We at Counseling Services wanted to bring some awareness to common themes we have noticed during the COVID-19 pandemic and some ideas of how to manage them. So go ahead and keep reading – you might be surprised how much you relate and you may learn some good strategies to manage these feelings.
People have never felt more alone at a time when we are all experiencing universal impacts of the pandemic. This is because of what the pandemic is requiring of us in terms of physical distancing. We are living through hardship without being able to gather together with others for support. This is a challenge none of us have had to experience before. This sense of isolation during the pandemic is ubiquitous. One of the most effective ways to manage the feelings that are coming up is purely to acknowledge them and discussing them with other people. The other highly effective way to combat this experience of loneliness is to lean into your relationships in whatever creative ways you can. Don’t forget the usefulness of masking up, getting outside and seeing people in person. We have to be very careful about our in person interactions right now especially as younger adults (Press Herald 4.2.21), but that doesn’t mean there aren’t safe ways to interact. A walk outside with a friend masked is a great way to get more connected. The act of walking with someone can help you open up. With the weather warming it’s a perfect time to get more involved in this activity.
Paranoia about social relationships
For some the Zoom and facetime with friends for purely social reasons has decreased or never really got going in the first place. After a year of seeing people in person much less frequently, many are thinking about and attempting to make sense of their social interactions in different ways. As humans we often try to make sense of social situations in terms of ourselves. With the pandemic upending and shifting so many of our everyday experiences into new territory it can be tricky to feel like we have a good understanding of our friendships and social connections. Unfortunately when we are stressed we are more likely to make inaccurate assumptions. The most common one we have noticed is personalization of ambiguous situations.
The thoughts we often hear about are “people don’t like me as much as I thought” or “I’ve done something to rub them the wrong way.” These are common misperceptions as people are trying to make sense of the differences in their relationships. Here is what we want you to keep in mind: This pandemic has thrown everyone off kilter. No one was prepared to navigate this new social world, so everyone is struggling in their own way. A more realistic assumption to make is that your friend is also feeling a bit more unsure and unsteady. Instead of assuming they are less interested in you try assuming that they are struggling and need you to reach out to them more. You are more likely to get your desired result that way.
Feeling more disconnected from reality
With the increase in computer and phone use during these times students have remarked about an increased feeling that their worlds don’t feel as “real,” as if they are outside of themselves in some way. This is not surprising when considering how much time people are spending indoors not interacting with people in person. Interactions virtually with others can leave us feeling not completely connected and it’s important to acknowledge this so we can find ways to improve this issue. One example is just naming the differences as we interact on zoom or facetime with people. Again, that act of acknowledging what feels odd can actually increase our connection. Another example is just acknowledging what’s making us feel this way and taking steps to balance it by getting outside and seeing people masked and in person.
We hope these insights are helpful to you and that you can use them as you care for your mental health.