Loneliness in Lockdown

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Some people have said lockdown has been a great equalizer. But I think many of us know this is not true. We may all be weathering the same storm, but we are in very different boats. Some of us have the financial stability to get through relatively unscathed. Others of us are worrying about paying the bills and the impact of furlough. Many of us may be lucky enough to have good job stability whilst others feel the employment grounds shifting under their feet.

If you’re among the lucky few to live in big houses or have a garden then you have more options than those whose accommodation may struggle to hold immediate family or roommates at the best of times. Depending where in the world we live, we may or may not have access to free healthcare should we become unwell. And depending on our background and identity we may still face health inequalities.

On top of all this, there is also who you are facing lockdown with. There are some who are isolated and alone, and some surrounded by friends and family. Some of us may have difficult relationships with those we’re living with and no outlet or recourse to action. And some may be experiencing a new level of closeness. So, lockdown is not a great equalizer. But when it comes to loneliness and relationships it has, for me, been a great teacher.

Lonely But Not Alone

Being alone in the centre of a busy room is a cliché for a reason. Despite loneliness eliciting images of people staring out of the window watching the rain or in various forms of distress. Many of us will know or have direct experience of feelings of loneliness no matter how many people we’re surrounded by or how robust our social network may be. And we need to listen to those feelings of loneliness. Just like any other emotion, loneliness is a communication. It’s telling us that our needs are being unmet; just as hunger tells us we need to eat or tiredness tells us we need sleep. Loneliness is our bodies way of telling us we’re unhappy with our level of communication and connectivity. Which, as we know, is integral to our mental health.

But we often don’t talk about loneliness and it continues to be stigmatized. As if being lonely is indicative of something wrong with us. Despite the fact that we are all likely to face it at some time in our lives. If not on and off throughout. It’s part of the human experience but it’s also part of what keeps us alive. It’s the third level of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs after sustenance and security. As humans we grow and hopefully thrive in relation to those around us. As young children we need good attachments to teach us the blueprint for safe and secure future relationships. How we connect and communicate with people and to the level which we feel comfortable is a survival mechanism.

Loneliness Realisations

I feel very privileged with my lockdown. Whilst we’re not rolling in money and we don’t have a massive house. I am lucky. We have a roof over our heads, we’ve both continued to have work and as you’ve guessed from my use of the plural, I’m isolating with my husband who I have a great relationship with. All good so far. And yet, I confess that loneliness seems to have crept into my life without me noticing. I didn’t feel profoundly lonely. Neither was I experiencing the anguish or sadness I’ve experienced when I’ve been lonely before in my life. I didn’t see it coming and yet suddenly one night I realized it was there.

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In the past I’ve experienced loneliness as a loss of something. A lack. The feeling of not being understood or the absence of warmth. But that wasn’t true this time. Or if it was I didn’t notice it. This time it felt more insidious and a longer time coming. I noticed it less in a feeling of loss and more in a feeling of need. I realized I was clinging to habits and minutiae that I hadn’t clung to in years. At first I thought perhaps this was due to pregnancy (for my experience of pregnancy during Covid-19 click here) or something. But further reflection made me realize I was trying to self-soothe. Although I hadn’t acknowledged my loneliness, my actions had automatically led me to reach out for a source of calm and comfort.

Despite having a great relationship with my partner. The other day I commented how surprised I was that we weren’t fed up of each other yet – luckily he agreed. I realized that the love we share and our genuine friendship, although wonderful and everything it could be, wasn’t enough to fulfill my need for connectivity. I’ve never really considered myself an overly social person. I can find socializing overwhelming at times. And I was never super popular as a kid or part of a massive circle of friends. But the sudden over-night reduction in socializing opportunities made me realize how much I rely on the other relationships I do have. Despite meeting up on Zoom and more time spent with family quizzes; it hasn’t been enough. I’ve needed more to keep me going and feel connected to others.

Pro’s & Con’s

This realization has taken me by surprise. I’ve had to acknowledge how much I benefit from being around other people in general. As well as socializing one to one or in a group. I feed off the energy in a space filled with people. At times, this will motivate me and energize me. It has the power to turn my mood around and make me feel confident. Other times, socializing is the last thing I want to do. It may make me feel more uncomfortable or irritable or possibly even alienated. So, this ground-breaking insight isn’t all sunshine and daisies. Whilst I clearly need connectivity and communication for mental health. I also need to protect myself by making it work for me. Sometimes it will be a help and other times a hindrance.

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 As I’ve written in posts before, the difference between alone and lonely will be highly individualized but is also about choice. One can choose to be alone and find it highly beneficial. It may be a time to recoup and re-balance. An opportunity to do self-care or to spend time with yourself which you may enjoy.

For others, being alone can be a terrifying prospect and profoundly distressing. Often this occurs when there’s a desire to connect and be with others and this need is denied. That’s true for all of us. Socializing when we want to and in ways we feel comfortable fulfils a need and can help us boost our mental health and achieve more. But when it’s enforced on us or is something we feel we have to do, as opposed to wanting to do. Then the impact of our mental health may change and no matter who we’re with, if we’re uncomfortable, the outcomes for our mental health may not be so positive.

What are your thoughts or how have you experience being in lockdown? Do you think loneliness occurs when our choice to connect is taken away? Let me know below!

