Coping with loneliness when you work from home (alone)

Coping with loneliness when you work from home (alone)

Covid-19, also known as coronavirus, has brought sweeping and sudden changes to the way we live our day-to-day lives. Quarantine, social distancing and working remotely has left many of us feeling disconnected from our friends, loved ones and colleagues and quite frankly, isolated, all while suffering from the sort of cabin fever most of us have never experienced before.

And however unwelcome, loneliness typically comes as part of the pack with isolation. 

A known risk factor for poor physical, mental, and cognitive health, loneliness is as bad for overall health as smoking. It triggers the fight or flight stress response, adding to the stress that most of us are already feeling as worries progressively build up.

So if you’re feeling stuck at home and starting to seriously miss a regular routine that includes real-life face time with other people, there are a few easy things you can do to feel better. Read on for our best tips.

1. Create (and stick by) a routine.

People who work from home on a regular basis consistently recommend this one. Structure your day into set working hours, mealtimes, and time for fun, just like you would when working a 9 to 5 in the office.

Shower and get dressed like you’re going to leave the house—don’t give in to the temptation to loll around in pyjamas like you’re home sick—trust us, you’ll be glad you’re presentable when a colleague suggests a quick video call.

And whenever you can, slot extra time into your timetable to socialize and work on your mental wellbeing.

Make texting or calling your connections an integral part of your daily routine. Spend a few minutes in the morning and the evening, clearing your mind of repetitive thoughts in a journal or your Foundations thought record. Or relax with deep belly breathing or mindfulness exercises—mindfulness training has been linked to reduced feelings of loneliness. And try not to stay up all night bingeing news or streaming shows, either—messing up your sleeping and waking schedule is only likely to make you feel worse.

2. Stay connected (virtually).

In difficult times, it’s essential to keep track of people you care about for your and their peace of mind. Make an extra effort to check in with friends and loved ones via messages and calls, especially if they’re home alone.

This is especially true when it comes to your elderly friends and family members, as they may have trouble using technology to stay connected.

Even if you’re not normally a fan, use the video function (available on everything from Facetime and WhatsApp to Facebook and Instagram) when possible. When you can’t get out to meet face-to-face, being able to see the other person smile and laugh can help you feel more connected.

Keep your work network strong and help prevent misunderstandings that can happen via text messages and email, by scheduling video conferences whenever possible.

And if you’re feeling especially lonely, social media isn’t necessarily a bad idea.

As long as you use it to connect with current friends (or reconnect with long lost classmates) and resist the temptation to scroll through endless epidemic updates, it could even help you feel better. There is some evidence that social media can reduce loneliness and improves social connectedness, especially when face-to-face interactions aren’t possible.

Another way to make social media interactions more meaningful and worthwhile is to create smaller groups to discuss a common interest (travel, motorcycles, gardening, fitness, home cooking hacks) and communicate more authentically. Read a book or watch a show together and schedule a live chat or group hang out to go over what happened, what everyone loved (or hated) and why.

3. Do some good.

When you’re feeling trapped in your house, it’s hard to feel like you can make a difference out in the world. But you can, however small it may feel. And helping others increases feelings of social connectedness, effectively combating loneliness.

Take time to offer what resources you can to others who need assistance.

When you make a grocery run, ring your elderly neighbours to see if there’s anything you can pick up for them at the store (while maintaining social distancing for their safety).

If you’re able to work from home, and the single mom next door has to go in to the office (and you feel comfortable doing so), volunteer to check in on her teenager who's distance-learning throughout the day.

It’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking that volunteer work can only happen in person, but with an internet connection and a trusted device, that’s simply not true.

It’s easier than ever to help others from home. Wire some much-needed cash to a charity of your choice, or an acquaintance who’s been laid off from a job where remote work isn’t possible.

Tutor your nieces and nephews in your area of expertise via Zoom, Skype or Google Hangouts, or offer your professional services (design, copywriting, accounting) pro bono to your favourite cause.

How do you cope with loneliness? Share your tips with us at foundations@koahealth.com.