As we work together to curb the spread of Covid-19, we are still struggling to understand the depth of its lasting impact. The undoubtedly significant toll its spread has had on our health and our economies is far from simple in explanation. The huge loss of life has been tragic, and millions continue to struggle financially, but there are many covid challenges being faced that simmer under the radar. Whether the pandemic acted as a catalyst for creating problems or making them worse, these issues have been dangerously overlooked with potentially damaging or even life-threatening results. At Asteya we believe strongly in helping to promote wellness in every aspect of life, so we want to make sure we aren’t afraid to talk about the things that matter most.
The Fear of Loneliness
In light of lockdowns and quarantines, many of us will have experienced a feeling of loneliness that might have felt new. Disconnected from our friends and family, it is hardly surprising that we would see a societal jump in the number of individuals feeling isolated. But for many people, those feelings are temporary and we have the mental capacity and resources to distract ourselves or cheer ourselves up. For far too many, however, this isn’t a possibility, and the fact is that systemic loneliness can be crippling in so many ways. According to a Cigna 2020 study, 61% of Americans are lonely and they span the spectrum of ages from teens to the elderly. The realities of Covid-19 have seen a fusion of the key triggers that cause loneliness, an over-use of social media, living alone, and remote working. Worst of all, those who experience this level of loneliness have a 26% higher chance of dying, (32% if they live alone) and a higher incident rate of stroke, cancer, and Alzheimer’s.
What can we do for others? If you think you know someone who might be feeling lonely or isolated, try to do everything you can to reach out. Regular check-ins and updates will make them feel cared for and drawing a smile or a laugh will definitely brighten their day. Try to engage them in activities or events that make them feel most comfortable and seen or suggest simple things like staying on the phone while you watch a movie together.
What can we do for ourselves? If you are feeling lonely, focus on reestablishing foundations. Reach out to loved ones or friends, no matter how long it is since you have spoken. The spread of the pandemic has normalized the long-overdue catch-up to where people are delightedly surprised when anyone reaches out. Spend a little time each day messaging or talking to people you care about; it will help you feel more connected and improve your mental health. If you don’t feel comfortable talking to people from your past, research online and local groups that match your interests on sites like Meetup, Citysocializer, Nextdoor, IVYConnect, and Wine for the People. You could find like-minded people who share your love of a hobby or can’t wait to try a new venue when things open up. You are not alone in how you feel and by reaching out, you could be helping someone else who feels just like you.
The Stranglehold of Social Media
As well as perpetuating feelings of loneliness, social media has presented a host of challenges for individuals, particularly women, during the lockdown. To be fair, social media does have its good side. Facebook and messaging apps have been crucial in staying in touch with people we can’t see IRL. Sharing images of growing babies or live streaming big events are evidence of where technology can significantly enhance the everyday. But it most definitely has its darker side too. Reading toxic stories or comparing ourselves to the social lives of other people can be extremely dangerous for both our physical and mental health. We all know that too much screen time isn’t healthy for our bodies or mind, but what we are scrolling through can be even more detrimental. As well as the content, the online environments we find ourselves in can be restrictive and dismissive where inclusion is actively discouraged and our voices are silenced, judged, or attacked.
What can we do? Funnily enough, the answer isn’t to just turn off your phone. Although you definitely should try doing that more often so you can enjoy some proper ‘me-time’ and more healthy activities. But we can’t possibly give them up altogether (no matter how much we might sometimes wish we could). Therefore, the solution lies in being more discerning about our social choices, limiting our exposure to any potential trigger environments, and protecting others in vulnerable situations. One app that promotes conversation as ‘self-care’ is the women-led sensation, Quilt. Founded in 2017 this real-time audio network was designed to create an inclusive social media experience that aims to restore human connection without requiring an invitation or fee. This is the type of online social interaction platform that can empower individuals, especially women, to be themselves, to share their experiences, and reach out for help or make vital connections. The most important thing is to remember that you deserve the best from your online world and that making comparisons or incurring abuse of any kind is totally unacceptable.
Read more tips on how to overcome challenges faced during the pandemic in the second part of this series.