Love in Insolation
"The holiday season is over. The Christmas decorations are all put away. Spending time with extended family has concluded and now you are back in your home with snow on the ground, in 10-degree weather, with Covid numbers rising. The truth then comes back to us that we are in Michigan in the winter during a pandemic." -Selina Engle, LMSW
We're approaching year three of the world stumbling to figure out our lives being turned upside down. These years have shown us a lot about ourselves, including just how important it is to stay connected to the people we love. In this Q&A with our therapists, we'll talk about combatting loneliness and making the extra effort to push past things like zoom fatigue to make our days and the people in them something we look forward to.
Q: What effect do you think the change of routines has had on us?
A: Eric Nykamp, LMSW: The isolation has been stressful for everyone. We don’t have the casual connections we once had with people in our workplaces, schools, places of worship, or community gathering spots. Furthermore, the political and racial tensions in recent years further contribute to the fact that many of us are now more guarded when it comes to opening up to others. These social factors compound the other reasons we may feel lonely and disconnected such as moving to a new city, losing friends or family, depression, social anxiety, or the winter blues.
Q: What can we do when we're struggling with feeling isolated?
A: Danie Duron, MA, LPC: The first step is to make our own needs known. To do that, we have to know what we need, so take a good look at that emotionally, physically and relationally. Then, step two is finding out what the people we care about need. The main thing I want you to take away is connection in needed by humans. Find a way that you can connect or reconnect with those you love.
A: Selina Engle, LMSW: Realize that you are not alone. There is no person alive that is happy all the time. Try to accept that it is ok to feel unhappy and lonely during the winter in a pandemic and that you are not alone. Find pleasure in the everyday experiences. Although it is very easy to focus on the negative at this time, there are still so many positives waiting to be discovered around us. Work at finding those positives in your everyday life. Mark the happy moments. Take special note and make a big hubbub about them when they do occur. Or try new things. Dive into things that you always wanted to try but never made the time to do. Join chat groups online, take up crocheting or knitting, or remodel/rearrange a room in your house. All these things can create new sensations and give you a sense of accomplishment.
A: Eric Nykamp, LMSW: Reach out to people you care about. Prioritize making time to connect with the people who are still here who are important to us, especially as our work and social routines are changing. Send a text, write a card, or set up a time to video-chat or have a phone call – but make the effort to keep relating to people who are important to you, even if you cannot be face-to-face as easily these days. It could do wonders for your mental health. Many book groups, bible studies, or interest groups have online meetings now. Find something that interests you.
Q: What can we do when we feel we've exhausted some of these options?
A: Eric Nykamp, LMSW: Talk with your therapist! I know, I know - you are reading this in a newsletter from a therapy practice! But if your therapist is a person in your support network, talking about how to find connection in this historical moment with someone who knows your specific situation could be validating and a helpful way to process these emotions.