Everyone feels lonely from time to time, even when surrounded by other people. But feeling isolated and lonely for long periods of time can have a negative impact on mental health and develop into conditions such as depression, anxiety, or panic attacks.
There may be several reasons why you develop feelings of loneliness. You might be physically far from your friends and family or be unable to get out of the house much due to physical or mental health conditions.
People who are widowed, live alone, are elderly, or have limited social ties and resources are those most likely to feel lonely, but other people can be affected too. You may also feel alone even when you are surrounded by friends or while you’re in a close relationship.
Having these feelings doesn’t mean that there’s anything wrong with you. Loneliness is an emotion that has many different and complex triggers. It’s not essential to understand exactly why you feel lonely, as much as developing strategies for coping with these feelings.
1. Resist the Temptation to Withdraw Further
Feelings of loneliness, isolation and the sense that nobody understands or cares about you can cause you to withdraw further into your shell and can make the effort to be social feel like a mammoth task.
However, if you give in to these feelings, your sense of isolation and negative emotions will only grow.
Try to leave the house and get out and about as much as you can, as long as you’re physically able. You don’t have to throw yourself into difficult situations if you’re not feeling sociable, but even going out for a walk or doing the shopping will help.
If it’s difficult for you to get out of the house, or you have issues with transport or mobility, there are organisations that can help you. Contact Lifeline to be connected with services in your area.
2. Reach Out to Friends and Family
People can sometimes get very caught up in their own busy lives and they may not notice when others close to them are in need of support.
There’s no need to feel ashamed or hide how you’re feeling. Make the effort to reach out to your loved ones and let them know you’re feeling isolated.
If you don’t live close to friends or family, technology can help. Even if you can’t meet in person, regular emails, Skype calls, and instant messaging can help you to stay connected and feel less lonely.
3. Invest in Self-care
When you’re feeling down it can sometimes be difficult to take care of yourself properly. You may forget to eat or eat non-nutritious food and your sleeping patterns can go out the window, particularly if you don’t have work or school to get up for.
Having a regular routine and looking after yourself can really make a world of difference to both your physical and mental health.
Try to eat nutritious meals and hydrate regularly by drinking plenty of water. Avoid alcohol, as it is a depressant and can make you feel worse. Give yourself a set bedtime and get up the same time every morning. And take regular exercise too – outside if possible. Running clubs, sports groups, and gyms are also a great way to socialise if you find it difficult to meet new people.
4. Try Volunteering
Getting involved with your community and volunteering for worthy causes is a fantastic way to improve your self-esteem and well-being, meet other people, and help you to feel less lonely.
Try visiting your local library or community centre to see what’s on and if there are any local causes in need of help. You could also volunteer to work in a charity shop, soup kitchen, care home, or local school.
Visit Volunteering Australia to find volunteering opportunities near you.
5. Consider Counselling
Sometimes feelings of loneliness and isolation become so strong that you feel they’re almost impossible to overcome. If this is the case, it’s important to seek professional help to process your feelings and work together to develop coping strategies.
Psychological Health Care clinics in Perth are staffed with trained clinical psychologists who are experienced in helping individuals to cope with feelings of loneliness and depression.
It’s important to remember that loneliness is just a feeling and you are in fact not alone – there are many people ready and willing to reach out to you and help you through this difficult time in your life.