Loneliness during COVID-19: Is there beauty in loneliness?

By Noel Khayanje

Loneliness is a state of solitude or being alone/invisible in a world full of people, a feeling of isolation or not being able to connect with other people, longing to get love, concern, attention, closeness than you have. It could also be an inability to engage in and enjoy what everyone else is doing; a feeling that you are not having as much love and closeness as you would like, an inability to find meaning in one's life, experience the world from subjective negative and unpleasant feelings related to the deficient social relations, or a feeling of disconnectedness or isolation.

Loneliness is a universal human emotion that is both unique and complex to each person hence its causes vary from one person to another. Loneliness could lead to poor physical or psychological health, it can be paralyzing, painful, distressing with feelings of shame and embarrassment that you are a failure for not having friends or socializing with other people.

It distorts our perceptions of life. It can also make you push people away or have an overwhelming need for attention or affection, need to be heard, understood or cared for which may make one desperate and depended on other people, aggressive, too anxious or fearful of being alone and other people may push away from you too, initiating a devastating chain of reactions.

Loneliness is sometimes referred to as a silent killer, because it can get worse as you continue keeping to yourself and becoming lonelier by the day, and creates both psychological (hesitant to talk to people, developing fear, becoming withdrawn, suspicious, uneasy having small talks with people, hyper vigilant to social threats like rejection or exclusion) and physical health issues.

Loneliness can be caused by different experiences, for example, the breakup of a relationship you treasured, the loss of a loved one, a move to a new place where you don’t know people, lack of social skills, living alone when you are used to being with people, however living alone does not necessarily mean one will be lonely. Loneliness can also stem from past experiences of neglect, isolation, or abuse, or feeling lonely despite being with people, having a busy life and not able to socialize with people, physical separation from friends and family as occasioned by the current pandemic that we are all struggling with. So loneliness is something that people experience at one time or another and there is something that can be done to manage it.

COVID-19 has caused a feeling of loneliness among several people. This could be as a result of the regulations that were put in place by the government in the bid to alleviate spreading of the virus. Some of the regulations that are likely to cause loneliness are; reduced social interaction as a result of most activities including learning and some jobs being conducted online. The closure of schools and universities means most learners are away from their peers and don’t have the luxury of:

  • Meeting with their friends as they used to,
  • Engaging in physical school club activities to keep themselves occupied,
  • Engaging in sports activities, as they were used to before the pandemic struck,
  • Meeting their classmates physically in class,
  • Hanging out with friends among other activities.

Signs and symptoms of loneliness

When lonely, you may experience emptiness, sadness or feel as if there is something important missing when you are alone. Some of the symptoms you are likely to experience when you are lonely are;

  • Sleep disruption, or sleep related issues;
  • Feeling restless or anxious;
  • Decreased appetite;
  • Low energy levels;
  • Feelings of self-doubt, worthlessness, self- doubt;
  • Body pain;
  • Increased desire to binge watch TV, social media;
  • Excessive consumption of alcohol or drugs;

Part two of the article will cover strategies on how you can manage loneliness during this time. If you feel overwhelmed and need help, contact a counselor. You can reach us on 0730116748/750 or email: counsel@usiu.ac.ke.

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