Loneliness can be defined by feeling disconnected from your social relationships. One can feel lonely if the quality of their relationships has not met their expectations and/or desires. The quarantine has further exacerbated loneliness in our lives.
Staying at home during quarantine due to COVID-19 outbreak has made us more isolated from other people and our communities, which can make us feel lonelier. We know from experts that it is not the quantity of our social interactions that fights loneliness, but it’s the quality. The quality of our relationships shapes how we view the world and how we can cope with difficult times.
The type of loneliness we are experiencing as a society for many people is unprecedented. This climate poses a lot of uncertainty around when we can gather freely again and what our new normal will look like. It is common to feel lonely when we are by ourselves for significant periods of time and/or not seeing our friends/family face to face. This requires us to build and strengthen the emotional muscles that we haven’t always engaged.
What can we do about this? Fortunately, loneliness is treatable! Here are some strategies that can be employed during the pandemic to help you cope better.
Offer to help others: We feel happier when we help others. It gives us a sense of meaning and purpose. It can improve our self-worth. This has been referred to as Helper’s High where our brain produces a euphoric sensation after we give to others. This is based on the psychological theory that giving produces a mild version of morphine high. Maybe you can offer to deliver a meal to someone who is unable to go out or cannot afford groceries. If you are an animal-lover, an option might be to foster a pet that needs a home. If you have the means, you can make a donation to a charity or business organization that speaks to you.
Practice Self-Care: Taking care of ourselves is extremely impactful on our mood and our wellbeing. Find time to unplug and get off social media and technology.
Read a book, listen to calming music, meditate, or start a new skin-care routine!
Improve Self-Compassion: Be gentle and kind to yourself. You are going through a lot as you navigate this new terrain. No one is perfect and you deserve to love yourself through it all. Hold off on punishing yourself when you make mistakes. Instead, learn from them and how they might allow you to grow in the future. As we cultivate self-compassion this can help decrease loneliness.
Accept uncertainty: We don’t know exactly when the pandemic will end or what life will look like. Many of us are grieving the life we knew before the pandemic. We are learning to adjust to this new normal and find our footing. Although this current environment is not permanent, it can feel very scary and overwhelming. It is important to acknowledge your own personal losses during this pandemic and mourn them. As you allow yourself to feel difficult emotions, you will be able to move through them more freely.
Exercise: This is one of the most natural and effective ways to boost your mood. It helps alleviate stress and enhances your overall well-being through the release of endorphins. Take a socially distant walk with a friend or neighbor! If that doesn’t work for you, you can try a live workout class and can tune in with others virtually to feel more connected.
Connect with supportive people virtually: We are social beings and crave connection. Whether it’s on FaceTime or any virtual platform, use this as a way to deepen your connections and tune into each other’s facial expressions and emotions. Use this opportunity to be creative in how you maintain your relationships. Having a game night together or trying a new dinner recipe with friends can be fun and make you feel less alone.
Start virtual therapy: Maybe it is that time to rip off the Band-Aid and start therapy. You might be feeling nervous about sharing your feelings to a stranger. However, a good therapist will make you feel comfortable, at ease, and understood. A therapist can be an influential part of your support system as they are impartial and available at trying times. Many people feel more comfortable sharing issues they are having with a therapist as they have expertise in this. A therapist can help you understand yourself better and help you change behaviors that are getting in the way of your happiness.
Loneliness is real but you are not alone. We all want to feel loved and know that we matter. Tell your loved ones how important they are to you and express gratitude for those who you deeply care about. It can make all the difference in your life and in theirs 🙂
Why Am I Having Weird Dreams during this pandemic?
Because we all are!
Many people reported having strange dreams during this time. It is actually a way for the mind to cope with extra nervous energy that we store throughout the day. Here are some productive ways to assist you in a peaceful and restful sleep:
1.) Use a sound machine: Sound machines help to block out distracting noises. Most sound machines produce relaxing sounds such as waves, rain, crickets, and white noise. By blocking distracting noises and producing soothing sounds it creates the perfect environment to drift peacefully into sleep.
