Given the social isolation mandates required to keep everyone safe during the pandemic, many of you are spending much of your time alone, maybe even separated from loved ones that you usually live with. It makes sense that you may be feeling lonely at times. After all, we are social beings: even introverts need human connection. Without it, our lives just aren’t as fulfilling. I have some tools designed to cope with isolation, steps you can take to feel better.

First, I want you to take stock of what you have been doing to be in contact with others. (By contact, I mean phone or video calls. I’m all for texting and social media sharing and emails -- keep those up! -- but we’re talking about you creating a more intimate connection with someone to address your loneliness.) Ask yourself the following. Who am I contacting? Am I trying to connect with people that don’t “fill me up,” or people that don’t share much or who don’t “get” me? If so, who in your life leaves you feeling better off after speaking with them? Who fills you up? Be thoughtful, intentional about whom you call right now.

Also, ask yourself: how am I when I’m with them? If you’re not fully participating in a conversation with someone, you may not feel the yum of connection. If you’re having a rough day, rough week, are you being open about it? If not, can you trust that if you share what’s really going on, that they can handle it, that they may relate and feel closer to you as a result? (THAT’S the stuff of loving connection). Or that if they’re feeling pretty okay, that they could support you right now? How do I know that these questions might resonate with you? Because people who feel lonely don’t feel that way because they have a lonely gene. I think that they may not realize the power they have to not be lonely. They’re not aware of the specific actions they can take to feel more connected. The good news is that the solution requires just two steps:

1. Generate the opportunity to feel connected with others (e.g., MAKE the phone call!) and

2. Pay attention to how you are with others: vulnerable, honest, accepting, etc. … the connection-making behaviors.

What are you talking ABOUT? The questions you ask the other person, the things you share… do they contribute to a meaningful exchange, or are they more about empty, superficial stuff? That affects the quality of the connection, so notice that about your choices. Ask yourself, “What experience do I want to create with this person?” Maybe some days you could benefit from a good laugh fest. I’ve had a few of those calls during the pandemic, and they were just what the doctor ordered that day.

I realize that for those of you who in non-pandemic times don’t like to be alone, the COVID-19 isolation is particularly challenging. You may be a self-described “I’m not good at being alone” person. What strikes me when I hear people say that is that they say it almost as though it’s a fact. “I can’t be alone.” When the reality is that you’re not used to being alone, that it’s more comfortable being with others. You likely grew up with siblings, then went on to be with friends in school, maybe now have a family or network of friends, so you’re still often around people. I make this distinction because it’s a limiting belief that you can’t be alone, a flawed belief that’s affecting your well-being now. After all, your freedom to do your norm has been taken away. The social isolation of COVID-19 has placed you into unfamiliar territory, which can make you feel anxious, restless, even afraid. If you feel this way, I want you to pay close attention to what you’re telling yourself about your experience of feeling lonely. Notice your language. Are you saying things like, “I’m not good at being by myself?” or “I can’t be alone”? If so, I want you to consider that you create that reality for yourself with your language. Doing that makes you more uncomfortable and be in more of a struggle than you need to be right now. I want you to try some new language to make social isolation easier for you. Here are some affirmations that pack a powerful punch:

“This is a new experience for me: of course, I feel anxious. I can feel anxious and still do what I’m doing right now“(reading, walking, cooking, etc.)

“I feel uncomfortable, yet I am open to enjoying being by myself. I trust there is value for me in being alone”.

If you feel anxious in your mind or in physical sensations, “That makes sense. That’s a signal from my mind, my body that I’m doing something new and that I’m on the right track”.

“I trust that being alone right now allows me to learn, to practice being with myself.”

As you practice this kind of reassuring self-talk, your mind and your body will be given a chance to develop a new habit; one where you can enjoy the calm, the stillness, and presence that being alone allows. This is the kind of experience inspirationalists are referring to when we talk about the lessons you can learn during a crisis. That could have you saying, when the pandemic is behind us, COVID-19 put me in a position to learn to cope with loneliness -- a lesson I might not have discovered otherwise.

Remember. You are NOT alone. If you feel alone, all you have to do is choose. Choose to connect, choose to be -- really be -- with others.

By Dr. Lee Odescalchi

Author's Bio: 

Lee Odescalchi is a coach and licensed psychologist. She has coached and counseled clients, just like you, looking for more fulfilling lives. Her unique approach uses the most effective methods of personal development and performance strategies. She does this while addressing issues from the past that have led to self-limiting beliefs that get in the way of your success. Lee also empowers people to “get out of their own way” and maximize their strengths so they can produce extraordinary results… in any area of their life.