“Happy groundhog day!” My youngest daughter yelled yesterday morning. At this point, we were about 8 months into the pandemic and every day at our house feels exactly the same. My oldest and I burst out laughing. The absurdity of this pandemic version of life can get to us some days, but on days like yesterday we found a way to laugh at it (even if that laughter was tinged with insanity).
☝️This isn’t a groundhog, it is a gopher we saw recently on a hike. But I thought I’d share it anyway since it is rare for us to see these little guys say hello! You can click through to see him pop in and out.
Groundhog Day the movie, on the other hand, is wholly entertaining. One, because it is happening to someone else and, two, because we know after one hour and 41 minutes, it’ll all be over…and probably resolve itself the way Hollywood movie magic usually does.
But our version of “pandemic groundhog day” is very different. Not only does it not have an ending in sight, we also can’t go out into the world and socialize like normal. We can’t see the same people, laugh, hug, and tell stories…Even if it is the same story over and over again. And although my family and I have each other, it is a challenge. Both my daughters are trying to do their part in social distancing and thus don’t see their friends as often. For many this physical distancing results in boredom, depression, and loneliness, an often interconnected set of emotions. According to a UCLA study on loneliness, since the start of COVID-19 restrictions, 63% of those taking precautions report strong feelings of loneliness. A coronavirus emotional helpline corroborates this finding. The number one issue people call about? Loneliness.
The landscape of dating has also changed. Online dating, of course, is still a useful option, but what about meeting in person? Everything has become more complicated. And people are lonely. The dating app, Bumble, has reported that two out of every three people feel a heightened sense of loneliness in their romantic lives. Furthermore, on top of the everyday anxieties surrounding dating, now you have to worry about whether the other person is taking enough safety precautions. What if you contract the virus and get very sick? What if you spread it to your loved ones? Bumble’s survey reported that “only 41% of users are confident in picking a safe first date venue, while 55% feel confident about an in-person first date if both parties wear face masks.”
So how do you cope? What do you do in an environment primed for loneliness?
First, start by asking yourself a few questions to get more insight into how you can make the most use of your time alone.
What brings me comfort when I’m alone?
What projects can I progress on while I have the time to myself?
How can I bring calm into my time alone?
What form of self-care will benefit me?
What new healthy habits can I work on to keep my positive energy going?
Maybe you love painting, and the answer is to find an online painting class. Maybe you are a musician and all you want is to be able to play in front of an audience. Zoom concerts might not be ideal, but imagine the people you can reach who could not have traveled to that small Los Angeles venue anyhow. Online activities are endless, even prior to COVID. There are places for people to collaborate on artistic projects and meet new people. The key is to make it a priority, and thus make YOU a priority.
Find the hobbies and outlets that prevent you from feeling non-stop boredom. Find a purpose that will make you proud to work towards something. Each action you take towards staving off boredom and combating loneliness will in turn reduce your anxieties, and therefore prevent you from sinking into a depression.
Secondly, You are not alone in your feelings of loneliness. Remember, sometimes the loneliest people are surrounded with tons of love and affection. Loneliness is a feeling that can be exacerbated by circumstance, but it takes residence in your own head. It is up to you to find the things that will help you push through it. And you will get through it. And when you do, the credits will finally roll as you let out a big sigh of relief that this groundhog day has finally ended. And if another challenge hits, as life might have it, you’ll be ready. Because guess what? You’ve been through it before. 🙂