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Ways to cope with feeling lonely in coronavirus self-isolation

At a time when we are being advised to self-isolate and practise social distancing, we have looked at ways that we can best prepare for living by ourselves at this time.

First and foremost, remember that the physical distance currently between you, your family, your friends and your colleagues does not mean that you are alone. People want to hear from you, just as much as you need social contact too. So, pick up the phone, video call or message those who you are close to – for your wellbeing and for theirs too.

Another important thing to remember is that this will pass. Every effort is being made globally to bring this situation to a close. It will take time, but it will pass.

Virtually connect with people you are close to

Human beings need connection. This is a necessity, and something to prioritise at this time. We are in the age of the internet, and technology can really help us to keep in touch with the people we are close to:

  • Set up Whatsapp or Facebook groups for your family, friends and work colleagues
  • Book in a daily phone call with someone, as hearing a human voice can be more enriching than seeing a message or text
  • Try video calling as seeing someone’s face can make all the difference

Dr Paul McLaren, one of our psychiatrists at Priory Hospital Hayes Grove calls on us to remember that: “Physical isolation does not have to mean no interactions. Technology bridges the gap. Self-isolation will give us more screen time but if messaging gets too much, make sure you keep things verbal too. Hearing a human voice will do more for our social needs than posting or using an app.”

Arrange social events online

Keep your diary full of virtual social events, so that you don’t have to miss out on having a good time with your friends and family when you’re social distancing during the coronavirus outbreak:

  • Book in for a live-streamed exercise or yoga class with your friends
  • Organise a virtual viewing party where everyone watches the same movie at the same time
  • Use Skype or Google Hangouts to set up a mealtime video chat with family or friends
  • Find and play games online with your friends – this could be anything from Words With Friends to Xbox Live and Nintendo Online
  • If you live apart from your partner, arrange virtual dates so that you can chat face-to-face

Organising virtual social events can allow you to keep enjoying time with your friends and family, take your mind off the current situation for a while and help you to maintain a positive outlook.

Set up a virtual work environment

Many of us see the people we work with for eight hours every day. If you are continuing to work from home during the coronavirus outbreak, it can feel quite quiet working without your colleagues. Try to keep in touch with them as much as possible – remember they are likely working while alone too, so communication can help to keep everyone’s morale up:

  • Keep any meetings or catch-ups in your calendar where possible - do these over voice or video conference
  • Book in ‘watercooler’ chats with your colleagues and maybe set up a video conference over lunch so that you can chat about non-work related things too

Virtually connect with therapists and charities

If you are struggling, remember that mental health support can be accessed online or over the phone. A number of charities have phone lines and online support groups where you can talk to someone about how you are feeling:

  • Samaritans provides confidential support for those experiencing distress or despair
  • The Mind Infoline offers information of mental health support and signposts services
  • Mind’s Elefriends is an online supportive community where you can listen, share and be heard
  • BEAT have set up its online group The Sanctuary in response to the coronavirus, and subsequent social distancing and anxieties

There is also the opportunity to make use of teletherapy and online therapy if you feel that you need to connect with a therapist. If you already access therapy, check in with your therapist or their provider to see if this is an option. The relationship that you have with your therapist is special, and is a connection that you should try to maintain at this time. Like any other therapy appointment, you have the opportunity to communicate any feelings of anxiety, fear or loneliness that you are currently dealing with. If you would like to find out more about our online therapy service, please visit our Priory Connect webpage.

An active brain is a healthy brain

If you feel that you are struggling with staying indoors, write up a new daily routine. Keeping active throughout the day – with tasks to complete – can help you to look after your wellbeing. Structure and stability is key, so think about the following:

  • Getting up and going to bed at set times
  • Eating healthy meals at your usual meal times
  • Doing your usual grooming routine
  • Exercising regularly
  • Reading, writing or crafting
  • Listening to music or podcasts
  • Communicating with friends, family and work colleagues

Maintaining good habits when your usual routine has changed can provide you with a sense of security. In a time when things feel out of control, it can help you to feel that there is some structure that you can put in place.

Try to keep your internet use as positive as possible

Limit the time you spend watching the news. Instead of tuning in to the 24-hour news cycle, just try to catch up on it once or twice a day to get the key bulletins.

You may also be finding social media a bit much at the minute, but there are ways to use it positively. Think about following feel-good accounts that will make you laugh or smile. And you have the option to mute or unfollow accounts that aren’t making you feel good. Also, rather than focusing on how other people and influencers are choosing to live their lives in self-isolation, really focus on yourself.

Give yourself the time to focus on keeping yourself well, by sticking a simple routine and staying in contact with the people you care about.

 

Blog reviewed by Dr Ian Nnatu (MB BS, PG DIP (CBT), MSc, FRCPsych, MRCPsych) Consultant Adult Psychiatrist at Priory Hospital North London

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