. 

One of the things I make a point of doing every day is look into my own eyes in the mirror and I tell myself, “I love you.” Turns out Louise Hay was indeed very wise in teaching people how to do this sort of mirror work

#2 Be intentional with my self talk

I tend to be a fairly upbeat person. AND, this pandemic and the revolution happening around us right now is a lot to navigate. It’s not easy or simple to remain upbeat and hopeful. As a result, I am paying close attention to what I am thinking and what I am telling myself.

I remind myself that we are collectively not alone. When I feel alone, I acknowledge that feeling within myself, and I remind myself of my many dear friends. In fact, I sometimes make lists of my friends, so I kinesthetically remember all the people with whom I have deep, meaningful connections. We all have a strong heart-hand connection, so for me, the act of writing the names and thinking about my friends, reminds my heart that I am connected, that I belong.

As I’ve mentioned in other blogs, I’ve upped my daily meditation time as I notice that having more time to spend practicing noticing my thinking is very helpful. It helps me be able to notice what I’m thinking and internally telling myself, and thus be able to interrupt unhelpful thinking patterns. Into which I can fall into if I’m not careful.

#3 Create socially distant gatherings

My office mates from the U of MN gathered for a socially distant lunch in the garden of one of my co-workers very recently. We didn’t hug hello or goodbye and we wore masks until we each sat down more than 10 feet apart from one another. It was fabulously delightful to laugh together and share stories in physical space together!

The Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board opened up swimming at Lake Nokomis five days a week!! BIG HAPPY DANCE!! That’s the lake several triathlons are usually held at every summer and it just happens to be less than 3 miles from my house. So far I’ve gone six times since it opened on June 9th.

I have it in my calendar to go 3 to 4 times every week, assuming the weather cooperates, which it hasn’t a few times. Many of the women who are in my triathlon group are also swimming, and thus we see each other for some excellent socially distant socializing. This has become one of the anchors of my summer.

Jenny, Monica, me – Mari, Julie, Brooke and Nadine at Lake Nokomis swimming and socially distant socializing!

That’s how I’m navigating the loneliness that has reared it’s head in my world during this pandemic. How are you doing? Sending love.

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8 thoughts on “Managing loneliness during this never ending pandemic”

  1. Very timely, Mari! This pandemic is dragging on and my work is virtual at least until October 1. While I’ve been connecting to friends via video meetings, I still miss their presence. I like your idea of social distance gatherings.

    Reply
    • Oh Brenda,
      Yes indeed, these crazy coronavirus times are giving all of us a serious test of our stamina. Missing friends is serious business. Social gatherings in the out of doors is THE BEST!!! Give it a try and let me know how it goes. Good time to do it as the weather is generally good. Come November/December might be harder to gather, although I will have my cross country skis ready to go!!
      Much love,
      Mari

      Reply
  2. Such an important and timely topic for all of us. Thanks for these great suggestions.

    My own tip is to use the excuse of the pandemic to reach out more often to people you don’t know and to those you want more contact with. With strangers I say, “If I don’t introduce myself during the pandemic, I don’t know when I’m going to.” With people I know I say, “yep, it’s been a hard day and I’m calling you again.”

    Reply
    • Linda,
      I love love love your strategy of using the pandemic to reach out to more people!!! You are a blessing to so many, me included!!
      Mari

      Reply
  3. Thank you, Mari. I absolutely share your challenge in navigating the times right now. Some days I do better than others. I love your clear suggestions. Keep up and I will keep up too! Love you! Jeanine

    Reply
    • Hello dear Jeanine,
      Yes indeed, these are challenging times and loneliness does for sure come up for so so so many of us. And indeed, astrology wisdom reminds me that things come and go and ever change. Let me know if any of my suggestions are useful for you!! Sending so much dancing beautiful photography love your way dear friend!!
      Mari

      Reply
    • If I was battling loneliness before, it’s only become harder in the last couple of weeks. Thanks for the podcast recommendation! I’ve never made friends easily and those I’ve kept are flung from coast to coast. You’re so right about practicing being our own best friends. Self-reliance isn’t a negative trait. And gratitude…for friends I have and can’t see—they are friends, no less.

      Reply
      • Christine,
        I for one am grateful to count you as one of my writer friends!!! Hugs and blessings! And enjoy the podcasts!!
        Mari

        Reply

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