For many people, lockdown – even as it is slowly eased – will put significant pressure on their mental wellbeing. This post is part of a four part series covering working from home, anxiety & worries, relationship strains, loneliness.
Most of us need some form of social contact to maintain good mental health. Loneliness and poor mental health are closely linked; we can feel lonely when we’re unwell and being unwell can make us feel lonely. It can impact on our physical health too. Other people cannot always tell when we’re lonely either, further increasing the feeling of isolation.
With decreased physical connection under lockdown some of us might start to feel we are sinking inside ourselves. This is understandable: so many of the ways we used to connect with others have been put on hold. One positive outcome of the lockdown is that people have been talking more about loneliness and its effects. Perhaps the stigma around loneliness will begin to change. We hope so.
Needing a hug
For those of us living alone or with someone we would not normally touch, the absence of hugs might also be having an impact on our mental wellbeing. Nothing can really replace a hug, but here are a couple of things that might help if you are feeling that gap:
- Moisturise – it may sound silly but taking a moment to touch yourself by rubbing in moisturiser can be really beneficial. Any old moisturiser will do. If you don’t normally moisturise, try it with your hands and feet first, and try to really focus on sending love to your skin. It may feel odd at first, but give it a try: the worst that can happen is your skin will feel softer!
- Touch things mindfully – try to touch the things around you at home; there are a whole host of textures that can make the body feel good if you take time to enjoy them. Soft pyjamas, rolling an ice cube in your hands, walking barefoot on grass, cold showers, the leaf of a plant…
Needing to connect
Connecting with others can take many different forms. For some people online or phone connecting does not energise them the same way that face-to-face contact does. This is tough and understandable, but try not to give up on reaching out altogether if you feel like this. Here are a few things you could try if you are starting to feel that loneliness is impacting on your mental health.
- Attend one of our online groups
Sometimes just being with others online is enough to take the edge off the loneliness sting, even if you can’t talk about that feeling. Some of our members have found our groups vital in allowing them to continue to feel part of a community.
- Ring people for short bursts
Long phone calls can sometimes be more draining than they helpful, even though the thought of hanging up feels hard. Try to make your calls short and regular; a 15 minute catch-up with a friend can give you a little boost.
- Reach out for support
There are many phone lines offering listening services and we are running our own befriending service too for weekly phone calls. See below for some of these and don’t be afraid to make use of them. Helplines are not just for people in crisis, they are for anyone who needs someone to listen.
If you can get out for walks, try to organise to do this with someone (socially distant from us). The benefit of walking is that you do not always have to chat, you are not required to make significant amounts of eye-contact, and it is good exercise. When you are really struggling with your mental health this may be easier emotionally than a phone call. You are allowed to walk outside with one other person not from your household as of the new lockdown restrictions (May 2020).
Other tips from our members
- Take a break from social media
Delete your social media apps for a couple of days (you shouldn’t lose your data). “Comparison is the thief of joy” and social media is the perfect breeding ground for comparing yourselves to others and intensifying your loneliness.
- Spend some time with animals
If you don’t have any animals in your own household, you may find it helpful to sit with and watch the birds who are busy making nests.
Resources & Links
- Chit-chat (a phone line for anyone wanting a chat about anything!) 0300 002 0333 (Open 7 days a week 9am – 9pm)
- Samaritans Helpline – 116 123 (free from any phone, any time of the day or night)
- “How To Deal With Loneliness” https://www.healthline.com/health/how-to-deal-with-loneliness#mental-health
- “Campaign to end loneliness” https://www.campaigntoendloneliness.org/resources-2/
- As Stephen Fry says, “take more time to do everything” – for his advice in managing self-isolation see here. We think it’s great.