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Feeling isolated? Five C’s to Recovery


Feeling isolated? Five C’s to Recovery

  • 6/17/2020
  • Wellbeing, Brain & mind, Staying active, Connections, Community, Belonging, Companionship, Spirituality

by Amy Armitage, Paula Barrios Sanchez, Dr. Kelly Tremblay

Many of us are feeling the strain of social distancing. Women and minorities, in particular, have been disproportionately affected by the unemployment crisis. You may have lost income or a job, you may have lost your health, or worse, a loved one. You may be hankering to visit family, return to a local pub, or take a casual trip to the store. Our routines have been disrupted and it can make us feel uncomfortable and alone.

Just as there are ways to mitigate the impact of Covid19, there are ways to mitigate these feelings of isolation. Through connection, conversation, centering, compassion and community you can find your way back to meaningful social engagement and recovery.


In his book Together, former Surgeon General Vivek Murthy, MD speaks to the healing power of connection in a lonely world. “We are hardwired for connection — as we demonstrate every time we get together around a common purpose or crisis,” Dr. Murthy explains. Lamenting the “loneliness epidemic” now brought to heightened levels by social isolation required by the coronavirus pandemic, Murthy makes the case for loneliness as a public health concern.

Murthy notes three types of relationships that characterize loneliness and that are needed in the full range of high quality social connections that humans need to thrive. Our COVID crisis taps into each of the three differently for different people.

Intimate or emotional loneliness is the longing for a close confidant- someone with whom you share a deep mutual bond of affection and trust. Relational, or social, loneliness is the yearning for quality friendships and social companionship and support. Collective loneliness is the hunger for a network or community of people who share your sense of purpose and interest.

Ask yourself, which of these most apply to you? Which can you impact now? If the ache is for intimate connection, such as from a distanced partner, frequent calls, more active listening, or a “surprise” gift may help. If quality friendships are in top need, find a new buddy, make an unexpected call, organize a social hour or game night. And if the ache for community is there, find a community that shares your values — a community food bank, a political campaign, a garden club, a religious group, or a women’s group, such as Feeling that “we are all this together” can be a first step to overcoming social isolation.


Conversation is a critical foundation of social recovery. The right conversation can make us fall in love. It can build (or destroy) trust at work. It can provide the opportunity to share feelings or to surface conflict. Conversation is a building block of healthy relationships and social recovery.

Conversation may be especially important for families who share their social isolation. Working from home can mean too much working from home and 24/7 expected response. Rather, take time to share conversation during family meals, a ball catch, a board game, a shared movie night. Share a laugh. Share a hug. Put down the phone. Turn off the computer. While technology offers connection, it can also become a barrier.

It is also critical to reach out to those sheltering alone — whether by phone, Zoom, Skype or other means. Listening can be a great healer. Share a funny story. Ask for advice. Solicit an opinion. All go a long way towards social healing.


More complex are the activities people undertake to center themselves and focus their energy and attention. You might read a book or try an app on meditation. Or attend an online class on mindfulness or yoga and exercise. Or take a course in happiness.

Perhaps you feel centered on a road bike. Or perhaps it’s planting a garden. Or going out for a run. A relative once told me she loved to fold clothes. Really? Yet, how many of us have been into cleaning the closet, baking bread, or cooking?

What’s on your list may not be the same as others. Find what works for you. If you’re not an outdoorsy person or you feel trapped within a concrete jungle of condos without nature, there’s always ZenTV and Youtube escapes awaiting.


Compassion begins with having compassion for yourself. Forgive yourself if you are not writing the great American novel you planned on. Or if you are not exercising daily. Or enjoying that happy hour too much. Forgive yourself and make a simple plan that you can do better tomorrow.

At the same time, your compassion to others is important, as the current crisis affects people in a very unequal fashion. The power of inclusion and kindness during such a time cannot be overestimated. This might take the form of an empathetic conversation with a team-mate or friend or the local grocery clerk. It’s about tipping the delivery guy and saying thank you. It’s about taking the time to listen.


Mahatma Gandhi one said, “the best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others.” Service to others can play a critical role in social recovery. Opportunities to volunteer might be as simple as giving food or money to a food bank or building a virtual community or non-profit.

Some believe that we will see a rebirth of community after the end of social isolating. Will the social isolation that many of us experience lead to a reckoning? After losing it, do we feel a greater need and appreciation for the community we have in our lives?

In time, we’ll recognize our own pain and resiliency. And, as time passes, we’ll hear how the COVID19 pandemic shaped new personal stories and changed the trajectory of all of our lives forever.

This post was originally published on Jun 17, 2020 on Medium.

Amy Armitage, is the founder of the Human Capital Investment and Reporting Council & Program Director at The Conference Board. She is an expert in human capital sustainability practices & measurement.

Paula Barrios Sanchez, Founder & Principal Consultant, Positive Human Factor. She partners with leaders and teams to catalyze the co-creation of thriving workforce experiences and promoting positive, sustainable growth.

Dr. Kelly Tremblay PhD, Retired Professor specializing in communication neuroscience and audiology, Founder of Lend an Ear, Inc. and Contributor to The World Health Organization.

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