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Dr. Robin Smith on COVID-19 isolation: Remember, 'Alone, but not all alone'

The psychologist who was the ‘therapist-in-residence’ on The Oprah Winfrey Show shares her strategies to survive and thrive if you’re feeling lonely during this uncertain time.
Woman at home talking on cell phone
Quarantining and social distancing during the COVID-19 crisis are especially difficult if you live alone.Westend61 / Getty Images/Westend61

As a woman who is now partnered, but wasn’t for many years, I found it interesting, and at times insulting that my alone status checked the box for “the lights are off in my life and nobody is home.” This was far from accurate. After a five-year marriage, followed by separation and divorce, I had moments when I longed for connection. I almost married again only to have my significant other suffer cardiac arrest and die on a remote beach. So, I personally know a lot about being alone and emotionally aching. However, I’ve also learned that being alone does not necessarily mean that we are without loving support, caring relationships and connections that are life-giving.

This is essential to remember if you’re feeling lonely due to the COVID-19 health crisis and social distancing. Remind yourself: You may feel alone, but you are not all alone.

As women, we are most often focused on taking care of everyone else before ourselves, so this may be just the invitation we needed. Think of this time as the incubator of creativity, a pitstop before the new beginning, and the break required for breakthrough.

Dr. Robin Smith is a licensed psychologist.
Dr. Robin Smith is a licensed psychologist.Courtesy of Dr. Robin Smith.

We need to visualize this moment as something greater than a tragedy. It is known that in crises, babies are conceived, business ideas are born, and inventions are harvested. Remember, this humbling and horrifying moment, and the sobering realities of this pandemic, have life-giving promises and properties too. When we realize that a life of fulfillment is made up of experiences we want and don’t want, we can find a soft place to both mourn and dance.

Here are three strategies to survive and thrive if you’re feeling lonely:

1. Move your body.

Physical Movement is a huge part of self-care. Find some way to consciously move your body reminding it, you will care for it.

2. Zero in on empowering thoughts.

Watch your thoughts – they become your reality. What you focus on grows. Pick one empowering thought and nurture it to life.

3. Acknowledge your burdens.

Feel them, face them, fix them if you can, and release them when you have done your best.

There is a common ingredient in the secret sauce of those who are technically alone in their home, but do not feel all alone. They have learned in the face of adversity to manage their thoughts, not suppress or repress them, and not pretend they’re happy when they’re really not. Whole people have all their feelings, not just the “good” ones.

During this period of social distancing, we have a choice to nurture ourselves and connect with people via social media and other avenues. You might tell yourself, ‘that’s not enough’ and want the real thing, a physical connection. This is OK, but remember, managing your thoughts is where your power resides. The only way for misery to remain your daily bread is if you keep eating it. The relationship that will carry you through this pandemic (and any other crisis in your life) is the relationship you have with yourself.

Dr. Robin Smith is a licensed psychologist and ordained minister with a Ph.D. in Counseling Psychology who has worked with Fortune 100 and 500 companies, sports and entertainment professionals and was the therapist-in-residence for “The Oprah Winfrey Show.” An experienced media and television personality, Dr. Robin is the author of several books including the New York Times #1 bestseller “Lies at the Altar: The Truth About Great Marriages.”