COVID-19 has put us in a situation of being alone a lot. Occasionally we all want a little alone time. Now we are forced to spend days at a time and not interacting with others. We have to adjust but we still need interaction with other to stay healthy. Plenty of people are in a situation now where they are out of work, social distancing from family and friends, working from home, not going to events, not going to church or family functions.
Persistent loneliness has been linked to a growing list of health problems that include insomnia, cardiovascular problems and Alzheimer’s disease. Studies also show that loneliness raises the risk for premature death among adults age 50 and older by 14%.
We can’t assume that people know when they are lonely. For many people that extreme sense of social disconnection is so familiar and constant that they don’t even realize that they’re lonely. Even friends and family might not necessarily recognize that a friend or loved one is lonely.
Of course as I said earlier we all need some time by ourselves, some solitude and the opportunity to think and feel quiet without distraction or demands of others. But loneliness is very different.
If you are experiencing any of the following loneliness is a problem:
Spend hours alone
Find you are spending hours at a time on the internet
Find yourself glued to Facebook or other social media
Watch TV for hours at a time
Feel a vague sense of dissatisfaction with life
Sleeping more than 12 hours a day
Feeling fatigued all the time
Using recreational drugs
The connection between loneliness and depression has been established for quite sometime but has only recently it has been linked to elevated blood pressure, increased stress hormones and an impaired immune system. Loneliness also exacts a huge toll when people turn to unhealthy behaviors to avoid the pain loneliness brings. You can’t eat it away. You can’t drink it away. There is no recreational drug that will erase it.
Are you lonely or bored? Boredom is a leading cause of loneliness. Out of all the causes of loneliness boredom is the easiest to solve. The key is planning. You need to know what you are doing. Most people hate that they have to script their life. We should all plan our life. Make a list of things you want to do and things you have to do. Clean that closet you always wanted to clean. Make a list of people you want to call. Don’t wait for friends and relatives to call you. That’s not to say we should just put together a list of things to do. We should have daily, weekly, monthly and yearly goals for our life.
Nutrition, sleep, exercise, recreational time and me time are areas that we can adjust to fight loneliness. These areas are the ones we control.
The body needs carbohydrates, fats, protein, vitamins, minerals, fiber and water to be healthy every day. Carbohydrates, fats and protein supply energy (calories) necessary for work and normal body functions. Vitamins, minerals, fiber and water do not have caloric value but are still necessary for normal body functions. Your daily intake of food should include 2 to 3 servings of protein, 4 to 6 servings of vegetables, 2 to 3 servings of a grain and 3 to 6 servings of fruit. You should ingest no more than 14 grams of saturated fat, which is 126 calories.
We need to do two types of exercise. We need both aerobic and strength workouts. A complete strength workout should include exercises for each body part. This will include the chest, shoulders, triceps, back, biceps, forearm, thighs, calves and your abdominals (midsection). Start with 2 or 3 different exercises for each body part. Gradually work up to 8-12 repetitions for each exercise. Do each exercise 1-3 times to start. We strongly recommend that you have a professional show you what to include in your routine and that you get an OK from your physician before you start. If you have chronic conditions such as, congestive heart failure, hypertension, arrhythmias, angina or diabetes they must be stable before starting an exercise program. Aerobic workouts will help you burn body fat and improve your cardiovascular system. if you do 30 minutes or more of continuous movement. It takes your body 20 minutes to switch to the fat burning stage during a workout. Try to get in at least 30 minutes of aerobic exercise 3 to 4 times a week.
Research has shown that when healthy adults are allowed to sleep unrestricted, the average time slept is 8 to 8.5 hours. Some people need more than that to avoid problem sleepiness; others need less.
If a person does not get enough sleep, even on one night, a “sleep debt” begins to build and increases until enough sleep is obtained. Problem sleepiness occurs as the debt accumulates. Many people do not get enough sleep during the workweek and then sleep longer on the weekends or days off to reduce their sleep debt. If too much sleep has been lost, sleeping in on the weekend may not completely reverse the effects of not getting enough sleep during the week.
You have to want to change. Ask yourself if you are doing everything you can do to help yourself. Find yourself. Remember you have one friend already, yourself.
Put yourself out there. Enroll in a class you’ll enjoy or find interesting. Develop a hobby. Volunteer some time with a community organization or groups, such as the Homeless, PAL, The American Red Cross, Special Olympics or The Sickle Cell Anemia Foundation. Helping others makes you feel good about yourself and helps develop self-esteem. Seek out programs, which satisfy your needs as well. For instance, if you’re a drop out or need job training find a GED or job training program. Don’t sit around and wait for things to happen, make things in the morning every day, turn on some music and play it until you’re dancing and singing from with those old Motown tunes.
Do whatever it takes to stay positively motivated.