Feeling Lonely? This week is Loneliness Awareness Week 2020

Today is the first day of Loneliness Awareness Week 2020. Even before the pandemic and lockdown research showed that over 9 million people in the UK, so one in five people say they experience loneliness however almost two-thirds of those who struggle with loneliness find it difficult to talk about.

We are hearing from many different sources that loneliness has increased during the pandemic and lockdown so spending some time to think about loneliness is more relevant for everyone than ever before. Changes to how we interact with other, face coverings, social distancing, fear and anxiety around catching or giving the coronavirus to others are all factors that are impacting upon how we usually connect with others. Reduced contact and changed contacts are increasing loneliness and that can fuel other psychological wellbeing problems such as depression, anxiety, drug and alcohol use, anger to name just a few.

To feel lonely is natural and loneliness is something that anyone and probably everyone can experience at some point in their lives, being able to recognise loneliness and being able to speak about it is key to finding a solution. 

In addressing loneliness the first step is being able to identify that you are experiencing it. Often we recognise our feelings by speaking about how we feel and so if you are isolated and do not have people to speak to then identifying loneliness can of course be difficult. One solution can be to write a journal where you explore each day how you are feeling; so to have a conversation with yourself and see what words best fit your experience.

Another way of identifying whether you are lonely is to see how you answer the following question:

Do you feel sad and do you think this might be connected with the number of people in your life?

One of the difficulties with loneliness is that other difficult feelings often and quite naturally co-exist. For example it is natural and common for people to feel embarrassed or ashamed that they are lonely and this can make it feel harder to sort out.

The important thing is to know that your feelings are entirely natural but that there is always a solution.

Loneliness is becoming more widely recognised and understood as something that affects peoples well-being and so there are many places to get support and help. Often people don’t take action because they think telling someone might make things worse however nowadays GP’s and many organisations are able to easily speak about loneliness and have options, information and contacts available to help.

It is also worth thinking about there being two types of loneliness the first is about not having enough social contact, the second is about having something you are struggling with that you don’t feel you can talk about with anyone.

As a psychotherapist, it is often the case that my patients have felt great loneliness before coming to therapy. Being able to talk through something difficult and find ways of coping often enable people to find the required confidence and energy to start making or re-establishing connections and friendships.

It can also be really useful to think about times in life when you didn’t feel so lonely - in what way was life different then and what changed? Often loneliness creeps up on us after a significant change - a bereavement, moving jobs, homes, countries, a relationship breakdown, redundancy, illness. Realising that there are reasons for our loneliness can also really help in us recognising that it is not our fault and that we can make changes.

If you are lonely then use the internet to find information about loneliness in your area, contact your GP or if you have been struggling with something else that you cannot easily speak about then a local counsellor or psychotherapist will be able to help.