• Chris

Keeping Loneliness at Bay during Lockdown 3

As this winter lockdown begins, the fighting spirit of the first national effort, defined by walks in the summer sun and clapping for keyworkers, has been replaced by grey skies, rainy days, and a disappointing sense of deja vu.

Loneliness can stem from a wide range of sources, including mental health conditions such as social anxiety or life events such as bereavements, relationship break-ups or losing your job. But with the strict national restrictions now in place to manage the spread of the virus, the factors which allow loneliness to prosper are even more present.

Here are six tips for keeping loneliness at bay and having a more positive lockdown experience.

Accept that things are different for a while

Although the impact on the Covid restrictions feel severe, we know that with the vaccine being rolled out these harsh conditions are temporary. Acceptance, especially of situations and events which are out of our control, helps to reduce our levels of anxiety in dealing with things we find uncomfortable. Accepting that our lives will be different for a while, gives us space to change our relationship with lockdown to a more positive one.

One kind thing every day

Doing one kind thing every day can give our mental health a much needed boost. Throughout the pandemic we have seen some remarkable acts of kindness. When we do a kind thing, no matter how small, we are rewarded with a rush of serotonin, the hormone which gives us a happy, fuzzy cuddles sort of feeling. Serotonin helps to reduce the effects of stress and anxiety. But being kind is really a win-win, as receiving an act of kindness also releases serotonin and will likely lead the recipient to do something kind also. A chain reaction of kindness.

Loneliness can lead affect our self-esteem. So it is important to also be kind to yourself. Think of something you like about yourself, or treat yourself to a little at-home pampering.

Invest in existing relationships

It is all too easy to feel that we have been forgotten; going days on end without talking to anyone. Just at the time we need our connections the most, loneliness can make us withdraw from our relationships and question our value to others. After all, they haven’t called me, why should I call them?

When friends and family we once connected with feel distant, it can be very difficult to take the first step towards kick starting these relationships again. Try some of these:

- Although we can’t meet easily in person, schedule a call or online chat with a friend each day.

- Writing a letter might seem old-fashioned these days, but can make reconnecting feel a bit easier.

- Finding an excuse, such as a birthday or anniversary can make a first conversation in a while feel more comfortable.

- If you are not sure what to say, just ask “I was thinking about you the other day, and thought I would see how you are doing. How are you?” and the just listen and be interested.

Make variety your routine

When we are stuck at home, especially if we are not working, it can be so easy to get stuck in a cycle of lethargy and low motivation. Having a routine can force us to stay active and can inject variety into days which could all too easily be spend in from of the TV.

o Maintain a regular wake up time and morning routine. Wash, get dressed and have breakfast. Although getting out of bed might be hard, the body and mind don’t take long to wake up once you are active – even without that cup of coffee.

- Routine doesn’t have to be boring. As well as scheduling time for the important things like meals, exercise or laundry, make time for activities to look forward to, such as chatting with friends, trying a new hobby, reading that book you got last birthday, etc

- If you are feeling unmotivated, just follow the routine. Getting active can have a positive impact on your mood.

- And for those days where you feel adventurous, don’t feel like you have to be chained to your routine. Break out, be spontaneous, have fun.

Stay Curious

The pandemic has seen many of us take the opportunity to learn something new. Curiosity is the key to learning; we see it in children all the time. “Why? Why? Why?” But as adults often our curiosity gets taken over by the mundane day-to-day. Research has shown that curious people are happier, with lower levels of anxiety, and greater overall wellbeing. Learning about something new, or even just doing a bit of research on a topic of interest gives us a great reason to connect with new people, perhaps to ask for advice, or their opinions on something, or even to share a titbit we’ve learnt.

Embrace yourself

Self-maintenance is really important to sustaining our resilience to stress, anxiety and depression, all of which can fuel loneliness in these current circumstances.

Here are 3 things you can do:

- Get great sleep: Sleep is an important part of our lives. Quality sleep is as essential to survival as food and water. Although we spend about a third of our time doing it, many of us pay sleep very little attention. Simple things like maintaining regular times for going to bed and waking up, stopping caffeine intake after midday, and not using electronic devices an hour before bed, can have very positive impacts on the quality of sleep.

- Find time to relax deeply: Relaxation is very misunderstood. When I ask my clients how they relax they often talk about watching TV, doing exercise, or practicing their hobby. All of these require the mind to be highly active. True relaxation comes from giving the mind space to slow down and get as close to doing nothing as possible. Giving the mind time to rest helps to reduce the likelihood of us being hijacked by anxieties, and can boost our creativity. Try some simple meditation practices.

- Cultivate gratitude: Keep a daily list of things which have made you smile or resonated with you. These might be things you’ve seen, inspirational quotes, lyrics from songs, or something you ate. When you feel down, read through your list for a boost of gratitude and happiness.

- Maintain a log of successes: Begin by writing down the big ones you remember. Then regularly jot down small successes that you achieve during the week. This is a great exercise to round off the week with. As you get used to paying attention and being present, your list will grow and provide you with a source of inspiration.

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