By R. Ryan S Patel DO, FAPA OSU-CCS Psychiatrist

Many young adults struggle with loneliness. For example, a national survey found that almost 70% of Gen-Zers and 71% of millennials are lonely vs. 50% of baby-boomers (1,2).

For some, this could be further increased by COVID 19 (Corona)related social distancing, quarantine, isolation.

Feelings of loneliness can increase symptoms of depression (3) and over time, worsen cognitive function (4).

The American Psychological Association offers the following strategies to cope with loneliness/isolation (5):

  • When possible, plan ahead by considering how you might spend your time, who you can contact for psychosocial support and how you can address any physical or mental health needs.
  • Create and follow a daily routine. This can help with a sense of order and purpose. Try to include regular daily activities, such as work, exercise or learning, and other healthy activities as needed.
  • Maintain virtual contact such as phone calls, text messages, video chat and social media to access social support networks.
  • Maintain a healthy lifestyle. Get enough sleepeat welland exercise in your home when you are physically capable of doing so. Try to avoid using alcohol or drugs as a way to cope with the stresses of isolation and quarantine.
  • Consider telehealth or telecounseling (see  campus and surrounding resources below).
  • Limit excessive news consumption to reliable sources because too much exposure to media coverage can increase feelings of fear and anxiety.
    • Balance this time with other activities unrelated to quarantine or isolation, such as reading, listening to music or learning a new language.

Psychological strategies to manage stress and stay positive during times of loneliness/isolation (5):

  • Take a look at your worries and aim to be realistic in your assessment of the actual concern as well as your ability to cope. Keeping a dairy may help.
  • Focus on what you can do and accept the things you can’t change.
  • Keep a daily gratitude journal. This will help you appreciate the positives which can help reduce stress.
  • Practice mindfulness and relaxation exercises. There many online resources that can help, including our mental health strategies video series.
  • Focusing on the altruistic reasons for social distancing, quarantine or isolation can also help mitigate psychological distress. Remember that by taking such measures, you are reducing the possibility of transmitting COVID-19 and protecting those who are most vulnerable.

Other strategies:

  • For some, periodic isolation can be a time of solitude—an opportunity to step back from your daily life and re-focus on your priorities and longer term goals. This can help you better deal with shorter term challenges. This can also help you identify things that you could add or subtract when you return to your usual life.  What tasks or goals have you been putting off that you can now address because of this time? Can you do research on future goals?
  • Change the scene. Take a walk outside when possible. Fresh air, and seeing others even at a distance may help reduce feelings of loneliness.
  • Consider online discussion groups based on hobbies such as books, movies, shows, crafts, gaming, video games, professional interests, sports, community area, etc.
  • Consider a discussion group with your classmates.
  • Many places now offer online group fitness, yoga, and virtual races.
  • Schedule a time to virtual visits with friends or family.
  • Campus and surrounding resources related to mental health.

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Disclaimer: This article is intended to be informative only. It is advised that you check with your own physician/mental health provider before implementing any changes. With this article, the author is not rendering medical advice, nor diagnosing, prescribing, or treating any condition, or injury; and therefore claims no responsibility to any person or entity for any liability, loss, or injury caused directly or indirectly as a result of the use, application, or interpretation of the material presented.

References:

  1. https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/how-to-prevent-loneliness-in-a-time-of-social-distancing/
  2. https://www.cigna.com/static/www-cigna-com/docs/about-us/newsroom/studies-and-reports/combatting-loneliness/cigna-2020-loneliness-factsheet.pdf
  3. Cacioppo JT, Hawkley LC, Thisted RA. Perceived social isolation makes me sad: 5-year cross-lagged analyses of loneliness and depressive symptomatology in the Chicago Health, Aging, and Social Relations Study. Psychol Aging. 2010;25(2):453–463. doi:10.1037/a0017216
  4. Cacioppo JT, Cacioppo S. Older adults reporting social isolation or loneliness show poorer cognitive function 4 years later. Evidence-Based Nursing 2014;17:59-60.
  5. https://www.apa.org/practice/programs/dmhi/research-information/social-distancing

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