“Connection is why we’re here; it is what gives purpose and meaning to our lives.”
– Brené Brown
Try to imagine a scenario in which we go from spending eight hours a day with literally hundreds of different people (6+ classes with different students and teachers in each class), to then heading to some type of extracurricular activity with another large group of people, and then spending our evenings, and almost entire weekends, with a group of our close friends. Also, imagine that sprinkled in there, we occasionally spend time with extended family, family friends, and other obligatory social gatherings. Oh, and also try to imagine this place called Target, where we would go shopping at least a couple times a week. Sometimes dragged there by our parents and other times by choice with our friends. And then there were these things called restaurants, where we would sit down with a small group of people who we were excited to be with, talking about our day, and sharing a laugh. We would be surrounded by a larger group of strangers at the tables nearby and would occasionally overhear the conversations and laughter that they were enjoying as well. Now imagine all of that being taken away. All of the daily interactions with others, all of the mindless strolls through Target, all of the laughs with friends around the table, all of it, gone.
The worst part of the above scenario is that it is not a sci-fi thriller you just watched at the movie theater, or an annoying book you are required to read for English class, it is not even a historical event that you are learning about in Social Studies. The worst part is- you don’t have to work all that hard to imagine it, you are living it.
While so much has been lost over the previous few weeks as a result of the outbreak and dreaded quarantine, one of the most essential and tragic things that has been taken is our in-person connection with others. As humans, we are designed for connection. While some people enjoy connection more frequently and in longer durations than others, we are all ultimately wired to connect with other people in some capacity or another. To take that a step further, teens are the ones who are in most need of these social interactions. Developmental psychologist, Erik Erikson, proposed that between the ages of 12 and 18, individuals are becoming more independent and are developing a sense of self. He suggested that your friends are one of the most important aspects of this development. Your friends are truly the center of your world and research supports that having healthy and active relationships with your peers can lead to better mental health (including protecting against anxiety and depression), helps with forming your identity, and leads to less internal and external stressors (Ragelienė, 2016).
With all of that being said, it might be starting to become very clear why being isolated from social interactions has led to an increase in loneliness, sadness, and probably even anger. It is completely normal for you to be having all of these emotional responses, especially now that you understand the developmental stage that you are in, which requires peer connection and interactions. Having that taken away from you is both incredibly stressful and highly emotional. It is important not to ignore the emotional responses that you are experiencing, and instead try to find ways to cope with the sadness and connect with your peers in different ways. Check out our previous article, Coping with the Grief, for some ideas on how to get through this very difficult time.