14 Mar 10 tips to avoid loneliness with Pam Cordano
Well, COVID-19 is here and impacting our lives. First, we ramped up washing our hands and bought out store supplies of Purell (and toilet paper!). Now, schools are closed, social distancing is a thing, and we’re being asked to stop visits to elderly family members. These are just a few of the ways things are changing.
Sunday morning, coffee in hand, I dialed therapist, coach and author, Pam Cordano. Earlier in the week, a group of therapists and I had discussed the re-scheduling of the Indiana Adoption Network conference. Pam was to be the keynote speaker. It was disappointing, but the right move.
The conversation quickly turned to our thoughts about how the quarantines might impact clients. Pam talked about concerns over a loneliness pandemic. Not surprisingly, Pam had pulled together ideas (list at end) to help her clients avoid loneliness during this surreal time.
A loneliness pandemic and the meaning we make of it:
KM: Hi Pam, so it’s 8:30am in California. How are you surviving the new normal?
PC: Right now, I’m good. I’m on the couch with my dog and coffee. Outside is a beautiful day. Yesterday, I spent some time outside weeding my front lawn with my husband. I realized that I love my lawn and my home, my family was all around… These are things I can control.
KM: I actually had a similar day. Now that I’ve found some acceptance, I feel calmer. I’m actually looking forward to re-bonding with my house.
PC: Yes- me too. I also came to the decision that I’m seeing all my senior and immune compromised clients online. It felt good to finally decide to do that. We’re all having concerns right now about over-reacting and under-reacting.
KM: 100% yes to the concerns about over-reacting or under-reacting. I’m offering clients a choice right now of in-person or online.
PC: Yeah, there’s a real mix of people going to bars like it doesn’t matter, checking out, to people buying 3,000 bottles of hand sanitizer to try to control more of their environment.
I’ve been thinking a lot about this quote, “The quality of your life is in direct proportion to the amount of uncertainty you can comfortably deal with.” (Tony Robbins) Right now, we all get to practice how much uncertainty we can tolerate. It’s like we’re all surfing on the waves of uncertainty together.
KM: Yes, talk about shared humanity! You had mentioned that we’re about to enter a loneliness pandemic. You often work with immune compromised people which I think increased your concerns.
PC: In being homebound, we’re all losing the daily ways we connect. Like going to our favorite coffee shop where they know your favorite drink or the grocery store. There’s all these little things.
KM: How can we stay connected in new or different ways?
PC: Skype, face time, but we’ve got to be creative. Read books or watch old movies, get to know about people in different ways.
KM: I’ve thought a lot about my clients who live alone and will be working from home. I worry about enforced isolation increasing depression.
PC: Whenever we’re not feeling well – feel like an outsider – we tend to look for situations that validate our world view. Right now it may be easier to find validation to questions like’s what’s the point, what’s the point if I drink or stay isolated? In these moments it’s important to get present – an antidote for panic – get back into our bodies through the 5 senses.
Focus on what’s happening right now. Where are you? What are you physically doing, seeing, smelling, touching? You know, generally speaking, how is your immediate world ok right now?
KM: Yeah…this is so helpful….
PC: Get curious about what story we’re telling ourselves. Have one foot in the story and one foot in what meaning does that create? What happens if we play with another meaning like, “how can I help or be of service?”
KM: This sounds like it relates to your work as a meaning coach.
PC: I work with a lot of people with cancer, chronic illness, grief…and I try to help them to live into what’s meaningful to them. It’s really grounding. Giving space to what’s meaningful then has a space to compete with what’s challenging or tragic.
KM: This really is so much of what we are dealing with now when we caught up in the story of pandemic fear.
PC: Yes, the work I do is about finding your own unique compass to what matters most, what someone can get behind. For example, a woman with metastatic cancer may not care that much about eating healthy, but she may really care about creating a legacy project for her daughter. The project gives a “why” to eating healthy so that she can have the energy to complete her project.
KM: I love that. It goes back to finding the moments we can control and how we can find meaning in hard times. It’s actually kind of inspiring even though this time will have serious impacts on lot of us.
PC: I know it’s given me space to get clear on things that matter and don’t matter to me in terms future planning. We’ll have to share our completed home projects.
KM: I look forward to that for sure!
10 Tips to Avoid Loneliness
1. Drink water.
2. Walk if possible.
3. Talk to loved ones.
4. Limit news watching to 2-3 half-hour segments/day and phone time to 30 minutes/day.
5. Be in the moment wholeheartedly; inhabit your senses. Pet your animals, walk outside and look at spring, watch dawn and dusk if you’re up, check out the moon, cut a flower and bring it inside.
6. Eat healthily.
7. Be creative. Cook something new, paint, sew, clean a drawer (in my house that’s creative!), write someone a note and mail it, things like that.
8. Watch your thoughts. Catch yourself going down the rabbit hole of catastrophizing, doom and gloom and bring yourself back to the present moment. Ask yourself what is the reality of my situation RIGHT NOW? – home safe, comfortable, food in the fridge, etc…
9. If you find yourself in a negative story, tell yourself a new story. For example: “Screw this, I’m just going to start smoking again!” to “What do I care about? My kids, pet, work and they still exist.”
9. Inhabit your home in a new way (since lots of us are stuck there). Do a home or garden project.
10. Stay in touch with all that’s meaningful to you—especially the attitudes that you love to embody—generosity, kindness, courage, commitment, hard work, etc.
I know this is a hard and unsure time. However, it can be a time to re-calibrate and re-discover what is meaningful in life. Choosing our attitude is always in our power.
Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms—to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.
♥ Take care friends – wash your hands!
Pam Cordano, MFT
Pam Cordano is a psychotherapist, meaning coach, and author of 10 Foundations for a Meaningful Life (No Matter What’s Happened). For 20 years she has worked with individuals, families and groups using a relational and somatic approach. Inspired by Viktor Frankl, she is passionate about the power of identifying and cultivating what is uniquely meaningful to clients, which allows for increased vitality, and new possibilities.
Kate Murphy, LCSW
Kate Murphy, a therapist in Chamblee, GA, specializes in helping you decrease stress and anxiety. You can live a more balanced, connected, and meaningful life. Kate works with individuals and couples over the age of 18 to support healing, communicating, and experiencing joy more often.