loneliness, coronavirus and depression

Loneliness and Covid-19: helping the lonely at high risk during Coronavirus

Hi Lovely,

We’ve all been feeling lonely during this pandemic. Please know that you are not alone in your loneliness.

For some of us, especially if we live alone, we can feel the effects of loneliness even more. For others, we can even feel lonely in our relationships in our own homes!

We are all at risk for loneliness, now more than ever. Our lonely loved ones and lonely friends need us, now more than ever.

A multitude of lonely individuals are experiencing coronavirus and depression simultaneously. Especially, those who entered into the pandemic with previous trauma or mental illness.

I’ve been studying some of the grand challenges of modern social work.

What I’ve learned is that there are great risks to loneliness. We often think loneliness only affects the mind and emotions.  Of course, the mind, body and emotions are all linked! The reactions of rejection pain (which can cause the pain of loneliness) and physical pain are rather similar to the brain.

It is interesting that when we take Tylenol, the main ingredient eases physical pain as well as emotional pain. A study of acetaminophen (the active ingredient in Tylenol) indicates that the ingredient can dull emotional pain (like feelings of sadness). It can also dull feelings of empathy and other more positive emotions, thus easing the highs and lows (I am not suggesting taking Tylenol for the relief of emotional pain).

Did you know that the United Nations has banned solitary confinement for periods which exceed 15 days? This is because confinement beyond this time frame is considered psychological torture. It is not that hard to see that ten months of lockdown causes loneliness. It doesn’t take a UN human rights activist to determine that experiencing prolonged solitary confinement is no joke! Solitary confinement is a torture tool used by prison guards to punish prisoners for negative behaviors (this is part of conditioning).

Four common signs of loneliness are…

  • Feelings of fear (anxiety)
  • Feelings of a crushed spirit (i.e., this could feel intense, like your dog just died)
  • Feelings of intense fatigue (this could include lack of interest in activities once enjoyed)
  • Feelings of abandonment (i.e., rejection) which often lead to a counterproductive desire to withdraw even more

These feelings can manifest in emotions and physical sensations alike.

Some longitudinal studies have indicated that painful childhood experiences contribute to loneliness later in life. Insecure/anxious attachment styles can contribute to loneliness.

Helping those with high risk for loneliness is crucial.

Even though we are all at risk, I have found that caregivers in particular experience a heightened risk of loneliness during this time. This could include caregivers for children, the disabled or the elderly.  

For example, someone I know in another state is a full-time caregiver for an elderly person. This caregiver has little social support and no outside help. There is little or no time for self-care. There is nowhere to go during this lockdown to get a change of scenery because this caregiver cannot leave the elderly person.

Military families also experience intense loneliness, now more than ever.  Being a full-time mother (or father) without a spouse at home, and without any outside help, is particularly exhausting.  Not being able to take children to the park or to play with friends adds to the stressful dynamic for the whole family.  This intense caregiving without social support contributes to burn-out and intense loneliness. 

Children are of course at high risk for loneliness as they miss seeing their peers at school. Their parents are exhausted. Children feel the effects.

Did you know that countries which have a strong sense of social community (along with a tendency to engage in daily outdoor activities), like Finland and Switzerland, are the best places on earth to live?

They report the highest quality and length of life among their citizens. The loneliness factor in these countries is generally lower than what we see in other countries.

We must solve this loneliness epidemic caused by coronavirus and depression. We can’t afford to ignore the link between loneliness and the body.

Of course, under usual circumstances, spending time in community with others helps ease the burden of loneliness. With the current state of the world, that is not all that realistic.

Plan of Action

For now, it’s important that we embrace our voices concerning social issues that matter. For some of us, the issues are loneliness, coronavirus and depression.

The truth is that the action of helping ease the loneliness of others is a proven way to ease our own loneliness too! Is there an elderly person you can help? Perhaps you can drop a gift on their doorstep or spend some time with them outside. Have you considered bringing dinner to a military family or babysitting their children?

If you are a spouse, have you considered putting your phone down for a while to focus on your loved ones? Focus is a simple way to help our spouses and children with loneliness. They need our leadership, now more than ever!

In the UK, there is actually a Campaign to End Loneliness. You can join the movement or follow the campaign on Facebook.

Coronavirus is no joke for our bodies, but neither is loneliness. In a future article, I will discuss some solutions to loneliness when it comes to coronavirus and depression (please subscribe if you would like updates). In the meantime, there are some simple things one can do to feel less lonely (click here).

Remember, you are not alone in your loneliness. There is hope and a light at the end of the tunnel…

Xx Becky
Related:

COVID, COVID-19, HELP, DEPRESSION, STRESS, ISOLATION, ANXIETY AND COVID-19: HELPING AND LOVING OTHERS DURING THE CORONAVIRUS PANDEMIC

Depression, Stress, Isolation, Anxiety and Covid-19: Helping and Loving Others During the Coronavirus Pandemic

What does love look like? We all need to receive love. We are meant to give love. Humans are wired for love, connection and community.

