This article has been medically approved by Pharmacist Sumaiya Patel - GPhC Reg No: 2215078
With the current government guidelines advising that you shouldnít meet with friends and family, feelings of extreme loneliness can be having an effect on your mental health. In our article below, weíll look at some practical tips for managing feelings of loneliness, as well as some places you can go to seek support.
We all feel lonely from time to time, itís normal. Because feelings of loneliness are personal, the way you experience loneliness will be different to another person. Loneliness isnít always the same as being alone.
Some people may choose to live alone and feel comfortable without much contact with other people. However, others may find this a lonely experience. Some people may also have lots of social contact and still feel lonely. This may be because you donít feel understood or cared for by the people around you.
Is loneliness a mental health problem?
Feeling lonely isnít a mental health problem, but the two are strongly linked.
Having a mental health problem can make you feel lonely if you feel disconnected from your peers or unable to talk to them. You may also experience social phobia, or social anxiety, which means you find it difficult to engage in activities involving other people.
Feeling lonely can also have an impact on your mental health, especially if you have been feeling lonely for a long time. Some research links loneliness and other mental health problems including depression, anxiety, low self-esteem, sleep problems, and increased stress.
Causes of loneliness
The causes of loneliness change from person to person. Sometimes you might feel lonely but not know why.
Some people may feel lonely after certain life events, like:
- Experiencing a bereavement
- Going through a break-up
- Changing jobs
- Starting at a new school or university
- Moving to a new area alone
Some people may find they feel lonelier at certain times of year, like at Christmas. Others may have deep feeling of loneliness that donít go away, no matter how many friends they have.
Trying to think about the reason why you might be feeling lonely can be the first step on the way to managing your feelings.
How can I manage loneliness?
The COVID-19 pandemic has made it hard to be with friends and family, particularly if you are at increased risk. Itís normal to feel lonely because of this, and you shouldnít blame yourself if you are struggling.
Itís important to remember that different things work for different people. If something youíre trying isnít working, or you donít feel comfortable, try something else. It might take some trial and error to find techniques that work for you, but donít get discouraged. You can always seek further support if you feel that you need it.
1. Explore ways to spend time together
Even when youíre staying at home, there are still lots of ways you can spend time with others. Chatting on the phone, video-calling, and using social media are all ways to stay connected. You can watch films, play scrabble, and have dinner online with others.
You could also join an online club or virtual social event and invite friends and family to take part too.
If you live nearby to friends or family, you can do your daily exercise together as long as you maintain a physical distance of 2 meters.
2. Check in regularly
Try to create a regular routine of checking in with others. Finding more ways to be sociable is also good.
Try messaging old friends or colleagues on social media or text someone you havenít spoken to in a while. If youíd feel more comfortable chatting with more than 1 person, set up a group chat. Most people love hearing from people theyíve lost contact with, and this is especially true at a time when they may be feeling lonely to.
To try to be more sociable, start with small talk. Masks can make things tricky, but why not try asking the check-out person at the supermarket how their day is going? It might feel awkward to begin with, but these small interactions can help you to feel more comfortable in social situations.
3. Donít compare
When staying connected through social media, itís important to remember that many people will only share the good things happening to them. You can never be sure of what someone is going through, so avoid comparing all aspects of your life with a tiny fraction of someone elseís.
Consider sharing your feelings of loneliness with a trusted friend or family member can help. You might find youíre not alone in feeling lonely, and even just the sound of a familiar voice or seeing a friendly face can help you to feel less isolated.
4. Do more things you enjoy
Fill your time with activities that you enjoy to stop you from focussing on feelings of loneliness. Try listening to the radio or a podcast to occupy your mind and keep you company. You could also listen to audiobooks and join an online book club. There are also lots of online comedy clubs, so youíre sure to find something to make you laugh.
Exercise can also lift your mood and help to take your mind off things. Why not take a trip to the park or go for a bike ride?
5. Learn something new
Picking up a new hobby is a great way to spend your time and could also be a good way to connect with others. There are lots of online classes out there and many of them are free.
6. Help others
You can stay busy by helping others, which is also a great way to boost your mental wellbeing. You can volunteer from your home or out in the community, and you may even make some friends.
7. Join a support group
If youíre struggling with feelings of loneliness, youíre not alone. Consider joining an online community or peer-support group so you can talk to others about how you feel. Some groups, like Side by Side and SANE Support Forum, are available 24 hours a day.
You could also contact Samaritans by calling 116 123 or emailing email@example.com.