The world has been in lockdown for several months now. And whilst it might be necessary to socially isolate or follow social distancing guidelines to slow the spread of the virus, there’s no doubt that isolation is taking its toll on people’s mental health.
The aspect I want to focus on today is loneliness. It’s such a common issue with almost a fifth of the population saying they are always or often lonely. [Source – last accessed 6th June 2020], and those figures are likely to increase throughout the pandemic. In fact the government recognised this could become an issue and launched their ‘Let’s Talk Loneliness’ campaign [#LetsTalkLoneliness] to tackle loneliness and social isolation during the coronavirus outbreak and period of social distancing.
As this article from BetterHelp reminds us, loneliness isn’t just unpleasant, it can be harmful to our health. In fact lacking social connections in our lives can be as damaging to our health as smoking 15 cigarettes a day.
So with the government telling us to stay at home and only go outside for food, exercise or essential work AND to stay two metres away from other people, how can we combat loneliness?
Join a virtual group
Fortunately we have technology to help us. And while the irony is that misuse of social media can make us feel even more isolated at times, using technology wisely and creatively can provide us with meaningful contact when we’re in lockdown.
Zoom is a platform where several people can see each other and talk at once. This means you can join in with virtual classes. At the time of writing my parents, who are both in their eighties, are taking part in a weekly Zoom Tai Chi class and an exercise class. I’ve joined in with a virtual choir and daily Qi Gong class. School age children took PE classes and stressed parents could try yoga classes.
Set up a virtual get together
With a bit of creativity and imagination, many of the things you do ‘in real life’ can be carried out virtually. For example, there is no reason why you can’t continue (or set up) a book club or run a virtual bake off! You can even just leave your camera on and get on with your day, so it feels like you are together.
Mix with your neighbourhood
Some fun social media updates showed people in Italy singing from their balconies, which soon caught on across the world.
In the UK, the ‘Clap for our carers’ saw people standing outside their front doors once a week to clap and cheer for NHS workers.
These simple acts help to ease loneliness and reconnect you to your local community, even if just for a short time.
People of my hometown #Siena sing a popular song from their houses along an empty street to warm their hearts during the Italian #Covid_19 #lockdown.#coronavirusitalia #COVID19 #coronavirus pic.twitter.com/7EKKMIdXov
— valemercurii 🌍 (@valemercurii) March 12, 2020
Remember the telephone!
Before the days of Skype, WhatsApp and Facebook, I used to spend hours talking to my friends on the telephone. I’ve used lockdown as the perfect opportunity to have long conversations with friends again. It feels good to share what’s going on, to have a giggle and to generally put the world to rights. And it’s lovely to hear someone’s voice.
Get back in touch
Remember that person you’ve been meaning to get in touch with for ages? Well this is the time to do it. Sure you can’t meet in a cafe for coffee or the pub for a glass of wine, but there’s nothing to stop you doing this virtually. Arrange a time to meet, get your tipple of choice ready and join each other on Zoom or Skype. You can even meet for a meal like this!
You might be surprised to learn that volunteering can benefit your own health, both mentally and physically. So while you might be stuck in your home there are still things you can do. I’ve volunteered to make telephone calls once a week to around 20 vulnerable people in my village. I’m linked to a group who can collect food or prescriptions, so I speak to villagers, see how they are, ask if they need anything, then we have a good chat. The feedback is excellent and you’ll be surprised what a difference a simple phonecall can make to others – it’s an absolute life line for some.
Call a helpline
Sometimes it can be easier to talk to strangers, and this is where helplines come in. Trained professionals are available, sometimes 24 hours a day, to listen and signpost you to help.
The NHS have a list of recommended helplines, specifically for mental health.
Pick up a pen
Remember the good old days when we wrote letters?! Writing and receiving a handwritten letter has a certain charm, and as you write you’ll be lost in the moment which can ease loneliness. Add to that the joy you’ll give the recipient and it’s a win-win!
Join an online game or group
There are Facebook groups, Reddit boards and forums for just about any topic imaginable. While you need to be careful to steer clear of toxic people and trolls, there are excellent opportunities for making deep, lasting friendships. You could join a group you are interested in, or find someone to play online games with; such as Scrabble.
Missing the cinema? Host a virtual viewing party!
Using a platform like Scener means you can video chat or text chat with your friends while watching a movie!
Get professional help
If you’re struggling, remember that some therapists are working online or over the telephone. 80% of our services work just as well virtually, as they do in person, so if you want help with EFT, NLP, hypnotherapy or some of out other services, please get in touch.