We all feel lonely from time to time, and mostly it is a short-term feeling. However, in the current pandemic scenario, loneliness is the most common feeling millions of us experience. For me, the sense of social isolation became very apparent in the last festival months. On Diwali, I was finally confronted with my fear of being alone. Diwali has always represented the joy of being with family and friends, telling stories and dressing up with all your loved ones, and eating tons of good food. However, this year there was a dip in mood and energy level longing for social connection, and not so subtle reminder of what is missing from the lives in terms of families, friends, and communities at large. Since our brains are continually evaluating the circumstances and widespread expectations of what celebrating a festival looks like, it increases our feeling or sense of loneliness when there is a mismatch. Additionally, bombarded by happy people’s visuals through advertisements and social media doesn’t help us who live alone and make us feel as if we are missing out on a special day.
Coping with the disappointments that I cannot do anything in this situation in the usual way, especially when this event has a special meaning, was challenging. I felt the range of emotions from grief, sadness to desolation, which is entirely understandable considering the situation- what helped me was accepting the reality of the problem! It reduced the gap between my expectations of a perfect “festival atmosphere” and the reality of what is possible and how I can balance safety and celebration. I became creative and set a different standard of festivity to enjoy myself and make the most out of the situation.
So the question is- having Christmas around the corner, how do we make ourselves feel better?
- Be aware of your feelings: Awareness is key to your mind. If you know, you often feel lonely around the festival’s time. It would help take a few moments to sense where your loneliness is coming from and what kind of care and connection you wish for underneath the loneliness. See how you can support meeting that need.
- Acknowledgment of your feelings: When we feel negative emotions or perceive something negative, our first reaction is to suppress it. We should instead manage our expectations and accept how we are feeling. The action of moving away from how we are “supposed” to feel and acknowledging our actual feelings can take off some pressure and make us feel lighter. This would also help in reducing the pressure of “ideal festival celebration or holidays.”
- Stay connected: Healthy social relationships support good mental health, so it is vital to maintain some level of contact with people we know. This is as simple as calling or writing a text to a friend to share your experience, using video calls to check in with a family member, or spending quality time with people you live with.
- Be Kind to others: In my dull moment of loneliness during the festivity, a friend of mine brighten up my mood with the advice of meditation for few minutes and doing activities which are possible, for instance, get some scented candles and light up the apartment, put on new clothes, dress up and cook the food I like to eat. Having to hear such words on that day boosted my mood and motivation, and I felt connected again.
- Be kind to yourself: It is essential to realize how we can show ourselves kindness and compassion and figure out how we can be an excellent company to ourselves during loneliness. Get moving in whatever ways make us feel good — for instance, putting on our favorite music, dancing around or decorating the apartment, getting in touch with old friends. These activities can release “feel-good” chemicals and a sense of accomplishment.
- Take time to be grateful: We should take a moment to appreciate the joy of being healthy, being safe, having a roof over heads, and reflecting on all you have to be grateful for. This would lift your mood.
We are going through a challenging and sometimes lonely time, but it shall pass. We soon will greet with lots of hugs, shared pots of tea, festivities, and celebrations. Until then, let’s be as kind as possible to ourselves and others.
Author: Dr.Krutika Gohil (Neuropsychologist/Cognitive Neurophysiologist)