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Health and Wellbeing

06 May 2020

What our loneliness can teach us in times of social distancing

By Rajna Bogdanovic - Psychologist

With many of us confined to our homes, one of the biggest impacts of COVID-19 is social.

Whether you’re alone, with family, or in a share house, being unable to spend time with loved ones or even meet new people outside our bubble is hard - especially if you’re single or if you and a partner have been separated. 

As humans we are hardwired for connection. Physical touch and quality time with loved ones helps to calm our nervous system which brings down our stress levels. Without this we may find ourselves feeling scared, anxious, struggling to sleep and on high alert.

The ways we have learned to deal with this can vary, some healthier than others. This time can be a great opportunity to learn new ways to help the body and mind through feelings of isolation, loneliness and panic. While we can reach out to loved ones online, we are still missing a physical aspect, one that we can develop ourselves while we wait to be reunited. 

Here are some ways you can identify and meet your needs for intimacy and connection during social distancing:

  • Use this time wisely. Use this time to identify your needs and values. This is a great skill to learn even for when social distancing does end; and we are able to make healthier and clearer choices about who we let into our lives.
  • Confront unmet needs. Write down or say out loud what it is that you are missing about your interactions with other people. This can provide great insight into what you value in your relationships, what you would like to foster more of in your future relationships, as well as which of your current needs are not being met. 
  • Verbal affirmations. Often what we seek in relationships is to be loved, seen, and heard. If you could have a loved one close to you, what would you like to hear them say? Try saying these things to yourself out loud. (I love you, I’m here for you, I hear you, I see you).
  • Self-touch. Stress and anxiety are controlled by the part of our brain that can be best accessed by calming our bodies. Self-massage and self-hugging can make a huge impact on calming our nervous system. Try this a couple of times a week as part of your daily routine, recommended before bed to aid sleep.
  • Release tension around your chest. Notice your body - often in times of fear and loneliness we tend to hunch our shoulders, protecting our hearts and vital organs. Research shows that opening up the chest can release some of the tension caused by fear and anxiety and improve your confidence, mood, and motivation. Spend a few minutes a day laying down on your back with your hands clasped behind your head, or with a towel rolled up and placed underneath your upper back.

Please take care of yourself at this time, stay connected to others as best as you can, and of course, nurture your connection with yourself, so that you can come out of this period with self-compassion and renewed vigour •

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