2.) Create a sleep routine: Try to create more structure for your evening routine. Structure can include taking a soothing bath before bed, getting into bed at a certain time, and/or meditating for 10-20 minutes before bed, Additionally, consider reading before bed, listening to a sleep story(Calm app), or having a cup of decaffeinated tea. These light activities can help soothe the mind and body. The routine of getting into bed and giving yourself enough time to transition from your daily activities is essential for dreaming peacefully.
3.) Put away all screens at least an hour before bed: Unfortunately it’s the nighty routine for so many of us-- hop into pajamas, put the lights down, get comfortable in bed and then… reach for the cell phone. It’s the way of our current culture, especially during this pandemic while we are constantly using our screens to connect with the world. If you can, try putting your phone on “do not disturb” mode or silent when you go to bed and face your phone down on the table--screen first. It is recommended to cut off screen time 1 hour before bed. Try this with all screens including TV’s and computers as well.
4.) Try to make your bed as comfortable as possible: Being comfortable is known to helps you fall asleep faster. When you are comfortable, your body can unwind and you can fall asleep with ease. Being comfortable means your body can relax. If you are uncomfortable, you will constantly be readjusting to find the right position hence disrupting your sleep. Comfort has a direct affect on the quality of your sleep, the relaxation of your thoughts, and can affect the tone of your dreams.
5.) Try not to eat at least an hour or more before you go to bed: An increased metabolism may be caused by a pre-bedtime meal. According to research, an increased metabolism causes the brain to become more active which can possibly lead to nightmares. If you notice that you have more bad dreams after having a late-night snack or meal, try setting a goal to avoid snacking and heavy meals right before bed.
6.) Avoid drinking caffeine post 3PM: Caffeine stimulates your nervous system which explains why we love it to start the day. Unfortunately, It also hinders the neurotransmitter called Orexin that tells your brain when you should feel sleepy, explains Harvard Medical School's Division of Sleep Medicine
(http://healthysleep.med.harvard.edu/healthy/science/how/neurophysiology)The research shows that caffeine directly stimulates brain activity, even during sleep, which can lead to nightmares. If you experience nightmares, consider easing up on the caffeine intake especially in the afternoon and evening.
7.) Imagine the type of dream you would want to have: Lastly but most importantly-right before you go to bed, think about relaxing thoughts such as playing in a field or feeling loved and at peace. Studies have shown that if you try to focus on calm-lighthearted images before bed, you will dream more peacefully.
While staying in, I would recommend some therapeutic activities to help stimulate and ease yourself. A lot of my patients benefit from the app "Calm”. It allows you to clear your mind and stay present. Some physical activity like light stretching, reading an enjoyable book, and watching some positive or humorous TV can help you stay away from spiraling.
A technique that works well in helping us stay centered is the idea of thinking that “it could be worse”. This scenario could be worse. We could be staying in without some of the luxuries we have access to; wifi, electricity, delivery.
Structure can help you feel focused during a time when feeling motivated might not come as easily. The goals we set for ourselves during this time do not have to be extreme or challenging by any means. If you tell yourself that your going to spend even just five minutes working on something, then spend those five minutes and chances are you will feel immersed and spend more than that.
Try to focus on “What Is” instead of “What if”. For example: I am healthy so I don't need to focus on what if I was not. The second we start think about what if and what could happen is when we start to go down that negative pathway that leads to anxiety. Anxiety exists in the future and we end up scaring ourselves about scenarios that aren't actually happening in the present.
It’s important that we thank ourselves and that we are It’s important that we thank ourselves and that we are kind to ourselves during this time. Taking the initiative to practice self-care and stay home to better our communities isn't the easiest thing because it’s not our normal behavior. It's a courageous act.
I like to tell my clients that they aren't 'Fortune Tellers.' We don't know the future and we can't predict it. If you're going to try and figure out what is going to happen in the future you might end up causing fear and fear doesn't benefit us.
A very useful technique is “Thought Stopping”. You actually give yourself those boundaries. Maybe you say to yourself that you wont think about a specific topic until later in the day. When the mind starts to fill up with the negative news and feelings of coronavirus, you essentially shut it down by prolonging until later.I would recommend creating boundaries surrounding the amount of time and information you allow into your orbit on the subject of the corona virus. Try to feed your mind and energy with uplifting information.
Many people procrastinate getting the help that they need. They will want to see a therapist and will think about it for years and finally end up doing it. That may just mean that they weren't ready until they actually made their first appointment. It is normal to feel apprehensive about starting therapy. Many people feel this way in the beginning and tend to have cold feet about getting started.
