Clifftop Perspective: wellbeing from above

How to get by (and be awesome) pt.1: dealing with loneliness and isolation

April 13, 2020

This post was written in early April, 2020, when the world was ushered into quarantine and physical isolation.

These are some interesting times, eh.

The world has re-encountered a kind of beast so terrifying that humans are hunkering in our homes and side-stepping potential hosts in supermarket aisles.

The good news is that while we camp out, the experts are pumping out advice to help us to thrive in connected staycations, rather than languish in isolated lockdowns. You might have been inundated by such advice in the past few weeks.

In this series I hope to summarise and present to you the work of these champions, who bring evidence-based weapons to help us bring down the dreaded Covidosaurus and it’s mates: loneliness, isolation, powerlessness, overwhelm, and anxiety.

Dealing with loneliness and isolation by connecting with kindness

Wait. Did we just read “connection”? Yes.

Where for some, a time of solitude is just what the doctor ordered, for the rest of us – the struggle of aloneness is real. Many experts are concerned about the impact of “physical isolation” and lockdowns on our wellbeing, at both individual and collective levels.

Why does it matter?

Feelings of loneliness and social isolation are natural in normal times. There are those moments of loneliness when you wait for a class alone sometimes for hours. Then there are those times in life when it seems like no-one hears your voice, or worse they exclude you intentionally. It sucks.

Yet as governments wisen up to rebrand “social distancing” more appropriately – as “physical distancing”, the mere lack of face-to-face presence with other humans is still something that we humans are not designed for. It turns out a lack of social connection increases the likelihood of physical and mental illness and even increases our mortality.

How should we respond?

The pros propose that we battle loneliness & isolation by seeking connection. Further, others suggest we respond with the innate need that we have: to look out for each other with kindness.

  1. Realise that we are connected by the struggle – your friends and the whole world is in this together
  2. Recognise that your physical distance is actually a service to others in your community and whānau (family)
  3. Keep turning up to your online meetings, classes and social hangs with your co-workers, fam and friends
  4. Create and schedule time to connect with others. It’s a time to experiment with new apps and modalities
  5. Find ways to make life easier and more pleasant for others in your social circle – plan a random act of kindness. For example, if you’re going to brave the supermarket, you might even check with your neighbour if they need some bread or milk (please, no jousting or MMA submissions in the toilet paper aisle).

Fitting-in, belonging to something bigger than oneself, connecting with fellow humans, happens to be extremely beneficial to our own health. If you are a stinge like me, you’ll also like that there is incredible bang for buck in the fact that one activity – helping someone else – is good for them, and is good for your neurochemistry and physical health too.

Practical tips:

  • Call your parents/ grandparents and spend a lot of time talking about not much – they’ll low-key love it
  • Write a gratitude letter/email/message to someone that’s helped to get you where you are in life – send that letter, or call them and read it to them
  • Schedule Houseparty games with different friends

Continued in Part 2


I wanted to take a moment to address any doubt if you are still wondering, “Is this lockdown overkill? Do we really need to physically distance ourselves and sanitise our hands beyond sanity?” After extensively nerding-out on your behalf, reading peer reviewed sources and international bodies of work – I can answer: no, this is not overkill, and yes – Physical distancing is THE main way to limit the spread of Covid 19 to your loved-ones and wider community. As of June, 2020, here in NZ we have basically resumed life as per “normal” (without international travel) due to a nationwide approach to physical distancing and in-home isolation.

Hence your government’s call to stay home and save lives, is probably going to be the easiest way you will ever save a life. No cape or superpowers needed!