How to cope with feeling lonely and depressed

Tips and advice from a leading therapist on overcoming loneliness and feelings of depression

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If you're suffering from loneliness or have had feelings of depression, it's important to remember that this is something that you can overcome. You deserve to feel happy and fulfilled, and there are steps that you can take to get there.

Within this blog, we will outline a few simple strategies to help you to cope with feelings of loneliness and continue to thrive. For those who are really struggling with extreme isolation, loneliness or symptoms of depression, we'll also talk you through the professional support and treatment that is available if you feel that you need a helping hand.

Are feeling lonely and depressed linked?

Loneliness and depression are closely linked, but they are not exactly the same. Depression is a diagnosable mental health condition characterised by persistent feeling of sadness. Loneliness is a subjective feeling of isolation where our levels of social contact are not as frequent as we want them to be. When a person is lonely and doesn’t take steps to address it, it can increase the likelihood of them experiencing depression and other mental health problems. When it comes to loneliness, a person will typically feel alone when the relationships in their life lack the intensity, intimacy and authenticity that they need to feel content.

If you've been feeling lonely and isolated, know that it is something you can work to minimise. With some of the tips outlined in this piece, you can break the cycle of loneliness and depression and prevent these feelings from worsening overtime.

Why am I feeling lonely and depressed?

People experience loneliness, leading to depression, for a number of different reasons.

The causes of loneliness can be numerous, and often a collection of combining factors are at play. Some of these include: physical isolation from other people, significant change in your life such as divorce or moving to a new location, or a stressful period in your life such as working long hours or an upcoming exam period.

The main causes of loneliness include:

  • Losing someone close to you
  • Getting a divorce or ending a relationship
  • Retiring, becoming unemployed or changing jobs
  • Entering higher education or changing your school, college or university
  • Relocating to an area away from family, friends and colleagues
  • Going through seasonal events such as Christmas, birthdays or anniversaries
  • Experiencing a traumatic life event, particularly if it remains unaddressed
  • Experiencing a mental health condition or addiction, particularly if it remains unaddressed

There are also many reasons as to why people experience depression, many of which overlap with what can cause loneliness. These can include the following:

  • Experiencing trauma, especially during childhood
  • Going through a distressing life event such as losing your job, getting a divorce or losing someone you love
  • Struggling with serious and/or chronic physical health problems
  • Having a family history of depression or other mental health problems
  • Having previous experiences with mental health problems
  • Having certain personality traits such as being very self-critical or having low self-esteem

Self-care tips for dealing with loneliness and depression

As feeling lonely and depressed are often interlinked, addressing one can often help the other. We understand that being proactive and taking on certain tasks can be incredibly challenging, but if you are able to really push yourself, these steps can be helpful.

things to do if you're feeling lonely

1. Keep a thought journal

During the moments when you are feeling lonely or depressed, write down your exact emotions and the reasons behind them. This can help in the following ways:

  • It can act as a release. Jotting down your thoughts and feelings can feel as though you are transferring them from your brain onto the piece of paper
  • Seeing your thoughts and feeling written down can help everything to seem a little more clear and manageable
  • A thought journal can help you to gain clarity as to why you have these strong emotions. You may start to see patterns or common triggers that cause you to feel lonely and depressed

Within your thought journal, also write about when you feel happy and connected. Then, as you become more aware of what causes you to think and behave positively, start doing even more of the activities that make you feel good.

2. Write a daily gratitude list

When you’re feeling lonely and depressed, you may find that you focus more on the negatives in life, which can leave you feeling even worse. One thing that you can do to change this is to write out a daily gratitude list, where you put down five things that you’re grateful for or happy about each day.

Giving yourself the time to focus on these positives will help you to become more aware of the good things you have and overtime, can help you to pay more attention to these positives as you go about your daily life.

3. Show yourself compassion

When people feel lonely and depressed, they will typically have low self-esteem too.

If you find that you constantly berate yourself for feeling down, think about what you’d say to a friend going through something like this and what you’d do to help them feel better. Rather than being self-critical, remember that you deserve compassion too, so treat yourself kindly in any moment when you aren’t feeling so good.

10 minute meditation for depression

Written and narrated by Priory Therapist Adele Burdon-Bailey, take 10 minutes from your day to ease symptoms of depression with this guided meditation.

4. Examine and enhance your current relationships

Which people in your life make you feel great? Make regular plans with them and try really hard to maintain these relationships. These are the people who will be able to support you and motivate you when feeling depressed. Even a regular phone or video chat can be a good way to connect.

We understand that being proactive and making plans to see and be around people can be hard when you’re feeling lonely and depressed, but pushing yourself to spend more time with the people who you care about can really help you to feel less alone.

5. Strengthen your support network

If you feel that you aren’t satisfied with the social interactions in your life, think about what you can do to build more meaningful connections. What activities do you enjoy or is there something new you want to try? Look into joining local groups or clubs to meet like-minded people who you can spend time with.

You may also want to look into getting professional therapeutic support. Many people who feel lonely and depressed find it useful to talk through what they’re experiencing with a therapist or counsellor, who they can then work with to find solutions for a better quality of life going forward.

6. Access professional support for loneliness and depression

If you have found that you continue to feel lonely and depressed regardless of any changes that you make to your lifestyle, you may need a helping hand in order to start feeling better.

You may want to start out by visiting your GP and explaining the thoughts and feelings that you have been experiencing. They can provide you with advice, support and if necessary, access to a service such as Priory where you can receive specialist support and treatment.

You can also come directly to Priory Group, where you will be able to sit down with one of our consultant psychiatrists to determine the best form of treatment or therapy for you to undergo at one of our hospitals or wellbeing centres. The mental health support and treatment that we are able to provide includes weekly therapy sessions, day or half-day sessions at one of our day facilities or residential stays, if deemed necessary.

When Should I Get Support for Loneliness?

If your feelings of loneliness and isolation are leading to severe symptoms of depression, the extent that it is inhibiting your ability to live your life normally, then it might be time to consider reaching out for professional help.

Seeking specialist support for the difficulties you're having is not a sign of weakness. There are plenty of options out there for you. Your first port of call might be to speak to your local GP, you can recommend treatments or next steps.

As an alternative, Priory offers outpatient, inpatient and day care treatment for depression, as well as online therapy. We will work closely with you to decide on the right direction for your recovery. Use the details below to get in touch with a mental health professional today and being your journey to overcoming loneliness.

Page clinically reviewed by Alison Hardy (Dip. in counselling, PG CBT), Senior Lead Cognitive Behavioural Therapist at Priory Hospital Chelmsford

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