The coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak has made it harder to be with others. Contact with family and friends continues to be limited, and social and leisure activities are restricted, which can cause feelings of loneliness – particularly if you are staying at home.
You might be missing family and friends, colleagues or other everyday connections you had. It’s natural to feel like this, and you should not blame yourself for feeling like you are struggling, now or at any other time.
It’s really important to remember these changes will not be forever.
If you’re feeling lonely at the moment, the following tips can help. Different things work for different people, so try to find what suits you, and seek further support if you feel you need it.
When you are staying at home, you can still spend time with others. There are lots of ways to reach out to friends and family without having to meet in person. Chatting on the phone, video-calling and using social media can remind you that you’re not alone.
Lots of people are doing things together online, like watching films, playing Scrabble or having dinner.You could join one of the many online clubs and virtual social events taking place, and invite your friends and family to take part too.
Creating a regular routine of checking in with others and being more sociable can be good, as it can make it easier to reach out at the time you feel lonely.
You could try messaging old friends or colleagues on social media or text someone you have not spoken to for a while. Or set up a group chat on WhatsApp or Messenger if you prefer to talk with a few people at the same time.
Most of us love hearing from people we have lost contact with – and that’s especially true now. It may also encourage them to contact you more, or you could ask if it’s OK to have a regular check-in.
Being able to share your feelings with others can help with loneliness, and hearing a familiar voice or seeing a friendly face makes us feel less isolated. Telling someone you trust that you’re feeling lonely can help, and it may be easier to do this when you have had some time to chat and relax together first.
Remember that many people may only share the good things happening to them on social media, so avoid comparing yourself to anyone, as this can make you feel lonelier. Plus we can never be sure of what someone else is going through.
Filling your time doing more things you like can stop you from focusing on feelings of loneliness and is good for your wellbeing.If you can go out, a trip to the park can help, but always follow social distancing guidelines when you are outside your home.
When you’re at home, entertaining radio shows or podcasts are a good way to occupy your mind and keep you company. You could listen to audiobooks, and join an online book club to talk about them with others. There are also lots of comedy clubs online, so search for something that will make you laugh.
Exercise can lift your mood and help take your mind off things, so try walking, cycle or running outdoors if you can – or make an indoor class part of your daily routine.
Now is a good time to pursue a hobby or something you have always wanted to be able to do – and it can be a good way to spend time with others. If you enjoy learning with others, you could join an online class for arts and crafts, cookery, DIY or gardening. Become a guitar hero, learn piano or join a virtual choir.
If you want to do something that gets you thinking about other things, you could try learning a language. There are many online courses, from beginners through to advanced classes. And if it’s new work skills you want, there are plenty of free online professional courses out there.
Give it a go – many of these classes are free.
Another way to stay busy is by helping others, which can also boost your mental wellbeing. You can volunteer during the COVID-19 outbreak from home or in your community, but follow the government guidelines if you are going out.
If you would prefer to help others from home, you could volunteer to be a phone buddy to someone. Some charities run groups, like Age UK’s Call in Time, that put volunteers in touch with people to call for a chat and see how they’re doing.
You may even make new friends while volunteering.
If you’re struggling with feelings of loneliness or other mental health issues, remember you are not alone.Join an online community or peer-support group so you can talk to others about how you feel. Groups like Side by Side and SANE Support Forum are available 24 hours a day.
There are also many helplines and support groups that offer expert advice and cover a range of mental health issues.If you cannot wait to see a doctor and feel unable to cope or keep yourself safe, there is urgent support available.
Many of us have faced difficult circumstances over the past year. It’s natural that these challenges can affect our mental health and wellbeing. You may be feeling more tired than usual, or worried about what’s going on in the world.
It might seem like a lot is happening outside of our control, and this can feel overwhelming. You’re not alone. At Samaritans, we’re committed to helping you if you’re struggling to cope, however we can.
Samaritans is a critical service, needed now more than ever. Our volunteers are working hard to minimise disruption to our services and support the people who need us. While it may take us longer to answer the phone or respond to emails, we’re still here 24 hours a day.
Over the next few months, it’s will be as important to look after ourselves as it was at the start of the pandemic. You might be finding it harder to stay motivated after the past few months of lockdown, and that’s OK.
There are a lot of things happening in our lives that we may be balancing. If there were activities that helped you cope before, try focusing on these.
As guidance changes, we may be able to see family or friends more. For many of us, these changes may be welcome, but they may also affect our mental health. You may be feeling uncertain about taking part in some activities or worried about what new pressures will come with lockdown easing.
It’s normal to feel this way. We’ve all faced challenges over the past year and many of us will need time to readjust to the new rules. It’s important to be kind to yourself and to take things at your own pace. If you’re finding things tough, try to talk about how you are feeling with others.
Pay attention to how you are feeling. Our self-help web app can help you track your mood and includes practical tips and techniques to help you look after your emotional health.
Make time for something you enjoy. It could be doing something creative, watching a favourite movie or visiting your local park or garden for half an hour in the sun. Even stepping away and taking a five-minute break over a cup of tea could help you relax and recharge.
Take a break from the news and social media. If you find it hard to stay offline, prioritising other activities can help you switch it off. Try turning off your notifications or leaving your phone in another room for a few hours. If your job involves lots of screen time, taking a break away from your devices after work might help to give you some head-space to relax
Do you know someone affected by coronavirus and are you wondering how best to support them during this time? Perhaps this person isn’t answering the phone or you know that they are struggling. While you obviously can’t physically be there for someone who is quarantined or currently infected with coronavirus, you surely still feel concerned and aren’t sure how to help.
We’re here to tell you that your worries are completely valid, especially during this stressful time when social distancing and self-quarantine are quickly becoming a new normal. In a 2012 study published in Comprehensive Psychiatry about the impact of SARS on mental health, it was found that being quarantined increased the odds of experiencing depressive symptoms three years later.1
In addition, those with a pre-existing health problem such as an anxiety disorder were shown to be at greater risk for negative psychological outcomes of self-quarantine. Specifically, not having a normal routine and lack of physical and social contact with others evidently led to feelings of isolation, frustration, and boredom.
For these reasons, the best thing you can do is to think outside the box about how to offer your support from a distance. Below are some ideas of ways to help someone living with coronavirus (or actively avoiding it) while staying safe yourself.
If your friend or loved one does talk with you on the phone, the best thing you can do is to provide a listening ear. Just being there to listen and offer support could be the most important thing that you do during this time.
Ask what you can do to help, but also consider offering to do specific tasks or to drop off specific items. Do they have a dog that needs walking or other outdoor household chores you could handle? It could be that the person is overwhelmed mentally, and unable to think of what they need in the moment or afraid to be a burden on you.
A person affected by coronavirus may not have had time to stock up on necessary supplies or food to last for the quarantine period. You could consider preparing a few healthy freezer meals or doing a porch drop-off of a bag of fresh groceries.
Healthy foods like whole grains, vegetables, and fruits along with pantry staples with a long shelf-life are the smartest choices. Other items that you could include might be laundry detergent, soap, toothpaste, hand sanitizer, and toilet paper (if store stock permits). Just make sure that you are doing a contact-less drop-off to avoid spreading potential contamination.
One way to stay socially connected might be to suggest a shared activity that will keep you in regular contact. Examples might include reading one chapter of a book each day and talking about it online, writing together in an online journal, or watching a particular movie at the same time and texting or instant messaging about your favorite parts.
Other ideas might include watching Netflix series together, playing online games against each other, or listening to the same audiobooks. Doing a shared activity gives the person something to do and it gives you a reason to stay in regular contact with them.