The coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak has made it harder to be with others. Contact with family and friends continues to be limited, and social and leisure activities are restricted, which can cause feelings of loneliness – particularly if you are staying at home.
You might be missing family and friends, colleagues or other everyday connections you had. It's natural to feel like this, and you should not blame yourself for feeling like you are struggling, now or at any other time.
It's really important to remember these changes will not be forever.
If you're feeling lonely at the moment, the following tips can help. Different things work for different people, so try to find what suits you, and seek further support if you feel you need it.
If possible, meet up with friends or family members. Always make sure you follow current restrictions in your area on where and with how many people you are able to meet, and observe social distancing measures. Perhaps a walk in the park would be good, as spending time in green spaces can help our wellbeing.
If you are staying at home, you can still spend time with others. Lots of people are doing things together online, like watching films, playing Scrabble or having dinner together.
You could join one of the many online clubs and virtual social events taking place, and invite your friends and family to take part too.
Creating a regular routine of checking in with others and being more sociable can be good, as it can make it easier to reach out at the time you feel lonely.
You could try messaging old friends or colleagues on social media or text someone you have not spoken to for a while. Or set up a group chat on WhatsApp or Messenger if you prefer to talk with a few people at the same time.
Most of us love hearing from people we have lost contact with – and that's especially true now. It may also encourage them to contact you more, or you could ask if it's OK to have a regular check-in.
Being able to share your feelings with others can help with loneliness, and hearing a familiar voice or seeing a friendly face makes us feel less isolated.
Telling someone you trust that you're feeling lonely can help, and it may be easier to do this when you have had some time to chat and relax together first.
Remember that many people may only share the good things happening to them on social media, so avoid comparing yourself to anyone, as this can make you feel lonelier. Plus we can never be sure of what someone else is going through.
Filling your time doing more things you like can stop you from focusing on feelings of loneliness and is good for your wellbeing.
If you can go out, a trip to the park can help, but always follow social distancing guidelines when you are outside your home.
If you're staying home, entertaining radio shows or podcasts are a good way to occupy your mind and keep you company. You could listen to audio books, and join an online book club to talk about them with others. There are also lots of comedy clubs online, so search for something that will make you laugh.
Exercise can lift your mood and help take your mind off things, so try walking, cycle or running outdoors if you can – or make an indoor class part of your daily routine.
If you want something more calming, try a free mental wellbeing audio guide, or give a relaxation or mindfulness app a go.
Now is a good time to pursue a hobby or something you have always wanted to be able to do – and it can be a good way to spend time with others. If you enjoy learning with others, you could join an online class for arts and crafts, cookery, DIY or gardening.
Become a guitar hero, learn piano or join a virtual choir.
If you want to do something that gets you thinking about other things, you could try learning a language. There are many online courses, from beginners through to advanced classes.
And if it's new work skills you want, there are plenty of free online professional courses out there.
Give it a go – many of these classes are free.
Another way to stay busy is by helping others, which can also boost your mental wellbeing. You can volunteer during the coronavirus outbreak from home or in your community, but follow the government guidelines if you are going out.
If you would prefer to help others from home, you could volunteer to be a phone buddy to someone. Some charities run groups, like Age UK's Call in Time, that put volunteers in touch with people to call for a chat and see how they're doing.
You may even make new friends while volunteering.
If you're struggling with feelings of loneliness or other mental health issues, remember you are not alone.
There are also many helplines and support groups that offer expert advice and cover a range of mental health issues.
If you cannot wait to see a doctor and feel unable to cope or keep yourself safe, there is urgent support available.
Further support and advice
Many organisations offer advice and support on coping with loneliness, including local and national forums and phone support services. Here are just a few.
The Let's talk Loneliness website offers advice and stories on coping with loneliness.
There is also helpful advice on managing feelings of loneliness on the Campaign to End Loneliness website.
According to a survey* of UK adults which took place during lockdown (2 – 3 April), one in four (24%) said they had feelings of loneliness in the “previous two weeks”. When the same question was asked shortly before lockdown, just one in ten people (10%) said they had these feelings. In a matter of weeks, social distancing left millions more people in the UK feeling isolated.
Young people aged 18 to 24 were most likely* to experience loneliness since the lockdown began. Before lockdown, one in six (16%) said they felt lonely. Since lockdown, young people are almost three times more likely to have experienced loneliness, with almost half (44%) feeling this way.
Many of us feel lonely from time to time and these short-term feelings shouldn’t harm our mental health. However, the longer the pandemic goes on for, the more these feelings become long-term.
Long-term loneliness is associated with an increased risk of certain mental health problems, including depression, anxiety and increased stress. The impact of long-term loneliness on mental health can be very hard to manage.
The government is telling us to stay at home and only go outside for food, health reasons or essential work, to stay two?metres (six feet) away from other people and wash our hands as soon as we get home.
That means we need to adapt how we connect with people and find new ways to stay in touch during this time. Now, more than ever, is the time to keep up those strong social networks that act like a buffer against poor mental health.
Staying in touch via video calls, Whatsapp or just regular phone calls, is vital. Keep up your routines where possible – for example if you play cards with your friends on a weeknight, try keeping this in the diary and playing a game on a video call instead. Or potentially join one of the many online quizzes hosted on Facebook or Youtube, playing as a team.
If you’re not tech savvy, regular phone calls, messages or even writing letters are lovely ways to show someone that you’re thinking of them.
We have written a guide to nurturing relationships during Coronavirus with lots of different ideas for keeping in touch.
Three in four of the overall population, and about half of the younger population, have not been experiencing loneliness during lockdown according to the survey.* This shows great resilience during this time of isolation and shows that many of us are adapting our ways of keeping in contact with people. Doing good is good for our mental health, so now could a good opportunity to help someone else who might be feeling lonely.
One idea is to get in touch with someone who lives alone or might not have many relatives or close connections to check in on them. A message or a phone call could make a big difference to someone who hasn’t heard from anyone in a while.
If it’s a neighbour, you could even share something you’ve baked with them - at a safe distance! If you know someone who struggles with technology, now could be a good time to talk them through setting up something like Skype or Zoom at home. This could make a huge difference to their social interactions in future.
We’ve come up with some more ideas for random acts of kindness during the Coronavirus outbreak.
Remember, no one is exempt from feeling lonely at times. All of us, at some point or other during this coronavirus pandemic, will feel cut off from our loved ones. However, some of us will have greater access to technology than others, or more social connections.
By caring for each other, checking in on people who are more isolated, or even volunteering for a helpline, we can help prevent a loneliness epidemic.
This is a challenging and sometimes lonely time, but it will pass. There will be lots of hugs, shared pots of tea, parties and celebrations in the future. For now, let’s be as kind as possible to ourselves and others.
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