#SWAAYthenarrative

How I Tackled Isolation and Loneliness in a Time of Social Distancing

4min read
Lifestyle

Amidst a time of global turmoil, I had finally acknowledged the turbulence in my own life and confronted the truth about my own feelings on what I had been feeling for a long time now. I was down and lonely and needed change. The solution I found demanded creativity on my part and a little flexibility in approach, but I wasn't alone in doing this.

For me, using online dating for socializing was the key that myself and others desperately needed to overcome the feeling of loneliness that the isolation of the lockdown brought out.

When I looked into studies about how online dating could be helpful in tackling loneliness in uncertain times for people who were already feeling it, I found a range of answers. In the end, the bottom line was that there was potential to help, but at some risk. However, for someone who was vulnerable, the risk felt worth it.

In the end, for me, it was.

What for me were once lonely nights at home struggling with boredom, exhaustion, and mixed dating matches have now become nights where I chat with people who are in a similar situations as myself. Without realizing it, others and myself who were using online dating platforms realized that these just happened to be some of the best ways to meet new people for socializing and to make friends.

Shortly after New Year's Eve, before the Corona virus had fully been swept into the topic of everyday conversation and thought, I had been working in an editorial office. My day-to-day routine was as cyclical to me as sunrise to sunset and I had become numb to anything beyond it.

Single but hooked on a few dating apps, I would wake up alone in my apartment, shower, get dressed for work, and then grab something to eat on my way to the office. From 9-5 I would be doing my thing. Finished with work, I would go home, grab something for dinner and then make that before crashing on my sofa for some solo Netflix and chill.

Sleep, wake-up, rinse, repeat.

Weekends were marginally better if I had anything to do. I often didn't. Friends would stop by as if my tiny apartment was some sort of pop-up store with vaguely interesting knick-knacks not quite interesting enough to buy. Online dating was spontaneous but infrequent. I'd make the rounds on occasion to meet friends, but these kinds of trips seemed to naturally space themselves further apart throughout the year for me.

January had rolled into February and the news was slowly starting to make the rounds that there was an outbreak of some virus that few knew much about. At the time it seemed minor and people's reaction to it a tad overblown.

However, by March things had begun to heat up, and by the middle of the month bars were closing and offices were switching to having its workers do their 9-5 from their own impromptu home offices.

There was something strangely exhilarating about the experience, despite the pandemonium that seemed to be hitting people as they in their quiet panic bought out supermarkets. I, like people all over the world, was acclimating to my own living space being used for something other than simply living in. I wanted to embrace the experience as an opportunity to enjoy some flexibility with my work.

The reality of living in this kind of situation struck home quickly. What little social contact I had kept up prior to the outbreak had dwindled to nothing. I stopped looking for dates altogether. My own self-practiced, subconscious social distancing that I had been slowly ramping up over the past few months hit home as the world around me pushed for an isolation I had already been on track for.

I went from becoming out of touch to completely being a ghost.

Technology is great when it comes to communicating and maintaining these kinds of relationships. But as someone who had unwittingly been socially distant for some time now, it was apparent that I had not kept up with the necessary maintenance relationships, online and in-person, need.

My own situation became something else entirely, looming over me as if this enormous veil I had thrown over my lonely, boring life had been torn away. Now it was plain as day and I was confronting it whether I wanted to or not. I was, and realized that I had been for some time, isolated. I wasn't happy with where I was as a person and felt like my routine had become so large that it was more my identity than I was.

It was a mask to my own exhaustion, boredom, and solitude.

Perhaps it was the threat of COVID-19 that forced me to take a look at my life. Maybe it was being stuck in my small apartment, cooped up with my little bed, tiny kitchen, teensy desk, and a mirror that was growing by the hour.

Whether I had isolated myself bit-by-bit or if my friends had moved on to other, more interesting things I don't know. I was feeling down and was wallowing in the kind of loneliness that had been ever-present but conveniently hidden by my old routine and half-hearted attempts at online dating and socializing.

