Coping with Loneliness During Social Distancing

Coping with Loneliness During Social Distancing

Coping with Loneliness During Social Distancing

Even as states loosen restrictions, some people continue to play it safe by avoiding non-essential interactions and staying home. Isolation is taking a toll. Cope with loneliness by trying out some of these ideas shared by Dr. Wayne Martinsen, Psychiatrist and Medical Director at Dakota Boys and Girls Ranch, and in an article at psychologytoday.com.

Schedule regular contact by phone or video.

While virtual communication may not be as satisfying as in-person contact, it's better than no contact at all. Instead of cancelling social events, try holding them online using Facetime, Zoom, Skype, or another of the readily available video chatting applications. When the Ranch limited visitors to campus, staff started arranging extra phone and video visits for kids so they could stay connected to their families—connections that are even more important during times of fear and uncertainty.

Reach out to colleagues, friends, old classmates, children, grandchildren, etc.

Dr. Wayne Martinsen, Psychiatrist and Medical Director at Dakota Boys and Girls Ranch, said, "If you are uncomfortable calling someone you haven't talked to in a long while, send a simple text. Tell them you are wondering how they are doing and ask if they have time for a phone call. In the connection hierarchy, Facetime is better than phone calls, which are better than texts, which are better than liking someone's social media post." Kids at the Ranch made cards for staff—thanking them for showing up to care for them.

Practice remote acts of kindness.

One of the best ways to alleviate loneliness is to engage in acts of kindness. Reach out to people who may be having difficulties, such as elderly neighbors or relatives. Make sure they are getting the food and medical supplies they need. Write letters to residents of a local nursing home, or to family and friends. "Letter writing is a lost art form and that is slow and less immediately rewarding," Martinsen said, "but it leaves the receiver with an intimate lasting 'piece' of the sender."

Revisit old photos and memories.

Go through your photo collection and family videos. Email your favorites to others so you can reminisce together. Studies have found a direct link between nostalgia and reduced loneliness.

Listen to music and sing.

In Italy, residents across the country sang to each other from balconies to lift their spirits. Singing with others and by yourself can be therapeutic.

Pray or meditate.

Many forms of prayer and meditation involve sending positive thoughts and wishes to others. Research suggests that prayer and meditation can increase feelings of social connectedness. The Ranch's spiritual life staff continue to hold chapel services and spiritual life activities—in small groups inside the cottages.

Spend time outside.

If you aren't physically able to walk in the park or around the neighborhood, sit on your front steps and wave at people walking by. A simple smile, wave, and conversation across the front yard can make a huge dent in feelings of isolation.

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