When trials and tribulations shake up our world, some individuals tend to become more loving, and others…less loving. They either respond with empathy and care or selfishness and irritation with others. Sometimes, selfishness is rooted in a lack of love for others. Other times, irritation with others is rooted in trauma, depression, anxiety or other medical problems (for example, thyroid problems adversely affect the brain).

One day, a few weeks ago, I was at the grocery store when I encountered an angry stranger. I was on my way with my shopping cart to another aisle when a man confronted me with an angry face. He was mad that my cart contained an item which he wanted. This has never happened to me, but I understand these are peculiar times.

I smiled at him and told him he could have the item before he reached in my cart, grabbed it and scurried to the check out. Yes, he was inconsiderate. I started to think about it, and realized that we can never know what stress, anxiety and/or depression someone is encountering in his or her private life. Might as well love.

Love never fails!

Just as it is easy to think only of oneself during stressful times, it’s also easy during times of crisis to compare. That is, to compare ourselves to others before judging them with our limited information. We might think, “Oh, they don’t have it so bad” or “Oh, their experience looks good…must be nice!” The judgments flow naturally because we are human and it’s easy to compare.

What does love look like? We can all benefit ourselves and others with these basic reminders about love.

Love is patient and kind. Love considers what others might need or want. That is, love considers what would brighten up someone else’s day. Love “suffers long” and copes with others, showing kindness even where it is undeserved.

Love does not envy, boast or brag. Love neither becomes jealous of what another has earned or been gifted, nor does love boast or brag (to make others become jealous, envious or inferior).

Love is neither arrogant nor proud. Love does not think too highly of oneself. Love does not judge rashly because rash and petty judgment comes from pride. It is prideful to think that we – in our limited knowledge – know what others are going through. Nobody can understand another human like God can, and nobody has all the information to judge appropriately. When it comes to knowing people fully, we see the mere tip of the iceberg.

Love is not rude or resentful. Love does not resent others if they are doing well or on a different path. Love thinks before it speaks. Love includes others, not showing discrimination. Love does not make one feel drained, hurt, inferior, used or unaccepted. Love does not steal what belongs to someone else. Rather, love considers others…making them feel accepted, cared for, refreshed, appreciated, affirmed, safe, motivated and encouraged (love also tells the truth with care and kindness, even if the truth is unpleasant).

Wishing you a day of joy, peace and most of all…love. You are loved. How can you take action in the next few days to actively show love in a practical way? Now is a good time to show, give and receive love.

Xx Becky

“Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends.” 1 Corinthians 13:7,8

This is my new coaching website!  I would appreciate you if you would simply like and share my post so that others can be helped and comforted during these hard times.  Thank you. 

3 Simple Ways To Cope With Information Overload and Overwhelm During the Coronavirus Pandemic

Have you felt overwhelmed lately?  A few days ago, someone I know and love was becoming depressed with information overload.  The bad news keeps rolling in on news channels, and some channels are worse than others.  Some of the news is fact-based and important to know…some not. 

Then, today, I spoke with someone who told me she felt invigorating and energized after turning off the non-stop news stream for one week. 

What we consume truly affects our states of mind and our energy levels.  What we consume affects how valuable we can be to others. It’s not that easy to focus these days, but it can be done.  

First, embrace what I call a “controlled ignorance.”  This is not the same as carelessness or an irresponsible apathy.  In fact, if you know me personally, you know that I am likely the least apathetic person you know!  I love researching and getting all the facts.  Instead, what this means is consuming enough facts and information, but only enough to be a great citizen and helpful to others.  In other words, this means being well-informed with the facts, but not to the point we are drowning in fear, tossing and turning by mixed news messages.  Again, this is neither “ignorance is bliss” nor is it a harmful apathy.  

There is a difference between being beneficially informed about a subject and being weighed down all day about it.  Having an excess of needless information won’t lend to the solution, and it will only cause more anxiety and ultimately, family harm.  For example, gathering the stats on the daily death rates for every state across the country and announcing it to the family is not helpful if this means ignoring our families all day long.  Our children need us during this time!  Loads of needless information take away value and energy that we could be adding to our own lives and to others.  Talking endlessly in circles – hours after hours – with our buddies about information neither lends to the solution nor does it make our children and other family members feel loved or safe during this time.  Yes, we do need information, but this could end up looking something like the law of diminishing returns when it comes to information consumption.  Lately, I refuse to have my thoughts and focus dictated by others – people in power – with political and personal agendas.

