Lemonade Recipe–for Pandemic Loneliness

In the Keepers series, Sarah Turner is no stranger to loneliness. Hers, however, is not caused by quarantines and social distancing.

We can feel lonely even while standing in a crowded room. Likewise, many people experience their alone time as a welcome opportunity for peaceful solitude, rather than isolation and misery.

Loneliness is a state of mind. It’s about how connected you feel with others, regardless of how many people surround you or the number of “likes” you get on social media. It’s about quality of relating to others, not quantity.

This is what happened with our Sarah. She downplayed the importance of intimacy in her life in order to to focus on pressing long-term goals. Realizing what she had done, as well as the job of reconnecting with important others, carries her through at least three novels.

During this pandemic, social distancing stems from safety issues. But we need not feel lonely. Thanks to modern technology, there are many ways to reach out and connect with friends and relatives.

Yet one of the most healing remedies for loneliness lies elsewhere. It’s about discovering recognition that we are part of something much bigger: common humanity. Feeling lonely is difficult when we see ourselves as ongoing members of a larger, significant whole. How can we use extra time on our hands to do good?

Virtual groups and organizations abound. Options for joining online groups that make a difference are endless. We need not be physically or even virtually together to benefit. Merely knowing we are part of something purposeful, meaningful, and bigger than ourselves is key. Most likely, the current civil rights protests are at least partially fueled by human resilience seeking relief by joining a greater good.

We dare not pass up this opportunity to brew the lemonade that quenches the thirst of struggling common humanity. There are so many worthy causes we can become part of. In addition to relieving loneliness, the passion and energy created by our joint gut reactions can lead us to safe and productive paths for reform, no matter what our cause:

  • more effectively communicating our concerns with those who lead,
  • helping productive officials get elected,
  • participating in referendum efforts,
  • supporting programs that help heal divides or address other issues,
  • using craft skills to produce items to donate to needy others,
  • bringing to light social science or medical findings that apply,
  • joining book review clubs and other relevant discussion groups, and
  • supporting and performing research that helps understand and remedy your concern.

Complaining about and protesting against social problems does indeed help bring them to light. However actions that directly tweak the problems are an entirely different kettle of fish.

Sarah discovers multiple opportunities for addressing her loneliness. Where might your own opportunities lie?

Harvey and the Rest of Us

In spite of mayhem already wreaked by Hurricane Harvey, we do not yet know what its total impact will be. Right now, those in the path of rising waters are still focused on seeking safety and self-protection – as they well should be. That’s fight or flight chemistry at work.

Eventually the waters will recede. Recovery efforts will begin. And as occurred after Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, we can expect many devastated survivors to take to the four winds as they seek temporary refuge or a new life elsewhere. We will likely meet them locally.

What can we do to make a difference? Yes, we can volunteer services that will help them get back on their feet. But what about the emotional consequences of their experiences, ones that social connections play a such a huge role in alleviating? Is there any way we can help?

The answer is right there, at our fingertips. We can share what we’ve learned in our fight with “cogjam,” those cognitive logjams we sometimes fall victim to with ongoing socio-political stress.

No, cogjam is nowhere near as devastating as what those in Texas are going through. But emotional coping is the same, regardless of the disaster: compassion, self-awareness, perspective taking, prayer, mindfulness, conscious effort to move forward, or whatever else helps you find inner peace.

What have you learned from your experiences with cogjam? How has it affected you? What are your solutions for coping, or defeating it overall?

We can share what we’ve learned. Likewise, they may be willing to share what they’ve learned. They will find personal strengths they never knew they had in their process of escaping catastrophe and moving forward.

It’s a win-win for everybody.

For information about providing psychological first aid for disaster survivors, see handouts listed at http://www.who.int/mental_health/world-mental-health-day/2016/en/.

Cogjam Alert: Your Chance to Be Part of the Solution

It’s safe to say most everyone wouldn’t mind if all the political posturing and divisiveness took a sudden nosedive into the sunset. As mentioned in an earlier post, healing for this mental health disaster is a work in progress. Thanks to resilience, many of us have already found ways to step back, or do whatever else might tone down knee-jerk reactions from our overextended fight-or-flight chemistry.

One popular collection of strategies involves limiting input from sources that tend to pump up this type of stress:

  • Following only enough media reports to be informed
  • Being especially selective about which social media contacts’ newsfeeds to follow
  • While among others, simply not bringing up anything related to the socio-political situation

. . . and plenty more. My current draft of The Cogjam Effect includes suggestions similar to those above. Many people are discovering new ways to apply strengths, and doing it well. With this in mind, perhaps you have suggestions to add:

  • What have you noticed about your own coping?
  • What helps you calm the primitive brain’s surges of angst when toxic input crosses your path?
  • What new strengths have you discovered in yourself as you travel this journey?
  • Or, what do you see others do that seems to make things less tense?

This is your chance to share the wealth with those who are searching. Assessing your existing or newly emerging¬† strengths is also an important step for laying to rest your own symptoms of cogjam. Please leave suggestions or observations in the box below–a great way to be part of the cogjam solution.