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How to manage loneliness and feelings of isolation

What is loneliness and isolation? 

Loneliness is a term used to describe a strong and unwelcome sense of feeling alone. When we feel lonely, it may be that we're spending more time than we'd like on our own and want to be in the company of other people, or we could be surrounded by others and feel as though we're on our own if there's a lack of understanding or common ground. 

Loneliness can take many forms and includes: 

Emotional loneliness – when we feel the absence of someone we were once close to who is no longer there e.g. after a relationship breakdown or a bereavement.

Social loneliness – when we feel that we've little to no interaction with others on a regular basis. 

Transient loneliness – when we feel lonely from time to time, which may be for any number of reasons – whether known or unknown. 

Situational loneliness – when we feel lonely as a result of changing circumstances or at certain times e.g. moving away from loved ones or finding ourselves alone at Christmas.

Chronic loneliness – when we're alone for a long period of time and it interferes with our happiness or takes a toll on our wellbeing. 

Isolation refers to a scenario where we're separated from others – whether by personal choice or circumstances beyond our control. It may be that we avoid social interactions, have difficulty making friends, or feel unable to connect with people for other reasons. 

Almost 1 in 10 of us felt lonely most or all of the time before the Coronavirus pandemic – and for 1 in 4 of us, it's become a little harder to manage feelings of loneliness and isolation since lockdown began. Loneliness and isolation is linked to several mental health issues including depression and social anxiety, as well as physical health problems such as heart disease and stroke. So it's important that we balance social time with solitude and do what we can to manage our thoughts and emotions when we feel lonely or isolated. 

What can I do if I'm feeling lonely or isolated?

  • Think about what's causing you to feel this way

    Take some time to reflect on your circumstances and whether there are any factors that might make you particularly vulnerable to loneliness. Perhaps you live alone, are separated from friends or family, or find it hard to maintain a social life. 

    Try making a note of anything that could be fuelling any feelings of loneliness or isolation you may be experiencing, to help you identify where changes can be made to improve your social wellbeing. 
  • Get creative with how you spend your time

    Grab a pen, some paper and jot down anything that interests or excites you that you’d be willing to try when you’re by yourself. Perhaps you’ve always wanted to learn how to play an instrument, would enjoy dance workouts as a fun way to keep fit, or you like the idea of putting puzzles together.

    Give yourself permission to explore new things, purely for your enjoyment and without any pressure. Engaging in activities that you find enjoyable is a great way to distract yourself from your feelings, and can make spending time in your own company a more pleasurable experience. 
  • Reach out and keep in touch with others

    A simple text or a quick call to a friend or family member is a nice way to show you're thinking of them and helps to ensure that you're in regular contact with people. Strive to have conversations with loved ones daily, be it over the phone or via a video call using apps like Zoom, FaceTime, or WhatsApp where you can ‘see’ each other.

    It’s important to be intentional in keeping in touch – what starts out as a few days of no communication can easily turn into weeks or months without contact with others and can leave you feeling disconnected. 

  • Use the internet to socialise

    See if you can find an online community with people who share your interests, and join the conversation. Start by putting together a list of hobbies and activities that appeal to you, then have a look on Facebook or an app like Bumble BFF for groups you can become a member of that are centred around your interests. 

    Exploring online communities is a great way to make social connections you can keep in touch with, which can help to reduce feelings of loneliness. 
  • Make friends in local community groups

    Find out what clubs or groups are available in your area that might be of interest to you. From gardening to walking for fitness and outdoor adventures, you can join a group on Meetup – the world’s largest network of local groups – and connect with like-minded people in person when restrictions permit. 

    Bookmark the ones that appeal to you and commit yourself to joining one, if not a number of them. Participating in activities you enjoy outside the home can help you to stay connected with people and support your wellbeing.
  • Talk to someone about how you're feeling

    Give a close friend or family member a call and let them know that you're having a difficult time. Having a conversation with a loved one can be comforting, provides social connection, and can make a big difference to the way you think and feel. 

    If you'd like to speak to someone in confidence for help with loneliness, you can call the British Red Cross's free Helpline on 0300 456 1155 – available between 9.30am and 5pm, Monday to Friday. For information on organisations you can turn to for support with loneliness, please visit Mind’s website.

    If feelings of loneliness persist or is causing you to experience low moods that last days, weeks or longer, try talking to your GP or a health professional as soon as possible. They can talk through your symptoms and may be able to refer you for further support. 
  • Look after yourself

    Ensure that you eat a nutritious breakfast, lunch and dinner and set aside time for a light workout each day. Having a well-balanced diet and giving your body the activity it needs is not only essential to your wellbeing, it can also positively impact the way you feel.

    You should also try to get eight hours of sleep a night, as this will help to regulate your thoughts and emotions – making it easier to manage loneliness and feelings of isolation.

    Consider going for daily strolls, visiting a local park or garden centre. Spending time outdoors provides an opportunity to meet new people and interact with others – helping you to feel more connected.

Find out how we can help you

If you work, or have worked, for a UK bank and would like to speak to someone for help with managing your wellbeing, call our free and confidential Helpline on 0800 0234 834. We’re open 9am - 5pm, Monday to Friday (except bank holidays).

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