four ways to deal with loneliness & social isolation

According to research carried out by the Co-op and British Red Cross, more than 9 million people in the UK always or often feel lonely, with Covid-19 unfortunately adding fuel to the flames.

While we may be emerging from the pandemic and getting used to socialising again, social isolation still very much exists, with some people feeling anxious about mixing with others again after such a long time apart.

Given the fact social isolation and loneliness can affect our mental health, we recently spoke to experienced mental health specialist, Kirsty Lilley, about the impact. Kirsty also shares some practical tips that everybody, chartered accountants and ICAEW members included, can follow to help tackle loneliness.

what is loneliness?

Loneliness is a mood, state of mind, a lived experience, which is more common than you may think and impacts us all differently.

As mentioned at the start of the article, research carried out by the Co-op and British Red Cross has highlighted the scale of loneliness UK-wide. What’s more, the rise of hybrid working and lack of social contact during the pandemic resulted in people having limited opportunities to connect with others.

Meanwhile, other research carried out has confirmed that learning to reconnect again and find joy and solace in shared experiences is an increasingly important step in looking after our post-pandemic mental health and wellbeing. There’s also evidence out there to suggest we’re experiencing a lack of ‘social safety’, as we are still grappling with a virus that’s socially transmitted, making some people understandably anxious of mixing with others.

why is it important to recognise if we’re feeling lonely?

Chronic loneliness and stress can potentially increase the likelihood of experiencing anxiety and low mood. It can also impact our physical health too by disrupting our sleep with insomnia or needing too much sleep.

Human beings are inherently programmed to be social creatures, who greatly benefit from forming quality relationships with others. Although the amount of social interaction needed varies from person-to-person, these relationships enable us to feel safe and valued, which helps feed into our overall wellbeing and sense of purpose.

what causes loneliness?

It can be caused by a variety of things, and different people can experience different barriers in relation to creating meaningful connections.

Symptoms include: loss of confidence, tiredness, and feeling frustrated and alone. Some people even liken it to feeling as though you are trapped in a bubble you can’t get out of.

It’s not uncommon for loneliness and isolation to be caused by a major life change. It can also be triggered by bereavement, retirement, becoming a new parent, changes to living or working conditions, ill health, low income and language barriers. Although it may be difficult to talk about your situation, there’s no shame in feeling lonely. Finding the courage to open up to others and explore the different ways to build up your social networks can really help in so many ways.

Although it may be difficult to talk about your situation, there’s no shame in feeling lonely. Finding the courage to open up to others and explore the different ways to build up your social networks can really help in so many ways.

"While we may be emerging from the pandemic and getting used to socialising again, social isolation still very much exists, with some people feeling anxious about mixing with others again after such a long time apart."

Kirsty Lilley

Mental Health Specialist

four ways to deal with loneliness

Feeling lonely isn’t something that’s usually resolved by doing just one thing. However, the good news is, there are several things that may be able to help:

keep in touch with those around you

Depending on your circumstances, if you can, stay in touch with the people in your life. It could be via Zoom, texts, phone calls or meeting up; all of these interactions will help reinforce the fact you aren’t alone.

Think about ways to reconnect with old friends and acquaintances. Making the first move may be daunting, but taking active steps to reacquaint with friends can bring so much joy and boost your self-confidence. It can also give others, who may be feeling lonely, the special gift of social connection.

spend time doing things you enjoy

Do what you love with like-minded people as much as you can. You may want to continue with a hobby or try something new, such as joining a new group or taking part in volunteering activities.

There are so many reasons to become a volunteer – it gives you a greater sense of purpose, connects you with others who have a shared understanding of the world, and gives your day structure and routine.

Spending time outdoors in nature is just as valuable. It can help relieve feelings of stress and isolation as we effortlessly connect with the natural world, e.g. watching the trees sway and listening to the birds sing.

Tuning into podcasts or radio programmes are really effective for helping boost your mood and occupying your mind, distracting you from feeling lonely and disconnected in the process.

share how you are feeling

You may feel too embarrassed to tell somebody you’re feeling lonely, but it’s important to remember you’re not the only person to feel this way, and bottling up your feelings won’t make you feel any better.