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33 thoughts on “Loneliness in Lockdown

  1. Great post! You’re so right loneliness and being alone are two separate things although people often mistake them for being the same. Years ago I dealt with an incredible sensation of loneliness due to depression eventhough I had loved ones and friends around. But I didn’t have that connection I was seeking or my mental state was craving so I appreciate that you bring that up in your post.

  2. I agree that you can choose to enjoy being alone or focus on how lonely you are. It really is all about your perspective. Just thinking about one positive thing a day about being alone can really help.

  3. I’m not sure how people can think that lockdowns have been a great equaliser? If you’re a millionaire or wealthier, you’re lockdowns are going to be far more comfortable than everyone else’s, having you own gyms, pools, basketball courts, etc.

    Even just being able to own or rent a property with a garden is a luxury most don’t have, and something that would is obviously beneficial during a lockdown.

    Then theirs the financial issues you also mentioned. With unpaid rents stacking up, and now way to clear that debt, when the lockdowns end, people are looking at being made homeless

  4. This was a great post. I have lots of mixed feelings about the lockdown, I’ll be honest at the start I didn’t find it that hard and even though I was still in work it was only on a rota so I had a lot of time to work on my blog. My fiance is self employed though and work has been tough for him throughout this. I’ve been back in work full time since the start of June and I’m getting fed up of not having anything to look forward to now. I’m very introverted though so the time alone has been fine for me!

  5. You’re so right, I’ve been reflecting on this same thing recently. I thought I was well prepared for lockdown because I’m an introvert and social events make me extremely anxious (I usually cancel), but I was not. I miss my work colleagues, and the few social interactions I could manage. I miss meeting people for coffee and having a film night in – the low intensity socialisation I relied on to get me by without realising. It’s a really tough time for all of us in different ways. And I think it’s given us a proper chance to reflect on who we are what our true needs are!

  6. I love how honest this beautiful post is. I believe times like this can really challenge a person mentally. I was lucky to be with my parents throughout this and be able to have a garden too, however I did feel lonely without normality and having friends and my partner around, that on top of being unemployed during this uncertain time didn’t help at all. It did give me a chance to sit down and really appreciate the small things though, which I think a lot of us just forget about in our daily lives. I hope you’re doing ok x

  7. Brilliant post, I don’t think anyone can say that they haven’t spent some of this time feeling alone. As you say you can be in a room full of people and still feel alone.

    It is so easy to say that we are all in this together but we really are not at all.

    Thank you for sharing so honestly x x

  8. I really enjoyed reading this post. For the most part, lockdown for me hasn’t been all that bad. I’m in a fortunate position where I’m able to work from home, however now that my boyfriend has returned to work after furlough I’m starting to find myself feeling a little lonelier than I expected I would!

  9. I was really enjoying lockdown at first, because I love spending time by myself. But as time has gone on, I have missed being at work and around people every day. Great post 🙂

  10. I love to have alone time…but you’re definitely right- being lonely is entirely different. 10 years ago I was living with my now ex-husband, 3 kids, and my parents who had come on hard times and were living with us. There were 6 other people in that house but I felt utterly alone. Thank goodness I am in a much happier relationship and situation now!

  11. Thanks for this great post, it’s one that made me think quite a bit. I’m an introvert and I do love that I have a lot more time to write or create, but I have to admit that I miss talking with people (face-to-face), holding little meetings in cafés. Even if I do Zoom or video call with them, it’s still not enough. Maybe this is also because my love language is physical touch and I miss all the hugs.

  12. Maslow Needs is bringing me back marketing at university flashbacks. I love reading posts like this and it’s really interesting to see how people are experiencing and responding to the lockdown. I’ve learnt a lot about self-care during this time and taking care of myself. I unfortunately don’t have a garden but I am very fortunate to have my family around me.

    http://thesydneysider.com/

  13. It’s so important for people to understand that you can feel lonely even if you’re surrounded my people! But right now more than ever it’s probably affecting more people. I hope you’re feeling ok <3 xx

    Katie | katieemmabeauty.com

  14. Such a great post. I think many people forget that you can be surrounded by people and still feel lonely. It’s all to do with the quality of our connection with people. When the quality is low or isnt giving is the connection we need, then we feel lonely

    My partner and l are in full lockdown together as he is sheilding, and we said the exact same thing to each other, that we are surprised we havent fallen out!

    But, as well as it is going, l am missing people. I’m quite anxious and not great in social situations, but I’ve realised that l do still benefit from being around people.

    I think it’s as you say. That lockdown removes our choice. As amazing as our partners are, they cant fulfill all our needs. We can usually choose who to spend time with, depending on our needs.. a shopping day with a friend, a quiet coffee, a walk with someone in silence, its these choices being removed which l think is making some of us feel lonely because we can respond to our changing daily connection needs.

    Now l have waffled, but l related a lot to this post and l am grateful for your insight.

    1. Thanks Finlay! I couldn’t agree more! And it wouldn’t be healthy to rely on partners to fulfil our need for connectivity. It’s healthy if we’re lucky enough to have a few options. And we need to connect in different ways with different people. I love the idea of quality over quantity!

  15. This is something I have come to realise over the past year when my entire life has changed! I think I was more lonely before lockdown when I could see people, now my life has changed I have people I can truly count on and if anything lockdown for me has brought me closer to my friends and although i’ve spent more time alone I’ve felt less lonely.

  16. Great post! I am lucky to live with my parents through this. But I still do miss my friends and going out and other stuff.

    But used this lockdown to improve my health mentally and physically. Spreading positivity and ignoring negativity. That’s what’s keeping me sane!

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