I like to describe therapy similarly to going to the gym or sweating. You are basically releasing toxins and endorphins from your body by sweating and with talking, you may experience the same cathartic feeling/release. Many people have expressed feeling much lighter after their first therapy session. When we talk, we are releasing a lot of feelings and emotions that we've held onto internally for years. It can be a tremendous relief to be able to let go of these feelings through talking.
It can also feel good to talk out-loud and hear yourself speak. When you do that, you are processing things differently than you would by thinking about something in your own mind. You may also not feel as isolated as you would in thinking about things on your own.
During the first session, the therapist may go over what is to be expected from the session, your rights and limitations towards confidentiality, the duration of the session, important policy information, and may have you sign some documents such as a questionnaire and/or agreement document.
Finding a therapist can be a rigorous and daunting task but... FEAR NO MORE!---These tips are designed to help you feel more comfortable in making the right decision and save you from needing to do hours of research.
1.) Word of Mouth
If you are feeling comfortable enough, ask around to those closest to you in regards to how they found their therapist or if they would recommend them to you. You can also ask a healthcare provider such as a doctor who you know and trust to share with you if they have any referrals.
It is a great site to find a therapist within your area and specifies according to the type of insurance, gender of therapist, therapy techniques practiced, and insurances accepted. It is a fairly organized site and is useful for your own private viewing if you don't wish to ask anyone about how to go about finding one.
You want to search according to specialities such as why you are seeking therapy to begin with. Usually searching that way will lead you to find someone who specializes in the area you wish to find help in. Some specialties include: Addiction, Eating Disorders, Couples Therapy, Anxiety disorders, Depression, Trauma, Bereavement counseling, Relationships, Grief therapy, and Marriage and Family Therapy.
4.) Narrow down most important aspects that you are looking for in a therapist
Some of these could include years of experience, gender of therapist, location of therapist, age of therapist, specialties, insurances accepted, techniques or modalities such as how the therapist conducts her therapy sessions(Cognitive Behavioral Therapist, Psychodynamic therapist, Dialectical Behavioral Therapist, etc) .
5.) Things to look for while having your first session with your new therapist
A.) They are non-judgmental:
The Therapist should never make you feel judged or they aren't doing their job well. You want to feel comfortable enough to share your personal thoughts and feelings in a safe place. It is very difficult to do that when you feel judged and therefore, that is a sign that it is not the right fit.
B.) You feel heard during the session:
Your therapy session is your space to be heard. You are paying for the session and feeling heard is very important in order to establish a healthy relationship with your therapist.
C.) The temperament of the therapist:
It will make it easier to share more with your therapist if he or she shows signs of empathy, compassion, kindness, and acceptance.
These days, people want to gain something out of therapy. If you are that type of person then look for some form of direction towards the end of the session. If the therapist discusses goals, next steps, or summarizes what was discussed then this will be more of an active and transformative approach to therapy which most people have found to be most useful.
How to recover from feeling negative emotions such as stress, boredom, frustration, anxiety, sadness, & anger.
"Tight itchy sweater"
Ever experience walking into a super hot room carrying multiple bags and having the extreme urge to relieve yourself from the discomfort to take off that sweater? Sometimes that experience can exist in different ways or through moments when we experience negative emotions. The only difference is that there is no sweater that can be removed to experience relief. The relief in this experience does not depend on removing the sweater but rather creating a change in your physical being or behavior. It may be hard to do anything other than sit in the moment of feeling uncomfortable and paralyzed. However, recognize that you are in a moment of time that can be altered by a behavioral change. The moment you recognize you feel stuck in the moment try to change your activity for just 5 minutes and give yourself the option of continuing for another 5 minutes.
Some ways to remove that imaginary sweater can be to participate in activities such as exercising, breathing techniques, meditation, writing down things you're grateful for, listening to some music, and/or fantasizing that you are somewhere else--a pleasant memory. After you participate in one or more of those activities you will experience a temporary change in your perception or a feeling as though that tight itchy sweater no longer exists. I say temporary because all feelings are conditions of the mind (sadness, happiness, boredom, anger, etc) or temporary moments that exist throughout time at an ever changing rate.