March 13, 2020

Adjusting to Loneliness During the COVID-19 Pandemic

This morning, as I woke up to a grey sky with rain hanging in the air, just waiting to fall, I felt down. I am often affected by weather, the long winters in Sweden were definitely not good for me, darkness scares me and makes me feel cold and vulnerable.

In addition, today I was also facing another day without my office colleagues who, besides my intimate family of my husband and little daughter, are my most frequent contacts!

It is a fact that the majority of us spend most of our time working and sleeping. The rest of the time is usually divided between home, work, childcare, exercise and social events (including eating). For those with chronic disease, we also have to add doctor visits, pharmacy visits or mail order managements, and maintaining a healthy lifestyle into our daily routines.

I consider myself one of the lucky ones because I love my work, my team and our NYC office. I happen to live a block away, so my commute is easy and safe enough during this pandemic that I can still walk to work daily and maintain some semblance of normalcy.

However, this week I have been alone, and this will continue for a while. Virtual meetings are a great solution, don’t get me wrong, and perhaps we will actually accomplish almost as much as with in-person alternatives. Albeit, I will miss the times between meetings, including the brief exchanges while getting coffee, the hellos and goodbyes and the impromptu discussions about business and daily life. Even the feeling of being together in the important work that we do does not come across as well when all sitting in various places.

I do make a concerted effort to engage on social media, per phone, by email and text, and they are all great ways to mitigate the effects of isolation! Social media truly helps me to feel connected and not so alone. In some cases, I can actually share more easily this way. It is easier to open up when you do not need to show your face, can be more anonymous, and also to be blunt and direct with your feelings, which can sometimes get you in trouble. I always try to remind myself that there are real people out there behind the tags, addresses and numbers. Real people do not react with emojis, but instead with laughter, tears and anger. There is a huge role for digital when searching for facts and connecting for a purpose, but beyond this, it does not address everything we need.

I may be old-fashioned, but I believe human beings crave human contact. Although I am living in one of the most vibrant cities in the world, these times make me feel more alone and craving human contact more than ever.