The Best Ways to Overcome the Stress of Being Lonely and Scared During The Coronavirus Lockdown
We're All In The Same Boat
While it's true that the quality of the cabins on the boat differ, with some running out of food and some containing abusers, for instance, we are all in the same boat. It's currently sinking, and it requires the work of all of us to make it sea-worthy again. No matter how swanky the most majestic cabin, if The Titanic hits the bottom of the ocean, the extra gilding does nothing to save the occupants.
Pretty grim. Also, kinda enlightening. COVID-19 has taught us how interconnected we all are, and how dependent we all are on each other for survival. The biggest heroes and heroines of the moment are not the yacht owners, but the nurses and the shelf stackers. The people we most rely upon to keep this ship afloat right now are the delivery drivers, the people who collect our rubbish, and the people who pick and pack vegetables. And the ones who most protect those vital workers are those of us who social distance, and stay home for all but urgent reasons. But being one of the less applauded, and certainly unseen, heroes in this crisis comes with a cost. Social distancing causes loneliness and fear. Here's how to handle that, so that you can continue to do your part to stay safe, and help others survive this pandemic.
Loneliness when alone
The first, and most obvious, problem is loneliness. If you are self-isolating because you have, or have had, symptoms of coronavirus, for instance, you may be in total quarantine. If you have pets, they can be of some consolation, but you may have none. Or you may not be well enough to take care of pets, so they may be with someone else. Total solitude is hard. Breathe. I feel you. That sucks.
At the time of writing, I've been in that situation since the end of February. It's the 11th of May now. I told myself I'd wait for two weeks after all coronavirus symptoms ended. But they didn't end. I'd done some damage to my lungs and heart, it seems, and I can't yet get a test to confirm whether I had it or not, so I've stayed inside to protect myself and others. Mainly others. It's not the easiest, but it's necessary, so I just got on with it.
I've been lonely a couple of times, but that's pretty much it, because every time it comes in, I show it the door. I have zero tolerance for loneliness for myself. This is a hard approach, but it works for me. If you feel lonely, you can think: "I don't get lonely. That's not an emotion I choose to feel. I must be bored, or tired, or hungry. I'll address that." It may not be strictly true, but it's something within my control. In most cases, it will be in your control too. Are you hungry/thirsty? Do you need a nap? Are you bored? Do what it takes to resolve those issues. Even if you're still lonely afterwards, it will have taken the edge off.
Ideas for handling boredom:
- Read or listen to a book
- Watch a film/movie or binge a Netflix series
- Work on your online business
- Listen to a podcast. Mine is called Like A Bardess and is available everywhere. I took a pause while recovering from my cough, for obvious reasons, but I'm back to podcasting from this week.
Fear When Going Out
If you are able to venture out, seeing others can lead to cognitive dissonance. You're as happy as a puppy to be around people again, but also terrified to go near them in case they make you ill, you make them ill, or someone else reports you to the police.
Imagine you're English during the Victorian era. Nod politely and smile. Don't worry that people will think you're aloof. They don't want to get sick either. However awkward this is, we all understand that things need to be odd for a while for our own protection. This is a weird chapter in our history, but it's just a chapter. It isn't the whole book.
Difficulties Falling Out Over Tech
If a picture speaks a thousand words, how many does a hug speak? A million? If you're in person with someone and there's a misunderstanding, you can tell so much from their face and body language. So much can be healed with a hug. At a distance, that's much harder.
You may not be able to communicate your million words, but you can communicate your thousand if you send more pics, gifs, etc. Also, get on FaceTime or Zoom or Skype so that you can see the faces of the people you miss.
Don't Want to be a Burden
If you're not well, or are unable to do certain things for yourself, it can be tempting to struggle on without your needs met rather than to be a burden. You may also be nervous to use scarce resources others need (including attention).
- Love is not a limited resource
- Someone on social media, or in the community, can and will help. Check with your local council, or Google for resources. You may be isolated, but you're not alone
Not able to plan for the future. Nostalgic for the past
Everyone is in shock. For all of us there is the question of whether the lifestyles we took for granted are gone forever and whether the future we will now make can be as good as what we once had. Well, the past is gone. We are in a New Normal. But the future is still up for grabs. It is what you think and do today that will create that future. So, what will you do today to make tomorrow better? You don't need to know exactly what the future will bring to plant the seeds today that will bear fruit then.
Caught up in conspiracies
When we don't have all the facts, human beings love a good conspiracy. It makes us feel super-smart, which gives us a sense of control.
However, bear in mind that the need to believe conspiracy theories right now is driven by narcissism. This article explains more.
“Narcissistic people are more likely to believe conspiracy theories”.— Rebecca Bardess🖋🇬🇧 (@rebeccabardess) May 9, 2020
Income loss, gym closure, inability to peacock in public, and a lack of insta-worthy travel pics create high stress for narcissists. Spiritual narcissism & cult thought-leadership fill the gap. https://t.co/dUFn1J9cxf
If you think you might have a bit of an issue with narcissism, and it's being triggered by the current crises, that makes perfect sense. Don't be too hard on yourself about it, but get some perspective so you know where you stand. Take this test and see where you land on the spectrum. It's not a medical diagnosis or anything, but if you're high up then you may be struggling more with having to put others' needs before your own, and that makes you more easily duped by people looking to manipulate you. It's worth knowing. Here's the quiz.
My take on conspiracy theories is:
- They all have an agenda. Trace them back to their originator and you may be able to work out what it is.
- It's important to stay aware, and locking yourself in an echo chamber of conspiracy blunts your RAS so you miss things that are vital to see if you plan to stay safe.
- Fight one battle at a time. Yes, there may be a bear ahead (recession/unsafe meds or vaccine, etc) but you're being chased by murder hornets right now (coronavirus). First outrun the murder hornets, THEN tackle the bear. If you try to ignore the hornets because the bear scares you more, you'll be done for before you've made any impact on the bear situation.
- Being dragged around by the nose by swarms of people with group agendas disempowers you and increases stress. Stop. You are an adult human being, with a complex brain. You can make smart decisions without being told what to think by any group of people. Sit for a second and brainstorm what you genuinely believe, even if it's messy, and even if you actually agree with some of what 'they' say (there's always a 'them' and 'us' in conspiracy theories. First rule of mass control). Take a few minutes to think with your own mind, rather than the hivemind and see where you get to. Don't judge yourself. Just let your own wisdom be revealed to you.
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