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Loneliness is a growing epidemic in the UK with 2.4 million adults feeling lonely, according to data from the Office for National Statistics. Although older people are particularly vulnerable to feeling lonely, it can affect people of all ages, particularly if they are quarantined at home.

In our current climate of self-isolation, loneliness is a very real side effect of COVID19, it stops us engaging with our-day-to day lives, and human connection plays a large part in our sense of wellbeing. When we are limited in our ability to connect, it is bound to have an impact on our mood. In order to minimise this, we need to make a conscious effort to maintain contact, and if we can’t do this face to face then we must use other means for example, phone calls, video calls, messaging or email.

In a typical day lots of us are used to having many interactions that give us a sense of connection, like buying a newspaper or when out shopping. For some people, these interactions are vital for them to feel connected.

Degrees of isolation

The current guidance is that everyone should be staying at home wherever possible. If they can, everyone should work from home – a major change for many. Social gatherings are also essentially banned.

But for two groups, the level of proposed isolation is even higher.

People with possible coronavirus and their household members

People with symptoms of possible coronavirus infection are required to self-isolate completely for at least seven days. Other people they live with must isolate for 14 days. But if you’re in self-isolation because of symptoms, you should isolate yourself from your family as well as the rest of the world. That means being in a separate room from them ideally at all times.

People being shielded

The most vulnerable are also being advised to isolate themselves entirely in their homes for their own safety for 12 weeks from 23rd March. This is called shielding. Unless their partner is also staying inside entirely, they should be separated from any family members they live with.

When socialising in person is out of the question, then, what else can we do to beat loneliness?

Ways to combat loneliness

Stay in virtual contact

Meeting up with friends might not be possible right now, but you can stay in touch with everyone via technology. Download apps and chat, share updates and pictures to keep your spirits up when things are tough. You can also set up group videos chats on Zoom – so you can pretend you are catching up in the pub, even when you’re at home.

Many of us prefer to use instant messaging these days rather than picking up the phone, but now is the time to get in contact the old-fashioned way too. Just hearing a friend or loved one’s voice can help reduce loneliness and make us feel more connected.

Plan home-based activities

If you don’t have access to a phone or the internet, distraction techniques can also help reduce isolation and loneliness. With many of us stuck at home, now is the time to get on with the things we have been meaning to do for ages but just haven’t had the time to do – eg, learning a new skill, reading that book you’ve been wanting to read or start learning a new language.

Setting yourself challenges, such as reading something new or baking something you’ve never made before can bring about a sense of achievement that helps to boost your mental well-being, as well as passing the time.

Normalise your day

Having to stay at home all the time can make the days merge into one and seem endless. Therefore, it’s important to try to stick to a routine, just getting up at the same time as normal and getting dressed rather than staying in our pyjamas, having lunch at a certain hour can all help make us feel more settled and provide a much-needed sense of normality.

Taking back control over how you behave is really important right now.

Look after yourself

Keeping physically healthy can help boost mood and ease loneliness too, so it is important to eat as well as you can and get some exercise. Even if you can’t get outside, there are plenty of online exercise videos to follow indoors.

Try mindful activities, relaxation, breath work, gardening, yoga, listening to podcasts or music, watching films, games and drawing, all these activities can help lift your mental wellbeing.

Reach out for help

If you are struggling with loneliness or your mental health, there are a lot of support groups to lend an ear and provide advice. The

organisations MindCampaign to End Loneliness and Age UK are all offering information and support.

In addition, here at Joints and Points we are still offering telephone and video appointments with our counsellors. Speaking to one of our qualified counsellors can help support you through this difficult time.

Don’t forget you can still speak to your doctor if you are struggling with a mental health problem, with many surgeries offering telephone appointments.

Your world may seem to have gotten a lot smaller recently, but can you take this opportunity to slow down and unwind from what may normally be a hectic life?

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