It is no surprise that this global pandemic has wreaked havoc in all aspects of life. Many have suffered physically, financially, and emotionally. Dr. Bradley Nelson shares his perspective and approach in navigating these difficult times.

Feelings of loneliness can be very hard to deal with. Modern society has had a tendency to isolate us from one another even before the COVID-19 pandemic, but since its arrival, feelings of isolation and loneliness have gone off the scale.

Hundreds of millions of people have lost their livelihood due to the shutdowns. The divorce rate has gone up, as has the suicide rate. While we know COVID-19 has caused 2.8 million deaths worldwide, including almost 550,000 in the US, researchers are just beginning to look at the cost of increased loneliness as a result of government lockdowns. These costs are particularly high among the elderly and those who live alone.

“For more than a million residents of nursing homes, the lockdowns themselves have been devastating,” the New York Times reported. “Cut off from family and largely confined to their rooms, many residents lost weight and saw ailments worsen. Some grew increasingly confused. Others sank into depression and despair.”

For more than a year, health officials have told the public to wear masks and stay at least six feet apart to slow the spread of the virus. But wearing masks and being unable to share simple touch also comes with a cost.

We are designed to thrive on social interaction. Much of our ability to express our emotional state has been hidden behind masks. Trying to navigate in a world where it’s impossible to tell how people are really feeling about us or what their real intentions are is incredibly disorienting and very isolating.

Social distancing also increases feelings of isolation as people are unable to share a hug with a relative in a nursing home or a new graduate who is not in their immediate family. When we come to fear human contact, we lose one of the primary things that makes our lives worth living and brings joy to our souls.

In times like this, it is more important than ever to focus on the good things in your life. It may sound trite, but “counting your blessings” will shift your mood to the positive before long. Consider going on a “media diet.” Stop watching the news for a while. Get outside, go for a walk, and breathe. Your body was designed to breathe, just as it was designed with an immune system to help you fight off illness.

If feelings of loneliness are overwhelming for you, do something about it. Use the internet to connect with people that you’ve lost touch with. Reconnect with family members if you can do so positively. Instead of focusing on your own feelings, think about what you might be able to do to help other people who are suffering. Find acts of service that you can do for them.

Finally, remember that you are never really alone.

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