A year ago, when we talked to counselor Matt Lawson about loneliness, he said it was a huge issue that he had seen continually getting worse in our society. At the time, we were surprised that out of all the mental health problems people faced, he zoomed in on that one as one of the most important. Of course, that was before coronavirus, social distancing and lockdowns happened. Back then we had never heard of COVID-19 and had no idea that it would push many Americans (and people all over the globe) into isolation and extreme stress. We had no idea that loneliness was about to ramp up and grow on an even larger scale.
In our 2019 episode and blog Imagine Yourself Leaving Loneliness Behind, we shared this after talking to Matt:
People need people. Loneliness can affect anyone, even someone in a room full of laughter and loved ones. It can be even more potent when we’ve lost a loved one, moved to a new area, or become isolated. However, being alone and being lonely are not necessarily the same thing. What’s the difference between enjoying a little alone time and lacking the necessary connection to others? How can we make sure that we and those around us have the connections we crave? Our guest, Matt Lawson, Licensed Professional Counselor discussed these and other issues:
· All humans experience periods of loneliness.
· Being lonely or being alone is not always a bad thing.
· Loneliness can be a serious issue and the answer is often forming deeper connections.
· Forming deeper connections takes intentionality.
· Connections on social media are often only "surface" and don’t meet our needs.
· Those of us who are able should seek out others in our circles who may be feeling lonely and help/encourage them.
As we re-visit the episode from a year ago, the issues are virtually the same except they are compounded by many more feeling isolated. The way we can deal with loneliness may be different as well. Calling, texting, using FaceTime, Zoom, or other technology/platforms often replace traditional gatherings. However, we can also be creative and find safe ways to get together, whether it’s grabbing some socially distanced coffee in the park, joining an outside exercise group, or something else.
The coronavirus has presented almost everyone with new mental health challenges, and for those already suffering it has the potential to make things worse. Here are some guidelines from the CDC if you are facing difficulties. You can also find Matt and other therapists to get professional help virtually through TALKSPACE.
If you’ve been feeling lonely, we think this episode will help bring you clarity and hopefully some healing. If you’re OK, but know or want to assist someone feeling lonely, this episode should help you recognize it in others and give you tactics to comfort and assist them.