By Haylee Thorson
The world we once knew is completely gone. Gone are the crazy family gatherings that we secretly looked forward to attending. Forgotten are the boozy brunches with our gal pals after a stressful week at work. Absent are the much-needed date nights at a showing of a movie we were dying to see. While staying home and limiting contact with others is necessary to slow the spread of COVID-19, isolation can have an incredibly negative impact on mental health. Humans are inherently social beings and when we are unable to surround ourselves with friends and family, the effects are unbelievably profound. Lack of social interaction has been linked to a higher susceptibility to depression, a weakened immune system, problems with sleeping, and frontal lobe damage. If you have been suffering from intense feelings of loneliness during the pandemic, just know that you are not alone. Luckily, there are so many ways we can improve our own happiness and feel more connected to those around us—even when all hope feels lost. If you are having trouble coping during these uncanny times, here are five tried and true tactics that will help you feel more at ease.
1. Call, Don’t Text
While texting is often revered for its convenience and ease, it can often feel impersonal. Instead of texting your loved ones every once in a while, make time to give them a call. Whether you decide to video chat or go the audio route, hearing a friend’s or family member’s voice will leave you feeling much better compared to a simple text. According to an article by Bustle, talking instead of texting builds emotional bonds, eliminates confusion, encourages attentiveness, strengthens connections, and helps decode messages. So, the next time you’re in need of a little bit of attention or emotional support, make the effort to call instead of text!
2. Eliminate Toxic Friendships
If you are wondering when you should cut off that toxic friend of yours, there is no better time than the present. Unhealthy relationships are extremely harmful for our mental health and often leave us feeling mentally and emotionally drained. If there is someone in your life who is constantly causing drama, putting you down, being overly competitive, or obsessively needy, it may be time to reevaluate the relationship. In order to do this, you need to be completely honest about your needs and make a conscious effort to put yourself first. It’ll be difficult at first but you will feel so relieved in the long run.
3. Host a Zoom Party
If you are in dire need of a girls night, but cannot meet up in person…throw a party over Zoom! This application allows up to 100 people to gather at a time, which makes it incredibly easy for large or small friend groups to come together. To pull off an amazing Zoom kickback, simply schedule a date and time, invite your best friends, and enjoy catching up in a virtual party. To make things more interesting, pick out a fun virtual background, choose a theme for your party, whip up your favorite cocktail, or turn on some tunes. Even if your friends and family are far away, face-to-face interaction via video chat will help make you feel like they are actually there.
4. Walk and Talk
It’s no secret that exercise can do wonders for your mind, body, and soul. However, with most gyms closed, a lot of people have had to resort to doing at-home workouts. While exercising at home is an excellent way to get your body moving, it can get a bit lonely and mundane after a while. If you’re looking to take a break from your repetitive YouTube workouts and get some fresh air, invite a friend to go on a walk, hike, or a bike ride with you. Being outdoors minimizes your risk of contracting the virus, this is an excellent way to hang out with someone you care about and keep you healthy at the same time. Just make sure to maintain a safe distance!
5. Try Virtual Therapy
With everything that is going on, taking care of our mental health is more important than ever now. If you have been struggling with your mental health during the pandemic, there are trained professionals who would be more than happy to help. Websites like BetterHelp and Talkspace are specifically designed to put individuals in contact with licensed therapists using virtual features like messaging and/or video chat. Or if you’re looking for a particular support group to join, a lot of in-person groups—like Alcoholics Anonymous—now hold meetings through Zoom or Google Hangouts. No matter who you are or what you are going through, there is always someone who will support you.
Coming to the realization that the world will never be the same is a tough pill to swallow. But with a little help and support from our loved ones, hopefully things will get easier. Whenever you’re feeling hopeless or alone, just remember that there are so many people who care about you. If you are sad, reach out. If you feel lonely, reach out. Even if you are fine, reach out. Make a conscious effort to maintain social connections during this time because honestly, you need them more than you think you do.
Haylee Thorson is an editorial writer who specializes in beauty, culture, and travel. Follow her on Instagram.