Help with feeling lonely

Advice and ideas about how to combat loneliness during the coronavirus outbreak.

This year has been difficult for many who haven't been able to see friends and family due to coronavirus restrictions. Restrictions are continuing into the Christmas period, and it can be a challenging time of year with adverts showing happy couples and families.  

Feeling lonely is not a mental health problem in itself, but feeling lonely can have an impact on mental health. Everyone feels lonely occasionally, and experiences of loneliness will be different for different people, but loneliness is very different to being alone. 

Someone may choose to be alone and be perfectly happy with little contact with others, and another person may have lots of social contact, be in a relationship or family, and still feel lonely. 

Causes of loneliness

According to the Mind website, loneliness has lots of different causes: 

  • Certain life events, such as isolation due to the pandemic, can trigger loneliness 
  • Time of the year, such as winter, and especially Christmas 
  • Bereavement 
  • Relationship break-up 
  • Retirement 
  • Changing your job 
  • Starting university or college 
  • Moving to a new home or area 

Other research suggests that certain people are more vulnerable to experiencing loneliness, such as people who: 

  • Lack a close family or who don't have close friends to talk to 
  • Are estranged from their family 
  • Are single parents or carers 
  • Are experiencing financial hardship and cannot afford to socialise 
  • Have mobility issues, a disability, or health problem, including mental health problems 
  • Experience discrimination due to gender, race or sexual orientation 
  • Experienced sexual or physical abuse and have difficulty forming relationships 

How to manage loneliness 

Loneliness may be managed in a variety of different ways. Here are some tips to help:

  • Taking things slowly by going out somewhere to be around people, but where you are not expected to talk to them, such as a walk or a trip to a café  
  • If possible, meet up with a friend or family member, ensuring you follow current restrictions in your area
  • Make new connections with people by volunteering or joining a group based on a shared interest such as a book club or online community - people are doing things together online such as playing Scrabble or having dinner
  • Exercise can lift your mood, so try cycling, or running, or, if staying at home, radio shows and podcasts can provide company and entertainment
  • Take steps to look after yourself by getting enough sleep, eating a balanced diet regularly and doing some exercise
  • Spending time outside in nature, and spending time with animals, through owning a pet or enjoying wildlife in nature, can also benefit mental health and help combat feelings of loneliness

Local support available

Several local charities and organisations, such as Rushmoor Voluntary Services (RVS) run a Befriending Service and Buddy scheme, which offers telephone support, where befrienders are put in touch with people feeling lonely. There are currently 12 telephone befrienders, who call 18 residents, with a further four people waiting to be matched with a befriender. Please call 0333 370 4000.

Telephone support is available from The Vine Centre in Aldershot, which operates Vineline, offering a friendly chat, advice, reassurance and specialist support. Please call 01252 400196, the line is open Monday, Tuesday and Friday 8.30am to 3pm. 

Several local churches also offer telephone support to isolated residents:

  • St Peters Church in Farnborough - volunteers offer a friendly phone call, will pick up shopping and medicines and will pray for you; please call 01252 513111
  • Church of the Good Shepherd Community Care Line offers a daily or weekly phone call to chat, please call 01252 375578
 
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