In this post, I want to talk about how to cope with loneliness. There is a silent epidemic that is gnawing away at our existence. An epidemic that has always been present since the arrival of sin, but which is not talked about. An epidemic that has grown as a product of COVID-19, and its effects will continue for generations. I am talking about the epidemic of loneliness.
Loneliness is defined as the feeling of being alone or lacking social connection. It is a state of deep anguish. Neuroscientists identify loneliness as a state of hypervigilance connected to our limbic system. Loneliness is the feeling of having less affection and closeness than we would desire in the intimate or relational areas.
Studies about to cope with loneliness in the pandemic
A recent study performed by Cigna insurance revealed that half of the citizens of this country always, or sometimes, feel lonely or abandoned. Fifty-four percent say that nobody knows them always or sometimes. The truth is that loneliness is an epidemic phenomenon in this country.
Surprisingly, this study found that Generation Z, those between the ages of 18 and 22, is the loneliest generation, with 79 percent reporting loneliness. The Millennial generation is not far away, following with 71 percent. The least isolated generation were the Boomers. These statistics reveal that it is time to provide an answer to this loneliness.
In Kansas City, there was an advertisement that said the following: “I will hear you talk for 30 minutes without making any comment for $5.”
It sounds like a hoax to you, right? But the person who made the advertisement meant it. Did someone call? You bet! It was not long before this person received 10 to 20 calls per day. The pain of loneliness was so strong that some people were willing to try anything for half an hour in the company of a stranger.
Loneliness is the epidemic
The truth is that loneliness is an epidemic that is not talked about and has grown to astronomical proportions due to the mandatory isolation we’re living in. If before the COVID-19 pandemic arrived, the statistics reflected a dreary reality, can you imagine the situation we are experiencing right now when hospitals and places for the elderly forbid visiting relatives or those who are hospitalized?
When do people who live alone have to maintain social distance? Parks and schools closed, without sports, without public events. Everything closed. This is unprecedented for those who already normally lived alone. Being alone in their isolation is perceived as torture. This is the reason why we need to learn how to cope with loneliness.
Scientists, for several years, have shown that loneliness is emotionally painful and it can produce psychiatric disorders, such as depression, anxiety, schizophrenia, and even hallucinatory delusions. But, recent studies by UCLA have shown how destructive loneliness is in the human body.
The 2015 UCLA study showed that social isolation triggers cellular changes that result in chronic inflammation, predisposing those who are solitary to conditions such as heart disease, stroke, cancer, and Alzheimer’s disease. The same study concluded by stating that lonely people had a 26 percent higher risk of dying. This figure increased to 32 percent of those people lived alone.
What does the Bible say about how we should cope with loneliness? In the process of creating this world, God said, “It is not good for man to be alone.” Adam had been created in the relational image of God. A triune God who lives in a community. Adam could not have reflected the relational image of God if he had remained alone.
This matter of living in a community was so important to God that when He created Adam, he placed an organ called the brain, which has many functions, but recent studies have shown that one of the most important functions of the human brain is to establish emotional connections with the people around us. This is why God’s act of creation was not finished until Adam received a partner so that he could reflect the relational image of God.
Here is my argument: Human beings have not been created to live in solitude, in confinement. I understand that with COVID-19, this is a mandatory matter, but it is still harmful, especially for those who were already experiencing the effects of the loneliness epidemic.
On March 26, just as the COVID-19 pandemic took over the world, researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology released a report on loneliness. That is the first human study to show how both loneliness and hunger share deep signals in a part of the brain that governs very basic impulses of reward and motivation. The results point to a revealing conclusion: Our need to connect with others is apparently as fundamental as our need to eat.
John Cacioppo, who was considered the doctor of loneliness thanks to his contributions to the field, said that being alone or among people who are strangers, who do not know or understand you, triggers a fight or flight response in the human brain. Cacioppo argued that the body understands that being alone or being with strangers is a threat that it experiences due to the need for innate emotional security in human beings.
Therefore, this hypervigilance in response to isolation has been embedded in our nervous system to produce the anxiety we associate with loneliness. The sympathetic system’s response to this threat is an increase in respiration, our hearts speed up, our blood pressure increases, or we do not sleep.
7 ways to cope with loneliness
If, sadly, you are part of the group that is affected by the epidemic of loneliness, I invite you to take advantage of this opportunity and start practicing self-knowledge and growing emotionally. After the company that God offers you, the best company you can have in your life, is you?
This is why you must be careful to maintain your physical and emotional balance so that you are pleasant and warm with others. I give you seven ways to cope with loneliness every day.
1. Start every morning with Jesus.
Even before getting out of bed, invite Jesus to be your company during the day that is starting. Take time to meditate on His word and pray to find, that peace that only He can give you.
2. Thank God for the day He has given you.
Stand in front of your mirror and greet yourself. Do it, wishing yourself a happy day, and thank God for five the things that He has given you that morning.
3. Hydrate yourself before breakfast.
Have a glass of water with a squeeze of lemon. As you drink the water, think about how good you feel about yourself. Besides, recognize that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit and you must take care of it.
4. Practice meditation using diaphragmatic breathing.
Get into a position where you have your back right and inhale, counting up to four seconds. Then, hold the air for seven seconds, and at the end, you exhale for up to eight seconds. As you do this exercise, you can meditate on the sacrifice that Jesus made for you on the cross on Calvary.
5. Do exercises.
Look for exercises on Instagram, YouTube, or in applications according to your fitness level. They should never be more intense. In this case, go softer.
6. Connect with family members or friends by telephone or video call.
Living alone does not mean that you have to be emotionally isolated. You can connect with those who love you and are by your side using many means. Or simply reach out to your neighbors and see if you can help them out.
7. Set your mind to reading or doing your favorite hobby or home activities.
On the other hand, there are good books or activities that you can help you through the day. You should not let your mind be idle.
So, remember that you are not alone as you cope with loneliness. God is with you. Though your father and mother forsake you, Jehovah will receive you. I present to you a God who, in the midst of your loneliness and isolation, is by your side and takes care of you, helping you cope with loneliness.
Certainly, the epidemic of loneliness should not come to your life. Your attitude to the life that God has given you could define the effects of the epidemic that you are experiencing. Also, connect with that loving God who gave His life for you.
Make a connection with your family members and friends. Connect with your community. Do not let your loneliness define your destiny. You can go beyond the limitations you may have right now. You can do everything through Christ.