Surgeon General, Dr. Vivek Murthy, issued an advisory this year about how social isolation and loneliness have become widespread problems in the United States. In the advisory, Dr Murthy says that given these profound consequences, loneliness should be treated the same way that we address tobacco use, obesity, and the opioid addiction crisis. Murthy goes on to say that we “are called to build a movement to mend the social fabric of our nation. It will take all of us…working together to destigmatize loneliness and change our cultural and policy response to it.”
During the lockdown part of the pandemic, I experienced an intensity of loneliness that I had not felt for many years. The usual solitude of living on a small farm evaporated into isolation. As an extrovert, I needed to see and hug and be in the presence of others. I am grateful for family and good friends who worked with me to connect as we were able.
I see that loneliness linger in some of my clients. The solitary and clerical nature of online learning has created a silo effect, a rugged independence and reluctance to dialogue with one another. The asynchronous structure of classes are for self paced individual learning. Discussion boards have not proven to be able to substitute for live discussion and community building. Some of the most enjoyable learning happens as we talk about the class material. We digest new information when we listen to other people’s perspectives and questions.
This fall I will be implementing a community of care model in my coaching groups. The group members will use their ability to listen well, their perspective and knowledge to help each other. A simple question they might ask one another is “what do you need and how can I help you?” By caring for one another, we create a foundation of togetherness that combats loneliness and supports our well-being.
I encourage you to find a circle of loved ones who will create with you your own community of care. Together, through connection, we can heal from the isolation effects of the pandemic.