Pandemic of LONELINESS
During the pandemic our telephone calls to our family and friends are the exchange of concerns and complaints. The conversation topic would be typical at both ends such as “I have not stepped outside my house for few months”, “getting bored”, “I get my groceries and medical supplies delivered at the gate”, “I am attending Church service online” and “my son is attending online classes” and so on.
I was never asocial before the pandemic but my social batteries did run out a lot quicker than others. During these on and off lockdowns I could not attend Church or go for quick shopping, could not attend any birthday parties or social events and I felt that I am not capable of human interactions anymore.
Sometimes I was worried but also strangely relieved that I don’t have to dress up and make efforts to hold conversations anymore. But this relief was temporary.
The above-mentioned situation evoked a sense of empathy as well confusion in me.
We can all agree to the fact that the pandemic has changed the way we used to interact with the people around us. Everything around us was convenient and there was no need to give a second thought to fix the time, place and distance for any activity we wanted to do.
At present, with social distancing being the new norms of survival during this deadly pandemic, people across the globe are staying cooped up inside their homes, as much as possible.
We are terrified of the mere sight of strangers in our vicinity. Our murmuring ‘bless you when someone sneezes or coughs have been paused and became alarming. We carry hand sanitisers and disinfectants like our weapons ready to spray the invisible enemy away. We step out of our house with ready face masks and face shields as our armours in the battle.
A couple of months ago, we were almost enthusiastic and hopeful of the time when things would go back to the “normal” that we were so used to. Even after a year and half down the road, almost everyone prefers to be confined within the walls of their home.
We, humans, are adaptable beings, and hence, just like that, we have adapted to spending less than a fraction of time outside of homes.
No one knows when and how this deadly pandemic will end. We are getting increasingly comfortable with the idea of spending our whole day inside our homes, to the point where it may get scary.
It is scary because when the day finally comes when the restrictions are lifted, interstate and international travel begins, the malls have the season-end sale, the theatres start featuring the latest release and the swings in children parks become functional again still we may not want to step outside anymore.
While staying alone, may give you a greater perspective of your own emotions and may even reduce the need for constant validation, it also strips us from one of the very essences of what makes us human– social interactions.
Additionally, an extended amount of isolation can also trigger feelings of anxiety and depressive episodes in those with vulnerable mental health. This is precisely why we need human connections and find novel methods of connecting with our circle or group, especially during these testing times.
While physical distance continues to be a regular norm for an unforeseen future, we can always make use of social media platforms, voice calling and video calling to tackle our loneliness. Even if we have started to feel incredibly comfortable in our cocoon, we may have to remind ourselves that we always need our tribe with us to share our anxieties and show care concerns to the problems they are facing while we are living alone during a pandemic.
Most importantly the elderly who are not friendly with advanced communication technology, have user-friendly options to use the telephone. They can be kept in touch by simply making telephone calls which will give them a sense of belongingness and security during this pandemic.
Though the advanced technology of communication is a blessing during pandemic, may not be able to recreate the warmth of a hug or the anti-depressant like the impact of coffee dates with your best friends. In a new normal lifestyle, we need to take the first step and just drop a little hi to people you care for but haven’t spoken to in a month or so. There is no need to take part in Zoom call meet-ups with extended family members right away, but setting aside some time to speak to those you are closest to should be the goal. Ultimately, we are all in this together and we will come out of this together.
We are brave and already battling a pandemic courageously, let’s not create another PANDEMIC OF LONELINESS.
Prof Meena Krishnan