After weeks of this, I began to take initiative. What triggered my new approach wasn't anything more special than a friend doing her own rounds of catching up. I began to talk with her and we realized that we had completely abandoned some of our older online socializing along with the usual in person meet ups.

That was when it hit me: rather than getting eaten up by how tricky dating and socializing had become, why not use these online dating services to just make friends and have some positive emotional entertainment, maybe even make a friend or two along the way? Sure I have downloaded Bumble, Tinder and Hinge in the past, per the popular hype that millennials give these apps but in my case it didn't feel like any of them offered the substance in conversations I was looking for. It seems as though many people on the app were looking to fill a void they didn't know they had. So I decided to look into other less "hyped up" options that may feel more authentic.

Working with my friend, she and I found a collection of online dating sites at Datingroo that gave us options to work with and opened us up to a world of people in the same boat as we were who had come to the same conclusion. The experts at Datingroo laid out ways to improve our odds with meeting people, as well as what to watch out for when signing up. In a time of great change the world over, we were making a change in our own lives that felt somehow greater.

For myself, I wanted to be happy, and I was going to be happy on my terms.

We are now over two months into an age of social distancing and its tempestuous beginning has led me to calmer waters. I have found a way to engage with others that people all around the world are latching on to: online dating apps. I honestly feel that now more than ever has led me to using these as a way to get a lot of emotional entertainment and to stay positive. Just chatting with people about this has done wonders.

I learned that online dating is more than trying to find a date for many people, myself included. For the past few weeks, I have made almost a dozen friends with people who matched with me, sharing my interests. I'm happy chatting with people who are just as starved for human connection (as opposed to quick hook ups) as I was.

Slowly but surely, we're all coming to terms with who we really are as we are forced to isolate ourselves and remain socially distant. However, as we begin to connect with more and more people, be it for actual dating or simply just meeting new friends and communities, we are also slowly helping each other and ourselves through these difficult times.

3 Min Read
Health

7 Must-have Tips to Keep You Healthy and Fit for the Unpredictable COVID Future

With a lack of certainty surrounding the future, being and feeling healthy may help bring the security that you need during these unpredictable times.

When it comes to your health, there is a direct relationship between nutrition and physical activity that play an enormous part in physical, mental, and social well-being. As COVID-19 continues to impact almost every aspect of our lives, the uncertainty of the future may seem looming. Sometimes improvisation is necessary, and understanding how to stay healthy and fit can significantly help you manage your well-being during these times.

Tip 1: Communicate with your current wellness providers and set a plan

Gyms, group fitness studios, trainers, and professionals can help you to lay out a plan that will either keep you on track through all of the changes and restrictions or help you to get back on the ball so that all of your health objectives are met.

Most facilities and providers are setting plans to provide for their clients and customers to accommodate the unpredictable future. The key to remaining consistent is to have solid plans in place. This means setting a plan A, plan B, and perhaps even a plan C. An enormous amount is on the table for this coming fall and winter; if your gym closes again, what is your plan? If outdoor exercising is not an option due to the weather, what is your plan? Leaving things to chance will significantly increase your chances of falling off of your regimen and will make consistency a big problem.

The key to remaining consistent is to have solid plans in place. This means setting a plan A, plan B, and perhaps even a plan C.

Tip 2: Stay active for both mental and physical health benefits

The rise of stress and anxiety as a result of the uncertainty around COVID-19 has affected everyone in some way. Staying active by exercising helps alleviate stress by releasing chemicals like serotonin and endorphins in your brain. In turn, these released chemicals can help improve your mood and even reduce risk of depression and cognitive decline. Additionally, physical activity can help boost your immune system and provide long term health benefits.

With the new work-from-home norm, it can be easy to bypass how much time you are spending sedentary. Be aware of your sitting time and balance it with activity. Struggling to find ways to stay active? Start simple with activities like going for a walk outside, doing a few reps in exchange for extra Netflix time, or even setting an alarm to move during your workday.