Second, add value to your life, your family members’ or your friends’ lives.  In whatever way you can.  When our minds are filled with thoughts of how we can help ourselves or others, there is not much room for useless information.  What fills the space in your mind?  The space in our minds is valuable real estate, yet how often do we give this “precious land” away to thoughts and to people that do not matter?  What information and message are we putting into the lives of those around us (our children, spouse, friends, etc.)?  Do people feel fearful or hopeful after they speak with you?  Do they feel life when around us? 

Adding value can come in many forms.  Simple ways to add value to your own life and others’ lives are to go for a walk or run, make a healthy dinner, send a thoughtful message to someone or buy something calming for someone.  I recently sent several of my friends some calming, chemical-free, lead-free candles (from my favorite candle store, http://www.enlightencandlesarizona.com).  How can you show someone love in a practical way?  People need love right now.  Check out my previous article on loving during these hard times.  You have the power to add value and blessing into someone else’s life.  Perhaps this comes through words, actions or giving.

Finally, maintain a future focus.  Focus, especially a future focus, helps ease information overload in the present.  Allow yourself to dream, too.  Dream of that future vacation you always wanted and the task you wanted to accomplish.  Writing down future goals and what you want to focus on also helps.  It helps to solidify our focus.  As for the immediate future, what do you want to do tonight?  It can be motivating for ourselves, our children and others in our families to have something fun or different to look forward to each day.  It can also be motivating to set a goal.  It is rewarding when we accomplish a task like finishing an organizational project or completing a creative endeavor.  Regarding focus, if you are not choosing what to focus on, others will gladly waste it for you.  Take your focus back!

Limiting what information you allow in your life, adding value to your own and others’ lives and maintaining a future focus are great ways to cope with information overload.  Onward! 

Xx Becky

This is my new coaching website!  I would appreciate you if you would simply like and share my post so that others can be helped and comforted during these hard times.  Thank you. 

Covid-19 and Wired for Connection: 3 Simple Actions to Help With Depression, Anxiety and Loneliness

All five of us in my family have been inside of the house for over four weeks now. One of us had a virus resulting in severe pneumonia for three weeks during that time (whether or not it was the c-virus is a mystery).

As an introvert, I’ve always dreamed of the day when I could stay inside for weeks and not see a soul. That is not all that it is chocked up to be, my fellow introvert friends. The fact is that we are officially missing other humans. What about you? How is this crisis affecting you?

God wired each of us for connection. Human connection is a basic human need. Studies show that individuals who are part of a culture with a strong community live the longest. While it is necessary that we stay away from each other during this quarantine to save lives, I’m afraid that there will be another crisis on the horizon now: the crisis of anxiety and depression resulting from the loneliness of isolation.

For about a decade, I studied cults and unsafe religious groups, their isolation tactics and their effects on the human psyche. I have had the opportunity to speak with dozens of parents who have “lost” their children to cults. Being in isolation from our loved ones during a quarantine is hard enough. Imagine being cut off from your family and friends for good (a permanent cut off). It is a permanent mental and physical isolation.

For parents and others who have lost their children and loved ones to destructive cults, the Covid-19 isolation experience is a walk in the park. This is the world they have been living in due to the cruel, mandated shunning of the cults.

Isolation is a challenge and at times, it is painful…whether it’s from a malicious intent or not. Different forms of isolation (such as mandated shunning) happen a lot with unsafe religious groups and coercive-control groups.

Retired Licensed Psychologist Bonnie Zieman notes,

“Disconnection from family and friends is one of the worst things that can happen to a human…Of course, much of the research [from social scientists and psychologists] has been about how to cope after the literal loss or death of loved ones, not the loss of loved ones still alive, still living near you – who are mandated by an organization to cut you out of their life.” (Emphasis added)

Zieman, Bonnie.  2018. Published by Bonnie Zieman.  Shunned: A Survival Guide. p. xii

Zieman notes that this disconnection from others causes the unpleasant primal feeling that we do not belong (ibid). This makes us feel unsafe in the world (ibid). For the parents and grandparents I have known who have lost their kids and grandkids to cults, when their quarantine is over, their isolation from their loved ones will continue. For others, they will return to their connections.

I have grown concerned during these past few weeks for the mental health of isolated individuals. While we are all trying to solve the disease dilemma by doing our part in staying home, I have pondered the risks for a crisis of anxiety, depression and loneliness. For some of individuals, they are getting a small taste of what cult isolation feels like. How are you coping mentally with this crisis? Here are three ideas to help:

  • Get bright sun early in the morning. Bright, natural light resets melatonin levels and our body clocks, leading to a better mood, better sleep and more energy.
  • Focus. I don’t mean on the TV or news! Instead of filling our minds with bombarding negative news coverage all day long, let’s find a healthy project and get our minds to hyper-focus on it (when we have time to do so).
  • Connect. Connect with someone on the phone, virtually or from a distance. If you are quarantined with family, make some time to put down electronic devices, and connect with your family members. Spending time with our pets, time in nature and in prayer also helps ease the stress of loneliness.

Cheers to better human connections soon!