If you’re anything like me, your mental health has probably taken a major hit during the pandemic. I’d like to think of myself as, for the most part, being a pretty well adjusted individual who doesn’t spend 24 hours a day CRUMBLING.
But the truth is that on some days, 23 of those hours are incredibly difficult.
While every day isn’t the worst, some are noticeably worse than others.
Having a solid faith formation tends to buffer a great deal of my struggle, and in no measure do I underestimate the total authority of which God has over my emotions.
Still, in a world like ours, no one- even the most spiritually grounded among us, is exempt from seasons of pain and suffering.
And as an introvert who thrives on personal space and alone time, quarantine brought about some interesting challenges that I hadn’t anticipated. The biggest surprise being the amount of loneliness I never expected to feel.
Suddenly with the absence of regularly scheduled therapy appointments and gym routines, the awareness of my alone time began to increase.
And while it’s one thing to maintain friendships that you’ve established prior to entering quarantine, what alternatives are there for those who were in short supply of meaningful relationships as it was?
You can’t exactly hold zoom calls with friends you didn’t have to begin with.
Fortunately, 21st century social media tools can aid in making quarantine a little less lonesome.
At a given moment, you can scroll across your Twitter, Instagram or Facebook feed and find at least one relatable thing with which to identify, reply to or repost.
Still, loneliness has a way of creeping back in, doesn’t it?
So how do we create purposeful connections with the tools we have that produce lasting effects?
Start first by asking God to BE your friend
- In all of its simplicity, this was the best decision I ever made. Getting real with God about my loneliness and opening up to him about my desire to have meaningful relationships changed the trajectory of my interactions. We know that authenticity is the best way to start any relationship, but what better relationship to test this theory than with the heavenly father who loves you! This is the safest space there ever was. Here you can open your heart to him. Get raw about the desire you have for companionship. The God who made a spouse for Adam, a friend for David and a sisterhood for Naomi and Ruth has a proven track record of pairing people up.
Ask God to show you how to BE a friend
- It’s a tough pill to swallow when at last we conclude that just maybe we aren’t the perfect people we think we are. But from that first bite of humble pie to the second, there’s really nowhere to go but up. ANYTHING can happen with a dash of awareness, a little willingness to change and a lot of Jesus. Without those things, there’s a possibility that you may not be ready for the things you’re asking God for. Proverbs 18:24- A man that hath friends, must shew himself friendly. It’s so easy to ask for the grace and love in the meaningful relationship you want while having no intention of returning those things. Be sure that you intend to become the kind of friend you’re asking God to provide.
Extend yourself too
- Three words: “Honestly, I’m lonely.” I met one of my very best friends as a result of extending myself during a time when I wanted to do anything but. I had gone to a career focused meeting after drumming up every excuse not to attend. Ultimately, after some gently forceful prodding from my mom, I decided to go. I was late to the gathering, new to the city and going through a difficult time that made me want nothing more than to curl up in bed. But I went anyway. Just as the meeting was coming to a close, when it was time to acknowledge first timers, I spoke up: “Hi, I’m new. And to be honest, I’m lonely. It’s a new city. So if anyone knows where to get their hair done, I’d love to hear about it.” A few scattered chuckles came as the reply, but also, so did a few business cards and a few sheepish welcomes. One of those business cards, however, resulted in one of the best friends God has since blessed my life with. With wisdom and discernment, ask God to provide opportunities for you to vulnerably ask for what you need. In some cases, it really is as simple as you having not… because you didn’t ask.
- Facebook groups: Their ad says it on TV, but as luck would have it, it’s true: There really is a Facebook group for everything. When searching, you can be as specific or as general as you’d like to find the group that best suits you. Since quarantine began, I’ve joined about 30 Facebook groups; Many of which are mere duplicates of the others give or take a few details. I’ve joined groups for Writers, Non-Fiction Writers, Creative Writers, Devotional Writers, Almost-vegans, Starfruit Lovers, People-Who-Put-Other-People’s-Dogs-Without-Permission, Fans of This Is Us, Social Media Addicts, and more. And if all else fails- create your own. I guarantee that SOMEONE will want to join. You’ll meet the most unlikely people in these groups and the camaraderie is cathartic. Jump in on the dialogue, pull from ideas and extend yourself.
- Netflix Party: Together, at about 9:15pm every night, I, along with a small circle of friends that I connected with as a result of a TV and Film group, agree to log into the Netflix Party app to watch a selected show together. It typically lasts until about midnight or 1am and what it provides is an opportunity to enjoy fellowship together by watching tv and throwing proverbial eggs at the screen when necessary. Connected.
Be A Good Steward Of What You Have:
- Pay attention because this is the most important part: Sometimes we ask God for things that he has already provided if only we would open our eyes and look around. If God has given you friends, any at all, and you haven’t called them in a while, now is the time to do it. More often than not, the things we go through are never for us alone. Chances are, even if your circle looks more triangular with a mere three people in it including you, there’s likely someone that may be in need of the same companionship you are without knowing how to articulate it. Pick up the phone. Call them. If you’re an introvert like me, this could feel like a chore. DO IT ANYWAY. Know why? God is so rich in grace and mercy that He often gives us what we don’t deserve- great relationships included. Even so, this doesn’t mean we don’t have a responsibility over the things He has already provided. Be faithful over the small things. Maybe, it’s time to pick up the phone and call that living relative who you kinda hate talking with. Show yourself friendly from a social distance to that elderly neighbor who you might typically avoid because she talks too much. If nothing else, it’ll be great practice for YOU on loving people outside of yourself. In the end, that’s all we’re here to do anyway.