Consider reaching out to others who might also be feeling lonely and need your help. Sometimes, by helping others we can help ourselves too, even though you may not realise it initially.

It could be that you need some professional help – there are plenty of support services out there, including mental health support from caba, which includes counselling and coaching. Additionally, you could try Qwell? A safe and confidential space to share experiences and get support from a community and qualified professionals.

find ways to be creative

Think about ways to embrace your creativity, e.g. through music, journaling, doodling, rock painting or colouring in. These types of activities can help relieve difficult feelings and help you learn how to sit with them until they pass.

We are all unique and finding ways to connect with others and explore and overcome loneliness can be empowering and fulfilling. Take small positive steps each day and reconnect with others at your own pace. And remember, it’s perfectly fine to not follow the crowd.

"Finding ways to connect with others and explore and overcome loneliness can be empowering and fulfilling. Take small positive steps each day and reconnect with others at your own pace."

Kirsty Lilley

Mental Health Specialist

about Kirsty Lilley

Kirsty is an experienced mental health specialist, registered general nurse, psychotherapist, mental health first aid instructor, coach and mindfulness practitioner.

She delivers mindfulness and self-compassion courses to public and private sector organisations and develops wellbeing policies and training to improve workplace mental health and wellbeing.

For more insight on mental health and how it can impact us, read this article, ‘What is good mental health and why is it important?

training and events

24 May 2022

master the art of resilience

This course builds on our Boost Your Resilience introductory course by providing a deeper insight into mastering resilience. You’ll learn …
enhanced course
25 May 2022

espresso mindfulness for busy people

What is mindfulness and why should you care about it? This webinar lifts the lid on mindfulness, including what it is and how it can benefit you …
espresso series
7 June 2022

develop your personal brand

Your personal brand is about how others perceive you. With the right tools, you can use it to make an impact and progress in your career. Learn …
enhanced course
8 June 2022

espresso food and mood: what's the evidence

Can food really influence your mood? There’s scientific evidence to suggest that it can. Watch this webinar for an exciting glimpse into taking …
espresso series

view all training and events 

your questions answered 

Who is eligible for support?

We support past and present members of the Institute of Chartered Accountants of England and Wales (ICAEW)1, ACA students2, ICAEW staff members3, and the family and carers of members and students4

  1. No matter where your career takes you, past and present members of the Institute of Chartered Accountants of England Wales (ICAEW) are eligible for caba’s services for life, even if you change your career and leave accountancy 
  2. ACA students (ICAEW Provisional Members) who are either an active student or have been an active student within the last three years are eligible for caba's services 
  3. Past and present staff members of the ICAEW or caba are eligible for caba's services for life, even if you leave either organisation. Please note, for former employees, our financial support is only available to those who have had five years continuous employment with either organisation 
  4. Family members and carers of either an eligible past or present ICAEW member, ACA student or past or present employee of the ICAEW or caba are eligible for caba's support. We define a family member as a: 
    1. spouse, civil partner or cohabiting partner 
    2. widow, widower or surviving civil partner who has not remarried or cohabiting with a partner 
    3. divorced spouse or civil partner who has not remarried or cohabiting with a partner 
    4. child aged up to 25. Please note, children aged between 16 and 25 are not eligible for individual financial support 
    5. any other person who is or was dependent on the eligible individual supporting them financially or are reliant on the eligible individual’s care 
    6. any other person on whom the eligible individual is reliant, either financially or for care 

You can find out more about our available support both in the UK and around the world on our support we offer  page. 

Are your services means tested?

If you need financial support, we carry out a means test where we consider income, expenditure, capital and assets.  

*Please note none of our other services are means tested. 

I’m an accountant, but not a member of ICAEW, can you still help?

Unfortunately not. We only support past and present ICAEW members, their carers and their families. If we are unable to support you, where possible we will point you to help elsewhere.

caba has supported me in the past; can I receive support from caba again?

We understand that circumstances change. If we’ve helped you in the past there’s no reason why we can’t help you again. You can contact us at any time. Please call us if you need our help.

view more questions



Not got the answer to your question?