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8 practical things to do if you are feeling lonely

Loneliness is something that most of us will have experienced, and for some people this loneliness can be constant, overwhelming and dramatically impact on their life. The outbreak of the coronavirus – which has caused us to significantly cut down on social contact and spend more time indoors – has led to many of us feeling lonelier than usual over the past few months.

We spoke to Dr Donna Grant, Consultant Psychiatrist at Priory Hospital Chelmsford to explore some of the reasons why people may be feeling lonely at this time, the ways in which people can combat their loneliness and the professional therapy that is available to people at Priory Group.

Why am I feeling so lonely?

Feeling lonely doesn’t necessarily mean being alone. So, even if you are living in a house full of people during the coronavirus pandemic, you may be finding that you are feeling lonely. It is important to know that this is completely natural and normal for you to experience at this time.

As humans, we need the presence of people who understand our worth. So by spending less time with the people we usually see, including our family, friends, peers or work colleagues, all of whom are people that value us and who we communicate, plan or work with, this can leave us feeling more lonely than usual.

Certain life events can increase the risk of experiencing loneliness, such as bereavement, a relationship breakdown and losing or changing jobs. Sadly, many people have experienced these situations during the coronavirus outbreak.

There are also certain factors that can leave a person at greater risk of loneliness at any time, which are as follows:

  • Having no friends or family
  • Being a single parent
  • Having a lack of a confiding relationship
  • Belonging to a minority group and living in an area without others from a similar background
  • Feeling excluded from society through illness, disability, mobility problems and financial reasons
  • Discrimination or stigma because of gender, race or sexual orientation.

Can loneliness impact my mental health and wellbeing?

Loneliness itself is not a mental health condition, but the two are closely linked. Having a mental health condition can increase the risk of experiencing loneliness. Likewise, chronic loneliness can increase the risk of a person experiencing both mental and physical health problems. 

Practical tips and advice for dealing with loneliness

There are ways that you can tackle the loneliness that you are experiencing at the minute. We will look at some of the things that you can do to help yourself:

  1. There is no need to rush into anything - if you’ve been feeling lonely for some time, the idea of meeting people - either online or in person - may be daunting. You don’t need to do anything quickly. Remember, you can start small and grow from there
  2. Be around people – go to places where there will be people that you don’t necessarily need to interact or speak with. During the coronavirus outbreak, this may include going to do a weekly shop or walking around the park. Being around people can help you feel less lonely and can be a welcome break from spending time in your home
  3. Organise socially distanced meet-ups – there are now opportunities for you to meet up with people again, but there are certain restrictions in place as a result of the coronavirus outbreak. Book in regular catch-ups with the people you have missed, keeping in mind the government guidelines that are in place at the time
  4. Meet new people online - the internet can be a great way to meet more people, and like-minded peers who share your hobbies and interests
  5. Talk online and over the phone – it is likely that you have already set up group chats with the people you know, but think about introducing a daily phone call with someone and a weekly video chat with a person that you are close to. Also, try to fill your diary with virtual events like weekly exercise challenges, quizzes or online games with friends or family as these can be great conversation starters
  6. Focus on the things that you enjoy – keeping active throughout the day and setting yourself tasks to complete can focus your mind and help you to stay positive. Look after yourself and remember that it is important to stay connected to yourself at this time too
  7. Consider peer support – if you want to talk to someone about how you are feeling, but don’t feel comfortable doing so with people that you know, there are communities where you can give and gain support from people. Peer support can also be gained in online communities, such as Elefriends and Big White Wall, which are accessible 24 hours a day
  8. Think about therapies such as cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) – if your loneliness has started to have a dramatic impact on the quality of your life, there are therapies that you may find helpful. For example, CBT gives you the opportunity to look at the thoughts that are causing you to feel lonely, and helps you to explore new ways of managing them so that they have less of an impact on your emotions and the overall quality of your life

Help and support available at Priory Group

At Priory, we are able to provide support for people with mental health conditions who are dealing with feelings of loneliness during the coronavirus outbreak.

We are still able to provide people with access to our residential services if it is needed. Outpatient support is also available through our digital therapy service, Priory Connect, during the COVID-19 pandemic. Please read our coronavirus information page for more information on about how we’ve adapted our treatment over the coronavirus outbreak.

With the right help and support, you can learn ways to cope with thoughts that are causing you to feel lonely. That way, you can stop yourself from retreating further into isolation and instead, learn ways to reconnect with like-minded people, and look after your health and wellbeing going forward. 

Blog reviewed by Dr Donna Grant (BSc, MBBS, MRCPsych) Consultant Psychiatrist at Priory Hospital Chelmsford

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For details of how Priory can provide you with assistance regarding mental health and wellbeing, please call 0800 840 3219 or click here to submit an enquiry form. For professionals looking to make a referral, please click here

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