If you’re like some of us, you were completely content living an independent life and then suddenly found yourself navigating a pandemic as a single person, experiencing an all new level of loneliness.
First off, let’s normalize feelings of loneliness right now. For the 35.7 million people in the U.S. who live alone, the pandemic has dramatically cut off their ability to enjoy face-to-face connection with others. This isolation has created a strange new world of aloneness for many of us. In fact, a COVID-impact survey showed that 80% of people under the age of 30 reported feeling lonely.
As a single person, it’s important not to downplay your need for connection, especially during anxious times, or to think there is something wrong with you for feeling more lonely than ever right now. Human beings are hardwired for connection and community. Experiencing loneliness during this time does not indicate that you are flawed or weak… it simply means you are human.
While we can’t completely eradicate feelings of loneliness, we have learned helpful ways to better navigate this time of universal isolation as a party of one. Read on for tips surrounding safe dating, relishing this time to yourself, and prioritizing all types of connection.
Dating safely during a pandemic is possible.
With everyone stuck at home, it’s no surprise that popular dating apps like Hinge, Match.com, and Tinder are all reporting a surge in user numbers. Single people are looking to open up and make meaningful connections with people finding themselves in a similar situation. Even if it’s not normally your thing, online dating appeals to many right now simply because it’s a safe way to access others looking for love.
While it involves more communication and creativity, safe dating during a pandemic is possible. Above all else, experts recommend having the “COVID talk” early and often. Conversations about dating safety are nothing new: we already talk about safe sex practices — now these talks are just evolving to also include one’s approach to COVID-19 safety. Before entertaining the idea of meeting in-person, it’s crucial to understand the other person’s potential exposure, comfort levels, and preferred precautions. Of course this could feel awkward or intrusive, but it’s essential to determine if someone else is taking their health seriously in order to keep yourself safe.
If you want to eventually meet up in-person, you will likely want to keep things outdoors, at a safe distance. Since meeting up at a bar isn’t a viable option right now, get creative with your date ideas. Consider enjoying nature together and taking a hike, visiting a local park, or taking a bike ride together.
If you’re planning on being indoors together, mask-free, experts recommend that you both get a COVID-19 test or fully quarantine for two weeks without symptoms. Check the CDC’s website for the latest guidance on quarantine time recommendations and testing accuracy.
Truthfully, there are no hard and fast rules on how exactly to date right now. Communication is key, so prioritize your safety and don’t be afraid to use your imagination when it comes to connection. While this all sounds far from romantic, remember that moving slowly and getting to know someone on a deeper level can lead to a more substantial bond. Plus, who doesn’t love a good pandemic love story?
Take time to prioritize all types of connection.
While seeking romantic compatibility is one avenue to feeling less isolated, it’s important to focus on all of the opportunities for connection that surround you. Even though it looks a bit different than P.C. (Pre-Covid) times, platonic connection is still possible and is worth the effort.
Not sure who to reach out to first? It’s a great idea to check up on friends or family members who are also single during this time. They are better equipped to understand how you are feeling right now. Listen to their experience, lean on them, and use this opportunity to bond over what is great and not so great about being romantically uninvolved during such a strange time.
If you’re looking to widen your social circle, consider joining a virtual book club, scheduling FaceTime chats with friends and family you’ve lost touch with, taking an online group exercise class, or attending virtual events. All of these outlets can be salve for the soul if you’re feeling a little too isolated right now.
Take this time to reinvest in yourself.
It may feel endless and all-consuming, but the truth is that we will one day be able to resume our lives and no longer be constrained by the fear and threat of a pandemic. If you’re looking at it from that perspective, the loneliness may feel a bit more temporary and manageable.
If you’re open to this shift in perspective, can you grant yourself permission to prioritize your own needs and wants? Are there books you’ve been wanting to read, podcasts you’ve been putting off, or shows you’ve been meaning to watch? Sure, you may be sick of hearing this, but finding a creative outlet such as writing, painting, baking, or rearranging your home can allow you to better relish in your own company.
If pandemic dating isn’t your jam, this is an excellent time to take the pressure off any romantic expectations and prioritize yourself in ways that you never have before. The truth is that dating can take up a lot of real estate in one’s mind, so freeing yourself of that for now can be quite liberating. We know it’s easy to say and sometimes more difficult to do, but double-down on your self-care right now and show up for yourself.
Acknowledge your emotions without shame.
It can’t be emphasized enough that whatever you’re feeling during this time is okay. If you’re lonely or sad or angry, we encourage you to acknowledge these feelings, while kicking any subsequent shame to the curb. Consider getting to more intimately know these emotions by journaling when they come up, talking to a trusted friend, or seeking out a mental health care professional to help you process.
Try to notice any judgments you are having about yourself and practice giving yourself tremendous amounts of self-compassion. It’s perfectly fine to want a relationship right now and it’s also okay to relish this time alone. Try to lovingly meet yourself wherever you are, from day to day, moment to moment.
The truth is that most everyone is feeling lonely right now, even those quarantining with families. We’re all missing the way life was and longing for the comforts of everyday life.
One last reminder that you’re not alone in feeling alone. Being single in this moment can be great and it can also be the pits, so ask for help and seek out connection when needed. Whether that means scouring your photo gallery for a dating app profile picture or reaching out to a trusted friend to vent, do whatever works for you and advocate for your own well-being. We’re here to help if you need us.
What’s helped you feel connected this past year? Share or get inspired on the Staying Socially Connected community.
By Katie Nave, Copywriter at Sanvello
Katie Nave is a writer and mental health advocate living in Brooklyn, New York. Her work has been featured in publications including Glamour, Business Insider, and Motherly. She has served as a producer for the National Women’s March and worked with organizations like Girls Inc. and CancerCare. She is currently the Copywriter at Sanvello and you can follow her on Instagram: @kathryn.e.nave