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How To Cope With Coronavirus Loneliness & Depression

It’s been six months and while we may have adjusted to working from home because of the coronavirus pandemic, that doesn’t mean it’s gotten easier to coronavirus lonelinessaccept the changes the pandemic has wrought. We know you’re wondering how to cope with coronavirus loneliness & depression. We can help.

In fact, in my practice I am finding more of my patients are suffering deeper effects of loneliness and depression the longer the social distancing and country lockdowns continue.

There have been some moves to open the country – malls and restaurants are opened with limited seating; some schools and colleges have reopened, but the impacts of coronavirus remain. We must wear masks, we aren’t supposed to have gatherings – like family parties or picnics or work get-togethers. If we are with others we have to stay six feet apart and wear masks. It’s not easy to connect when you aren’t supposed to hug or touch.

Patients wonder about the long-term effects of the stress and anxiety that loneliness is having on their health – both mental and physical. Some patients are reporting weight gain brought about by stress eating and lack of exercise. Others are reporting that while they are getting out and walking, they are bored of doing the same thing day after day – and of potentially having to do it alone.

There are strategies you can employ to help alleviate the stress and anxiety and during telemedicine appointments.

How To Cope With Coronavirus Loneliness & Depression

You don’t have to make wholesale changes and you don’t have to change your schedule; these strategies will fit into your current schedule and are flexible.

Handling and coping with loneliness

The biggest challenge of coronavirus is the quarantine and keeping social distance from loved ones. Even before the pandemic, more than 20% of adults in America reported feeling lonely. Loneliness, typically impacts seniors but it can definitely impact people in all age groups. Surprisingly enough, millennials may be the loneliest of all the groups surveyed.

Keep in mind that isolation and loneliness are different.

  1. Isolation is being away from or alone in relation to friends and family – what the COVID-19 shutdown has caused
  2. Loneliness is your perception of the quality – not the quantity – of the social interactions (or lack) you have.

When you’re isolated that can have a toll on your mental health. Isolation is considered a risk factor for anxiety and depression. There are many individuals who rely on work as a way to stay connected to other humans. For the children in your life, school is how they stay connected and now that school may not be in session, they are being isolated. Children, however, will usually stay connected with their friends via social media but that isn’t a substitute for face-to-face interactions.

Ways to stay healthy during these unprecedented times

  1. Get up and get moving. You may even pass a neighbor while you’re out walking. Stop. Social distance. Have a conversation. Getting out of the house will change your attitude and may help you feel more connected.
  2. Don’t stress eat. I know that’s sometimes easier said than done. It will require pre-planning for your meals and for healthy snacking. Stress and boredom are triggers to stress eating for many people. Food can be a way to self-soothe, but that soothing feeling is fleeting, can lead to weight gain and other health issues.
  3. Go to sleep and get up on a schedule. When you’re stressed and bored and feeling lonely you may turn to sleep as a way to cope and you may be sleeping at odd times during the day and then find you’re not able to sleep at night. Sleep can help reduce stress and help you stay healthier. Getting up and moving during the day will help you sleep better at night.
  4. Interrupt your negative thoughts. It is easy to scroll through social media and feel anxious because of the negativity. It is also easy to get caught in your own negative thoughts which can scroll on a loop through your brain. In these times I’ve been finding my patients get lost in the negative thoughts, partially because they aren’t even aware of the issue. Realizing that you’re having these thoughts is the first step in bringing yourself back to the present, grounding yourself and working to change those thoughts and attitudes into something more positive.
  5. Try to stay positive. We know not every day is going to be a good day. Some days you’re just going to feel “down.” That is all right, as long as you know you’re having more good days than bad. I recommend keeping a gratitude journal. Keep it with you. Write down the good things that happen to you during the day. Remember, your gratitude doesn’t have to be huge. It can be something as small as, seeing a butterfly on a flower, seeing a neighbor to whom you can wave, having great weather when you walk the dog, not having your coffee creamer be curdled. If you talk to or Zoom with a friend or family member, write that in your journal; we have a tendency to think something happened longer ago than it did. You may have talked with a friend on Monday and now it’s Wednesday but you feel like you haven’t talked to them in a week – perspective matters.

Talk with someone. If you find you can’t stop your negative thoughts from spiraling if you find you can’t locate the positive in your daily routines, if you need ways to cope with the loneliness and isolation give our office a call. We can schedule a telemedicine appointment with you.

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Jason Wasser, LMFT is a Florida Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, Certified Neuro Emotional Technique Practitioner and Certified Entrepreneur Coach.
He runs a full service online Therapy & Coaching practice in South Florida and is the host of the You Winning Life Podcast.

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