How to cope with loneliness

Enjoy this blog post with a soothing mug of warm orange cordial, and Blue Suede Shoes by Elvis Presley on the turntable.

Loneliness comes in many and varied forms, but for this spiel let’s focus on two – short-term and long-term loneliness.

I think pretty much everyone has experienced short-term loneliness at some point in their lives: those long winter evenings where you feel like the only person left on the planet, and those endless days at the grindstone when meaningful conversation just seems impossible.

Long-term loneliness, on the other hand, can be more stifling and can sometimes give way to depression, in which case it would be a good idea to seek some professional help.

Anyway, this short post looks at coping mechanisms for dealing with both short-term and long-term loneliness. They’re tried and tested – trust me 😉

1) Be okay with it! (Short-term only!)
Acceptance is a good way of dealing with a range of problems. It may not be socially acceptable to treat yourself to a rip-roaring night in with an Indian takeaway for one, but it can be very refreshing. If you’re facing a day (or a night) on your own, look at ways to use the time for maximum relaxation and brain rest. There may not be many times in your life when you can get away with an hour-long bath, with lots of bubbles and a cheeky glass of Ribena! (Followed by a poppadum or two…)

2) Who can you phone?
If you think the day / night will be a complete write-off without some form of social interaction, consider who you can reach out to for a heart-to-heart. And if the loneliness has reached the point where you no longer have the strength to engage socially, then definitely hit the dialler, and don’t delay! Another human being can help pull you out of yourself, and they can often prove to be the Hero of the Hour. (Equally, there might be someone else whose need for a comforting chat is even greater than yours!) If you’re struggling with difficult thoughts, though, and can’t think of anyone to phone, ring the Samaritans, or try 7 Cups of Tea if you’d rather type-talk.

3) Where can you go? What can you do??
Be careful with this one! Visits to the cinema / pub / art gallery can be a wonderful way to fill some unwanted alone time, but tread carefully! Know your own mind. Are these situations likely to make you feel more lonely, if they’re the kind of things you’re used to doing with other people? I once went to a random jazz night on my own, determined not to be ‘condemned’ to a night alone in a cold flat. Some lovely strangers came up and engaged me in conversation, but man, by the end of the night I felt like the sole survivor of a nuclear fallout. All I needed was a pack of rabid dogs and some overturned cars.

Conversely, I have had some of the BEST adventures when it’s just been me, myself and moi… The Albert Dock in Liverpool is definitely near the top of that list! So, think it through, and dive straight in!

4) When you’re physically restricted…
You might be struggling with an illness, or be limited in what you can do with your arms / legs / other parts of your body. Do not despair! Think about what is within your limits and act accordingly. Creative writing / drawing / jigsaws / cooking can be very therapeutic, but don’t force yourself into doing something that isn’t your thing… You could end up having a rotten time! If you’re stuck in bed, I’m a big advocate of the radio, particularly chat show-type programmes. They can often make you feel as if you’re in the company of others, just by listening intently.

5) Be brave! (More long-term…)
When I started college at the age of 17, I knew nobody. Literally. And I was very lonely. The best advice I received was to go into the cafeteria, find some strangers, and strike up a conversation. We’d be friends in no time!! Now, if you can do this – great! I say go for it, (but maybe ‘sense the tone’ if the people you select might prefer to be left to themselves!)

However, a lot of people (myself included) find this quite difficult. Going out and doing new things with new people often requires courage, so be kind to yourself, but also remember that the rewards can be great. If you have people who are inviting you along to things and you find yourself declining every time (and you’re feeling lonely) then try saying “yes.” But do it incrementally. You don’t have to go out until 3 in the morning! Give yourself a couple of hours, and make sure there’s an easy ‘escape route’ out if you feel like you need to bail. And don’t beat yourself up if it takes you time to adjust and enjoy! Relationships can take time.

Similarly, if there’s a person you’d been meaning to hang out with but kept putting off, now might be the time to float the idea of a beverage!

Let me know you get on. And if you’ve anything to add to this list, leave a message in the comments below!


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