Coping with Loneliness
By Jen Wood
Jen Wood is an emotional wellbeing coach, psychotherapist and wellbeing consultant. She is based at Restoration Yard in Dalkeith Country Park and during the Covid-19 pandemic, is helping us through these strange times addressing issues we all face in our new isolation. Here Jen addresses how to build strength and wellbeing while coping with loneliness. This post includes two short hypnotherapy sessions.
A time of loss of connection
Relationships are at the core of mental health and wellbeing. If we have good relationships, we typically enjoy increased wellbeing, better psychological health and we live longer. Some studies show that positive social connections can have similar health benefits as stopping smoking. During this Covid-19 crisis and our enforced lockdown that opportunity of face-to-face connection has been unavailable - leaving us to learn how to cope with loneliness.
The impact of loneliness is unique to the individual
For some of us, shielding, social distancing and lockdown has meant rediscovering the joy of uninterrupted family time at home. For other perhaps more introverted amongst us, it may have given a welcome break from the pressure to socialise. However for many people who live alone, this has been an increasingly difficult time, feeling lonely and isolated from their colleagues and community. The level of anxiety is building up, as many of us know people who have been unwell, or have tragically died.
We are also warned that ignoring our mental health and wellbeing needs at the moment will risk a rise anxiety, depression, self-harm, suicide and other mental-health issues. Loneliness has reached epidemic proportions according to the Office of National Statistics, with 2.4 million adults already feeling lonely before lockdown. Unemployment, financial worries and separation of families and friends are known risk factors for mental health. Poor mental health, and stress, can cause reduced immune function and we need our immune systems to be in tip top shape just now.
Small things like smiling at the bus driver or chatting to the person at the till point in M&S can increase our happiness, and these things are unavailable to us for now. For some of us, it can feel like our whole lives and now being lived through the same screens, losing the separation that some of us find helpful or necessary between work and life.
It’s also important to point out that loneliness and isolation don’t impact everyone equally. A young person may experience social loneliness when they can’t meet up with friends, while an older adult may experience emotional loneliness, particularly if they have been widowed recently.
But what can we do to help us to cope with our loneliness?
Here are some suggestions:
Practice gratitude – write down 3 things at the end of each day that have brought you joy or a sense of achievement.
Stay in contact using technology ~ FaceTime, Zoom, Skype, WhatsApp and Messenger video calls and Houseparty can give a range of options to see and speak to each other. I have been speaking to one person each day (out with my usual work conversations) to maintain connection.
Plan activities to do with others at home ~ I have participated in an online cookery class with friends, each of us joining from our own kitchens. It was a lovely way to feel connected and have a nice pot of soup at the end of it! I’ve seen others have virtual dinner parties, poetry readings or dance parties. Restoration Yard has a programme of virtual wellbeing classes which can be accessed here. Why not arrange to do classes with your friends from the comfort of your own home. We even have HITT PT classes and mindfulness and stress management classes.
Self-care ~ even when you don’t feel like it, or especially when you don’t feel like it. Why not create a self-care plan and ask a friend to be your self-care accountability partner? You could share your intention for the day and what you are grateful for at the end of the day too.
Connect with others who may be lonely ~ We feel better when we reach out to others.
Ask for help if you need it (see below) ~ Sometimes a call to a friend is enough, but there is help out there if you need it. Mental health care is a bit like pain relief. It’s a lot harder to sooth the pain when it’s excruciating. Prevention is always better than cure.
Practice Compassion (to self and others) ~ If we can develop more compassion towards others and ourselves, we can increase our general life-satisfaction, as well as our emotional and psychological wellbeing and mood. There are a range of ways to develop self-compassion, and I have recorded an affectionate breathing practice and a suggestion for soothing touch, both of which you can listen to here.
Jen is offering online Mindfulness Meditation (Mondays) and Reduce Stress - Feel Good (Fridays) classes via Zoom on Mondays and Fridays at 12noon. Jen also offers individual wellbeing coaching, therapy and mindfulness sessions via Zoom or by phone. To find out more, head to Jen’s website.