It's not just you
As we all go through these uncertain days of coronavirus, one of the big challenges facing us is isolation. It was already a problem before COVID-19 hit, and now with stay-at-home orders all over the country, it is a bigger problem than ever.
It might surprise you but there are two types of isolation – the loneliness from actually being on your own and alone and also the isolation that comes from feeling trapped with the same people week after week, month after month. Simply being around people does not necessarily get rid of the feelings of isolation.
If you’re feeling disconnected and alone, the number one thing you can do is reach out. In this era of digital communication, it’s easier than ever to FaceTime or Zoom with a friend – you don’t even need to pay for accounts. (Though Zoom is only free for up to 40 minutes.) In addition to chatting, people are having meals together over Zoom, playing games, watching shows at the same time – there are many ways to connect with someone else even though you are essentially quarantined at home.
I’ve reconnected with dear friends from 30 years ago when I was living/studying in London – we’re now Zooming every other week. I have regular chats with friends I’ve made from conferences I’ve been to. Heck, I’m seeing more New York City friends than I ever have – and I live there!
If you’re feeling lonely and isolated, just know others are feeling the same way also. You could take a course – I’m taking a self development course right now. And even more exciting was that after I discovered the world of YouTube, I discovered the World Science Festival.
Little known fact about myself is that I wanted to be a physicist, but when I’d enrolled into an astronomy class in high school, my math teacher told me girls couldn’t do math, so that career went out the window.. That was the 1970s.
Now that I’ve discovered the World Science Festival and other videos on YouTube, I’m learning about things like the Double Slit Experiment and quantum mechanics. Really, google it – it’ll blow your mind!
You need to find things that excite you and challenge you. Spend this time figuring out what you really want to do in life. Anything you want to know – from bread baking to knitting to probably brain surgery – is out there online, so go find it and learn something new. It’ll help you feel more engaged with life. If you want to take it a step further, go find a Facebook or other group on that topic and connect with other people who share your interest.
With regard to reaching out – if you reach out and ask someone how they’re doing, and they respond that they’re not feeling well, do NOT send them an emoji sad face with a tear coming out. The person you reached out to needs help or an ear to listen. It’s very hard for someone to ask for help. It’s very hard for someone to tell another that they’re feeling lonely or disconnected, so if you’re going to reach out to someone, take responsibility for the reaction you get.
If someone says they’re not feeling well, they’re not feeling well. If you don’t have the capacity to listen, at least validate what they’re going through by saying something like, “I’m so sorry you’re not feeling well. I’m sending you hugs and warmth.” You can keep it quick if need be.
If you’re on the receiving end – someone reached out and you said you’re not well and they don’t respond, please know it’s not about you. It just means the other person is not able to connect with you – maybe they have 20 family members to deal with; maybe they suddenly aren’t feeling well. They probably do actually care but they might not know how to respond.
One of the biggest lessons I’ve learned in life – and it’s a big one – is that I’m not the center of the universe. I know! Shocking! When you get that, you’ll realize that if someone doesn’t treat you the way you’d like to be treated, or doesn’t speak to you in a way you’d like to be spoken to, it’s not about you. There are a million things that could be happening to make that person respond or not respond in a certain way – and it’s not because of you. We all have our own stuff to deal with.
Everyone is stressed out and anxious. If you need to speak with someone, you can find more information on the CDC website. You can find someone to speak with at the Disaster Distress Helpline at 1-800-985-5990, or text TalkWithUs to 66746. If you are feeling unsafe or are being abused at home, please call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233 and TTY 1-800-787-3224.
Please keep reaching out. This is a very trying time and people are having all different types of reactions. So keep reaching out until you find what you need to feel better. You are worth it.