The Epidemic of Loneliness During COVID-19

At Waypoint Counselling, we are noticing a definite increase in the number of people reaching out to us to get help with dealing with loneliness during the COVID-19 pandemic.  In fact, it has become one of our top 3 issues we are hearing about (along with anxiety and depression). 

This is not surprising.  The public health restrictions in place to help stop the spread of the virus has meant many of us are no longer seeing our loved ones, our friends, even our colleagues.  This has been particularly hard on people who live alone who are advised to keep to a maximum core bubble of a maximum of two people.  

Long before COVID-19 arrived, we were already experiencing an epidemic of loneliness in Canada.  According to Statistics Canada, the number of people living alone has more than doubled in the last 35 years, particularly among people aged 35 – 64.  And it is important to note that feelings of loneliness are not only experienced by those who live alone.  Feelings of loneliness can and is experienced for those who are in the company of others but just don’t feel connected to them. Feeling cooped up and being alone during the pandemic can only make these feelings worse.  Over time, it takes a toll on our mental and physical wellbeing.  It can increase our stress hormones and impact our immune system and our general energy levels.  And if left unchecked, it becomes a nasty cycle of loneliness, depression, anxiety, lack of energy and a sense of “checking out” of those things we used to enjoy doing. 

What to do?  Well, the first step is to talk about it.  Many of us are embarrassed to say we are lonely because we think it means we don’t know how to have friends or be “liked”.  But it is exactly those thoughts that feed into our loneliness and keep the cycle of going.  So, say out loud that you feel lonely.  Tell trusted friends and family how you are feeling. It’s ok!  Ironically enough – you are not alone for feeling this way.  

And here are some ways you can turn “social distancing” into “distant socialization”:

  • Go for a walk outside every day.  Rain or shine.  For each person you pass, say “hello” and smile at them.  And try to make eye contact with people and pets – it creates a human connection.  These simple acts go a long way to reduce feelings of being alone and isolated.  
  • Limit exposure to news about COVID.  Only watch the news or read online news reports for a maximum of 10 minutes in the morning and 10 minutes at night.  And only choose credible sources of information.  
  • Look for ways to help others.  Is there an elderly neighbour who could use help with groceries?  Does someone need to have their dog walked?  This can really help with making those important connections in our lives. 
  • Set reminders to connect with others through technology such as video chat and by phone.  It is easy to have good intentions but never really get around to making that connection.  Set the time aside, make those plans. And maybe try with a simple goal of 1 brief connection very few days and grow from there. 

A big part of dealing with loneliness during the pandemic is to understand how our thoughts can feed into the negative cycle.  There are some very effective strategies to deal with these feelings of loneliness and turn this around. To learn more about loneliness counselling, visit our page here.

We’re here for you

Reach out to us if you’d like to learn more or if you would like to explore your counselling options.  We have counsellors who provide phone and video counselling throughout BC and in-person counselling in Victoria, Vancouver, and Kelowna.  

Sometimes, the first step is to reach out.