The UK government has recently introduced new guidance allowing people who live alone to visit and stay overnight with one other household, as part of a ‘support bubble’ during lockdown. This is good news for many single people in the UK, and an important recognition that one of the biggest side effects of the lockdown measures is loneliness.
Of course, you don’t have to live by yourself to be lonely – it’s perfectly possible to feel this way within a relationship or a family, or living with a group of friends. It’s important to acknowledge that loneliness is something everybody experiences from time to time, and it’s good to talk about it. So if you’re struggling with loneliness right now, here are some useful tips and resources to help you make it through.
1. Stay connected
The most obvious way to combat loneliness is to connect with other people. We can’t do this in the ways we might have before, but there are still plenty of options. Phone calls, video chats and even socially distanced meet-ups in a park or a garden – all of these help us to stay in contact with our loved ones even if we can’t be physically close to them.
Of course, the quality of your interactions also makes a difference to how lonely you feel, so try to find ways of connecting that work for you. Do you find it tiring to talk over video chat? Then try phoning, texting or writing a letter instead. Do calls with your friends make you feel gloomy because you only talk about the bad things happening in the world? Then do something fun and distracting together, like watching a film or playing an online board game. The important thing is to keep trying new ways of interacting until you find something that fills you up rather than drains you!
2. Reach out
If you’re feeling lonely, you’re probably not the only one. But rather than trying to find someone to make you feel less lonely, perhaps you could help someone else feel less lonely instead. Do you know someone who is struggling with isolation or living alone? Reach out to them with a message or a phone call and ask how they’re doing, and if there’s anything you can do to help. Giving to others can help to combat both your loneliness and theirs, and also break the cycle of obsessive self-reflection that loneliness can trigger. So take the focus off yourself and concentrate on helping someone else instead.
3. Practise mindfulness
With so many big, scary things going on, it can be easy to get overwhelmed with thoughts and worries about the future. Mindfulness is the perfect antidote to this, as it’s all about focusing on the present moment. Whether you’re brushing your teeth, taking a walk, cooking or simply lying on your sofa for a few minutes, you can soothe your racing mind my concentrating on your body and the small details of whatever you’re doing, and not trying to fight against any negative feelings. Be quiet, allow thoughts to come to you and leave, and most importantly, breathe.
4. Create something
Being creative can really help you to combat feelings of loneliness. Being lonely can mean feeling disconnected from the world, even invisible, but creative pursuits allow you to express yourself, create your own world and connect to others. There are a million ways to be creative, from painting to writing, dancing to scrapbooking, taking photographs to writing a quiz for your family. Whatever you choose, remember that it’s about making something that wasn’t there before and, if you like, sharing it with other people.
5. Ask for help
If you’re really struggling with loneliness during this time, and you feel like you don’t have anyone to talk to, there are places you can go for help. The NHS has provided a really useful list of organisations you can reach out to if things get on top of you, or if you’re struggling with your mental health. And just remember that this lockdown, and your loneliness, will end.
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