Most of us during lockdown will have experienced the sadness that comes from feeling lonely and disconnected. Some of us will have had periods of self-isolation, while others will have lived alone during lockdown or spent our days working from laptops in rooms away from our families or flatmates.
Restrictions on our daily lives have seen disruption like we’ve never known. We’ve had to navigate the frustrations of only being able to leave the house for an hour a day to exercise and the imposed separation from our loved ones.
While restrictions are easing, many people are still vulnerable to loneliness, particularly those who fall within the shielded category and those contacted by the government’s track and trace scheme. So how can we break this cycle of isolation? Here are a few ways to combat the looming sense of forlornness and keep our minds and bodies as active as possible.
Remember to reach out
As simple as it seems, making an effort to connect with friends, family and those in our inner circle will make a huge difference to our happiness levels. While we may not be able to see them in person, we should do all we can to take advantage of the technology we have available to us for communication.
For some of us, family and other relationships might be strained. But this doesn’t need to mean that you’re alone. We can still create new connections during this time. Consider joining groups on social media or interest forums where you can chat with like-minded people.
Try and stick to a schedule
It’s been easy to lose track of time during lockdown. For those on furlough and unable to work, the days can feel endless, and for those working from home, the weekends often feel distant and fleeting.
Trying to keep a regular schedule will help each day to feel as ‘normal’ as possible. Getting up at a similar time and maintaining a morning routine will help set your day off on the right foot. Before you go to bed each night, try listing a few things you want to achieve the next day, as the feeling of completion and achievement will go a long way in helping you to feel useful and as though your time is being used wisely. After all, keeping ourselves busy and stimulated helps to keep our minds busy and reduces the time spent dwelling on our isolation.
Keep active and keep moving
We all know by now that our mental health is intrinsically linked to physical health. The better we feel in our bodies, the better we feel in our minds. Regular physical activity doesn’t just lower our risk of heart disease, stroke and some forms of cancer, it can also work to relieve stress and alleviate depression and anxiety – which can all be triggered by a sense of isolation and increased loneliness.
When it comes to exercise, the key is to make regular physical activity a habit. Many people took up walking or running during the height of lockdown as a means to get out of the house. Of course, this isn’t always easy when you’re already very busy. But the benefits of exercise, including improved energy levels, lifting your mood, promoting better quality sleep and increased fitness, strength and flexibility will actually make it easier to manage all the things you need to do, as physical activity improves motivation when it comes to tackling our to-do lists. For inspiration, check out our 8 ways to exercise at home.
Before the pandemic, we lived in a very different world. Many of us lived busy lifestyles and as a result, often put taking care of ourselves at the bottom of our to-do lists. Now many of us are finding that we have a bit more time on our hands, so we should use this opportunity to focus on ourselves and practise self-compassion. Simple things such as spending our evenings exploring new hobbies, enjoying long baths or just spending time preparing our favourite meals will relax our minds, and give us some much-needed time out from the exhaustive situation we’ve found ourselves in.
Why not try giving mindfulness exercises a go? Now, more than ever, it's important for us to take time for ourselves and be mindful of our thoughts and feelings. Regular mindfulness practice can help relieve stress, improve your sleep, and enable you to regulate your emotions.
Look to the future
It’s important to keep in mind that this will end and at some point, and in the future restrictions will lift. While we can’t put an exact date on when that will be, and ‘normal’ might not be what we were used to before the coronavirus outbreak, eventually we’ll find ourselves in a new normality. It’s important to not lose sight of that and to keep it in the forefront of our minds, especially when we’re feeling lonely.
The power of perspective
When we’re feeling alone or down, it’s easy to lose motivation or deprive ourselves of things that bring us joy, so we must work at pushing through our own personal barriers. We’re living through a pandemic, and we must not lose sight of how extraordinary this is. By keeping busy and staying connected, we can make the most of this time.
By Kelly Feehan, Services Director at wellbeing charity CABA
As changes to restrictions continue and new challenges emerge, we want to help you maintain a sense of balance and control in your life. You can find more of this advice on our dedicated coronavirus support page. Or, if you would like a safe, confidential space to have a conversation with a professional councillor, our partners Qwell can support you.