The COVID-19 pandemic has brought the world to a halt in many ways, including schools closing indefinitely, workplaces going to a remote model, and entertainment venues shuttering and church services postponed.
For the most part, we all seem to agree this is the best form of responsible citizenship and ultimately attacking the virus—despite economic fallout risks.
A new term to many of us but now common to everyday language has emerged: “self-isolation.” We’ve agreed to stay home, not congregate and not be communal on purpose in the hopes of squelching the life of COVID-19 and shortening its time among us, resulting in saving lives.
However, this current health crisis meets us in the midst of a mental and emotional health crisis—loneliness.
According to Cigna, nearly half of Americans report sometimes or always feeling alone. In fact, only half of Americans report having meaningful in-person social interactions, such as having an extended conversation with a friend or spending time with family on a daily basis.
This study includes all generations, but, Generation Z is the loneliest generation of all of them. It should be noted that the loneliness crisis is not just an American problem to address. Our friends in the UK appointed a Minister of Loneliness to address the mounting issues they are experiencing.
One study equates loneliness to smoking 15 cigarettes daily, making it not just a mental and emotional health issue, but a physical one as well.
In light of being faced with the inevitable social distancing and self-isolation due to COVID-19 and intermingling with the already lonely condition of our world, we would be wise to be mindful of the risks and potential rewards during this indefinite amount of time.
A Warning: Do not overcompensate with technology.
This will be a huge temptation for all of us as we may be checking our phones even more than usual for updates about closures, etc.
However, don’t isolate from family and friends in order to watch more YouTube videos, scroll social media endlessly, and binge-watch Netflix. The more we keep our heads down in our phones, the more we risk spiraling down into the pit of loneliness and emotional isolation.
If you live alone, this becomes even more challenging. Remember, the warnings and advisory of the CDC and government are about large gatherings. This should not prevent us from checking on our neighbors, inviting a friend or two over for dinner, or making some Facetime calls to family and friends far away.
If you do live with family members or roommates, certainly don’t disconnect from real-time conversations only to disconnect to the comfort of your devices.
An Opportunity: Connect with others like you never have before.
They say you can’t rewind time, but in this unprecedented situation, perhaps we can get a little peek into the past and make up for lost time. That’s right, all the time we’ve wasted on our devices.
If we must stay home from school, work, church, and entertainment, then we should champion the time to reconnect with family, friends, neighbors—and those who need our help. It will feel like a slower pace and we might even (daresay) get bored. When that feeling begins, that’s our cue to press in even more with one another.
Forget the surface conversations we usually settle for and ask the deeper questions. Parents, have that meaningful talk with your teenagers you’ve been hoping to have soon, or read stories and make crafts with your younger ones. Go on a walk with your spouse or loved one. Notice creation around you and be grateful for it. Make a great meal and gather around the table. Volunteer at places that need help during this time. Model citizenship and good works for others.
The dangers of COVID-19 and of loneliness have proven to be real and yet, ironically, being isolated is a timely reality for all of us. But, we can use this time as an opportunity for good, just as our Maker would have it. Ultimately, we want to display our faith for the world to see. This is the real opportunity. Don’t miss it.
“Look, I am about to do something new; even now it is coming. Do you not see it? Indeed, I will make a way in the wilderness, rivers in the desert.” - Isaiah 43:19
Jana Magruder serves as the Director of LifeWay Kids. She is a Baylor graduate and offers a wealth of experience and passion for kids ministry, education, and publishing. She is the author of Kids Ministry that Nourishes and Nothing Less: Engaging Kids in a Lifetime of Faith.