Staying in a state of prolonged aloneness can be a paradoxical beast. On the one hand, it causes us to avoid stressful social situations, and on the other, we still want and need friendships and deep connections with others
This is all made more complicated by the looming reality of a COVID winter with almost no social interaction opportunities.
COVID quarantine has been hard, but the spring and summer gave us safe options to interact and socialize outdoors. The warm weather invited us to meet others for walks, hikes, picnics, and even concerts, as open spaces lowered the risk of transmission.
But as we close out of fall and enter winter weather, the pandemic continues with no end in sight. As the weather grows colder and the days get darker, we are less able to socialize outdoors, and indoor settings might still be unsafe. We feel disconnected, isolated, and lonely.
As Sharon Salzberg states: “Throughout our lives, we long to love ourselves more deeply and to feel connected to others. Instead, we often contract, fear intimacy and suffer a bewildering sense of separation. We crave love, and yet we are lonely.”
The social dilemma of a Covid Winter
For those of us who feel more comfortable spending time alone, the winter-COVID combination could mean less stress in the short-term. However, this situation is ultimately harmful. We all need to feel connected, and after a prolonged isolation of several months, it is even harder to reacclimate to social environments. This means that once the winter gives way to spring and the pandemic subsides, we will have an even harder time connecting and relating to others.
Even though socializing might be hard, NOT socializing actually makes things worse because of our inborn need for connection. It removes the opportunity to practice our social skills and increases our sense of disconnection.
Seeking new forms of social connection
The pandemic hasn’t removed all forms of social interaction: it simply changed the landscape. Here are some great social options that can help with of a COVID winter:
Regular video chat sessions, where you might:
- Watch a movie together
- Discuss a book as part of a book club
- Draw or play music.
Pen pal or email correspondence, updating friends on your life and activities.
Meaningful interactive engagement on social media:
- Sharing stories with the people we care about
- Learning from and being inspired by other people’s lives
- Joining a group with a common interest.
The struggles of winter with the COVID pandemic is affecting us all. The people around us can be a powerful source of support and solidarity, and the activities above may be a great way of connecting in these circumstances.
If you find the above steps too challenging, consider speaking to a therapist as a “test drive” for social interaction, relationship building, and support for increased self-understanding and strategies. In connecting with others, we get to know ourselves, and by working on ourselves we learn how to better connect to others