Updated: Jan 11, 2021
It comes as no surprise that the number of people admitting to they are feeling lonely has been high during COVID-19 and the lockdown restrictions.
A recent study* by the University of Cambridge (April 2020) highlighted that 24% of UK adults have felt lonely compared to only 9% before the COVID-19 outbreak. Another surprising figure is that young adults between the ages of 18-24 appear to be most affected with one in four (44%), compared to 35% of 25-44 years and one in 5 of over 55s.
* 2,221 UK adults aged 18 and over, were collected as part of Coronavirus: Mental Health and the Pandemic, a UK-wide longitudinal research project.
Research has shown there are several factors which may impact an individual’s sense of loneliness. Loneliness is arguably a personal construct, a complex and unique emotion with no single common cause. As a result, it is challenging to identify for many, as it may affect others drastically while it may gradually set in for others.
So how can we manage the feeling of loneliness?
Tackling loneliness, as with any emotional challenges, starts with a conscious awareness of how we feel, and how this emotion impacts our daily activities, what triggers this emotion and what can we do to change or improve how we feel.
Here are 5 practical ways to manage this emotion.
By applying these 5 practical daily routines, you set up clear strategies to help yourself, improve your mood and encourage a healthier outlook and positive behaviours.
1. Look after your mind
Self-care is central to overcoming loneliness, and the mind is an important place to start.
If we consistently engage in negative self-talk about how unfair our situation is, or we feel lonely. We're more likely to find ourselves low and unmotivated to improve or change our situation.
To nurture our mind, and channel healthy thoughts and behaviours, consider the following.
Ask yourself; How do I feel?
What am I saying to myself?
What could I be saying instead?
What can I do to improve how I feel?
Gaining awareness or solitude enables you to catch your thoughts, feelings and check in on yourself. Acceptance of our emotion and acknowledging them helps us consider solutions and resources we have on hand.
Make these practical awareness tools part of your daily routines
· Meditation (induce relaxation and identify self-talk)
· Reading (self-help or self-development books)
· Practice gratitude - writing down daily things you are grateful for helps let in and see the good in your life
2. Look after your body
Another critical tool to tackling loneliness is looking after your body, no matter your age or physical ability. It means you are listening to your body, feeding yourself with food that aid energy, strength, and improves your mental health. There is also the benefit of exercising and allowing wonderful endorphins to flow through your body and mind. Exercising does not mean extreme workouts, as they can be gentle low-intensity workouts; walking, yoga, Tai Chi, dancing, cycling, and swimming (although this may be restricted due to the lockdown). If you need ideas for exercise routines for high or low intensity, a good place to start is to search online, there are plenty of free 30-day trial classes now.
Just search google, below I have provided some examples.
The benefits of eating well are not just about physical health but extend to improvement in your mood and mental health. Unhealthy snacking and the consumption of low nutritional food can impact sleep, general wellbeing such as fatigue and sluggishness, which in turn incites low mood.
Avoid eating or drinking too much, sugary snacks, processed meats, salty food, high carbs, alcohol and sugary drinks. Instead, grab these tasty alternatives, food with high sources of antioxidants, berries, grapes, dark chocolate, and even red wine (in moderation) nuts and seeds, a high protein food such as egg and lean meats, oily fish, and vegetables.
Often forgotten is water; the benefits of water are endless. It helps with digestion, sleep, concentration and hydration. So, make sure you drink at least 1.5 - 2 litres a day as recommended by the British Eatwell guide.
3. Reach Out
We are social creatures who benefit from being part of something bigger than ourselves. We thrive in situations that enable us to contribute, belong, and connect. Even those who state to be introverted, seek a place in society and want to have a sense of belonging.
Therefore, it is essential to nurture our need for belonging and connections with others.
To do this ensure you put in place or scheduled daily interaction with others, this should be to relax, have fun or just simply catch up.
In this current climate, it is easy to forget to speak or connect with others, especially if you are working from home and have virtual work meetings. Work meetings do not fill the gap for emotional connection.
Also, if you feel lonely, tell someone, and voicing our concerns surprisingly helps us bring to the forefront our fears, and if we are fortunate others may provide comfort and reassurance that you are not alone.
If you are struggling to connect with others or think no one will understand how you feel, then do not be embarrassed to seek out a professional.
There is plenty of free or readily available help for anyone feeling lonely or struggling with mental health. Listed below are some organisations you can reach out to.
Mental Health support
Young Adult Support
4. Be part of something
A key symptom of depression or low mood is inactivity or the loss of enjoyment of doing what we like. Being active helps to encourage drive and motivation, which will aid a sense of happiness and help produce endorphins.
Consider activities that make you social and encourages you to meet new people or join a new community. Although in this current climate this may seem hard to achieve, however, there are plenty of online groups and events available
Practical, enriching activities to start today
· Join a virtual community – many clubs have moved to virtual platforms, sign up and join the fun.
Wellbeing community platform
Events platform (online events)
· Start an online course - many online courses have been made free, and some offer an interactive element to share experiences.
· Download a Podcast - listening to podcasts ae a great way to absorb new knowledge and keep the mind stimulated. There are so many fantastic podcasts covering a range of subjects from Art, Comedy, History, Politics, Wellbeing; the list goes on.
Depending on your mobile phone’s brand and operating system you will be able to access a podcast app or search online.
Online podcast access
5. Plan for the future
The feeling of loneliness often makes us feel stuck, so to push through this, surprisingly thinking and planning for the future helps to energise a sense of hope and reassurance.
When the lockdown is lifted, what do you want to do? Do you want to reconnect with friends or family?
Then plan for that, reach out and discuss what you would like to do.
Are there things you would like to do that you have put on hold? Why not do some research and plan for how you could achieve these goals or tasks.
Do not be ridged. Things may change in the future. The objective is to reassure yourself: there is a tomorrow and there is so much you still can do and achieve.
Let yourself be optimistic, share your thoughts and plans with family and friends or join an online community of likeminded individuals; they may want to join in and share the experience with you.
If you are struggling with loneliness or any other mental health concerns please seek help and advice from a professional body, charity, mental health adviser, your local GP or contact me at Kemi@wellnesslink.co.uk.
Kemi Fadero is a Wellbeing Consultant,
Counsellor and Coach based in Cambridge, UK. Kemi’s career encompassed working for multinationals in various continents. Her interest in wellbeing and coaching was a result of working in an increasingly challenging business landscape and juggling a household of three kids containing a set of twin boys. Over the years working in corporate life, she noticed the increased demands of modern life on her family, colleagues and friends. She decided to help others feeling the strain of modern life by leveraging her background in Psychology, Counselling and her passion for holistic wellbeing. From her Cambridge, UK studio, she offers remote coaching and counselling services, helping individuals seeking to overcome emotional distress and wellbeing challenges.