Tip 3: Start slow and strong

If you, like many others during the pandemic shift, have taken some time off of your normal fitness routine, don't push yourself to dive in head first, as this may lead to burnout, injury, and soreness. Plan to start at 50 percent of the volume and intensity of prior workouts when you return to the gym. Inactivity eats away at muscle mass, so rather than focusing on cardio, head to the weights or resistance bands and work on rebuilding your strength.

Be aware of your sitting time and balance it with activity.

Tip 4: If your gym is open, prepare to sanitize

In a study published earlier this year, researchers found drug-resistant bacteria, the flu virus, and other pathogens on about 25 percent of the surfaces they tested in multiple athletic training facilities. Even with heightened gym cleaning procedures in place for many facilities, if you are returning to the gym, ensuring that you disinfect any surfaces before and after using them is key.

When spraying disinfectant, wait a few minutes to kill the germs before wiping down the equipment. Also, don't forget to wash your hands frequently. In an enclosed space where many people are breathing heavier than usual, this can allow for a possible increase in virus droplets, so make sure to wear a mask and practice social distancing. Staying in the know and preparing for new gym policies will make it easy to return to these types of facilities as protocols and mutual respect can be agreed upon.

Tip 5: Have a good routine that extends outside of just your fitness

From work to working out, many routines have faltered during the COVID pandemic. If getting back into the routine seems daunting, investing in a new exercise machine, trainer, or small gadget can help to motivate you. Whether it's a larger investment such as a Peloton, a smaller device such as a Fitbit, or simply a great trainer, something new and fresh is always a great stimulus and motivator.

Make sure that when you do wake up well-rested, you are getting out of your pajamas and starting your day with a morning routine.

Just because you are working from home with a computer available 24/7 doesn't mean you have to sacrifice your entire day to work. Setting work hours, just as you would in the office, can help you to stay focused and productive.

A good night's sleep is also integral to obtaining and maintaining a healthy and effective routine. Adults need seven or more hours of sleep per night for their best health and wellbeing, so prioritizing your sleep schedule can drastically improve your day and is an important factor to staying healthy. Make sure that when you do wake up well-rested, you are getting out of your pajamas and starting your day with a morning routine. This can help the rest of your day feel normal while the uncertainty of working from home continues.

Tip 6: Focus on food and nutrition

In addition to having a well-rounded daily routine, eating at scheduled times throughout the day can help decrease poor food choices and unhealthy cravings. Understanding the nutrients that your body needs to stay healthy can help you stay more alert, but they do vary from person to person. If you are unsure of your suggested nutritional intake, check out a nutrition calculator.

If you are someone that prefers smaller meals and more snacks throughout the day, make sure you have plenty of healthy options, like fruits, vegetables and lean proteins available (an apple a day keeps the hospital away). While you may spend most of your time from home, meal prepping and planning can make your day flow easier without having to take a break to make an entire meal in the middle of your work day. Most importantly, stay hydrated by drinking plenty of water.

Tip 7: Don't forget about your mental health

While focusing on daily habits and routines to improve your physical health is important, it is also a great time to turn inward and check in with yourself. Perhaps your anxiety has increased and it's impacting your work or day-to-day life. Determining the cause and taking proactive steps toward mitigating these occurrences are important.

For example, with the increase in handwashing, this can also be a great time to practice mini meditation sessions by focusing on taking deep breaths. This can reduce anxiety and even lower your blood pressure. Keeping a journal and writing out your daily thoughts or worries can also help manage stress during unpredictable times, too.

While the future of COVI9-19 and our lives may be unpredictable, you can manage your personal uncertainties by focusing on improving the lifestyle factors you can control—from staying active to having a routine and focusing on your mental health—to make sure that you emerge from this pandemic as your same old self or maybe even better.