How are single people feeling during the pandemic?
VICTORIA -- When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, Leila Rogers found herself in the middle of a perfect storm.
Fresh off a breakup with her long-term partner, she was in search of a new place to live alone, struggling with feelings of loneliness, anxiety, and of course – heartbreak.
"I entered the year in already a pretty negative headspace," says Rogers. "Going from being around people constantly to being single… and living alone."
The 33-year-old Victoria woman works as a long-term care home aide, a sector that was – and continues to be – extremely challenging and mentally straining amid the onset of the global health crisis.
Rogers joins millions of Canadians currently battling bouts of depression caused by feelings of isolation – during a time when we are encouraged to keep our loved ones six feet away.
Registered clinical counsellor Lisa Kratz has identified this social phenomenon as a loneliness epidemic.
"Neuroscientists have proven that we are hardwired for connection," says Kratz.
"And when people are reporting feeling lonely, there’s actually a health factor too."
A 2020 McGill University study found that loneliness can have detrimental consequences on the human body – impacting everything from glucose levels and blood pressure to immune systems.
So, what can single folks do if they’re in search of a romantic partner in the middle of a pandemic?
One dating app giant has stepped in to encourage building meaningful connections – safely.
During the pandemic, Bumble introduced a series of virtual dating tools that allow online daters to indicate what level of comfort they have in getting to know somebody new, all within the dating app.
"When we rolled this out, over a million people adopted this badge, truly indicating that daters are interested in being able to have the [COVID-19] conversation, without explicitly having the conversation," says Priti Joshi, Bumble’s marketing strategy and operations VP.
"We are trying every day to help our daters build safe, and healthy, and equitable relationships," says Joshi, "So we thought it would be important for us to give them tools and to better understand what could be dragging that."
Nonetheless, the search for love can still prove to be challenging, and at times – many single Canadians can still come up feeling short.
And that’s okay.
Experts say if that’s the case for you, it is important to try pivoting plans in order to maintain a positive mindset.
"Get more creative, learn an instrument, keep a gratitude list," says Kratz.
"Research has shown that people who are the happiest, are the ones who are actually more grateful."
If you or someone you know struggles with persistent feelings of isolation, however, Kratz recommends seeking professional counselling.
"If financial burdens are there for people, I recommend looking up community organizations, non-profits, for example Citizens Counselling Centre in the Greater Victoria area."
It’s also important to remember life – and love – will eventually get back to normal.
When asked what she’s looking forward to most when health restrictions around social gatherings have lifted, Rogers provided an optimistic yet simple answer.
"I just want to have a nice girl’s night with my friends and just have people whom I love over to my new apartment, and have a glass of wine," she said.
"And be able to see their faces and smiles without a mask on... and wearing lipstick again."