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How To Cope With Loneliness

While it might seem like feelings of loneliness are easy to recognise, there are mental and physical symptoms of loneliness that can be difficult to spot.

Thankfully, there are many ways to cope with feeling lonely, which can help you to minimise its impact on your emotional and physical wellbeing.

In this article, we will talk through symptoms of loneliness, how to cope with feelings of loneliness yourself, as well as how to help someone who is lonely.

What does loneliness feel like?

Loneliness is a complex feeling and it’s likely each person will have a different experience with it. However, there are some common symptoms of loneliness to look out for, as well some physical symptoms that might present as a result of chronic loneliness.

For example, you may experience a feeling of emptiness and struggle with feeling lonely when you spend time by yourself. At the same time, while you might want to reach out to people for help with loneliness, this can be really difficult when you are feeling lonely. Whether consciously or unconsciously, you may also notice yourself withdrawing from your social circle or cancelling plans more frequently.

Additionally, it can be quite difficult to concentrate or focus properly when you feel lonely. For instance, you might find you zone out for long periods of time or struggle to stay on top of your work.

Can loneliness cause physical pain?

While many symptoms of loneliness are emotional, loneliness can cause physical pain as well.

For example, it’s common to feel cold all the time with loneliness, and your immune system often weakens as well - which may leave you more susceptible to viruses like the common cold or flu.

Trouble sleeping can often occur when you feel lonely too. Our bodies tend to produce more of the hormone norepinephrine when we are lonely, and this can cause us to go into ‘fight or flight’ mode. This hormone increase can make falling asleep difficult, leaving you exhausted. If you are struggling to fall asleep each night, take a look at our best and worst foods for sleep blog post to see how dietary changes can help.

It’s important to remember that loneliness isn’t just a mental health concern, it can become a physical health issue as well. Feeling lonely can even have long term impacts on your physical wellbeing. Health conditions, such as heart disease and strokes, have a higher risk of occurring in people who regularly experience chronic loneliness.

What are the symptoms of loneliness?

There are many symptoms of loneliness that might indicate you need support or external help. If you are dealing with the following feelings of loneliness, always remember to reach out to a friend, family member, or loved one:

  • Higher stress levels.
  • Nerves around social events.
  • Not caring about your appearance.
  • No longer cooking for yourself.
  • Staying in bed longer.
  • Struggling with memory.
  • Headaches.
  • Body or muscle pains.

The feeling of loneliness can sometimes cause anxiety or depression as well. Many of the symptoms of loneliness and depression are similar, but depression is characterised as a mental health condition, while loneliness is an emotion.

If you think your loneliness is causing depression or anxiety, it is best to see your GP for a diagnosis, treatment plan, and ask for referral to a social prescriber. If you’re a Benenden Health member, you can access our 24/7 Mental Health Helpline anytime and receive immediate guidance and reassurance that can guide you to the most appropriate services and resources to help you.

What is chronic loneliness?

Loneliness is a lot more common than you might think. In fact, it’s estimated around 3 million people in the UK often experience the feeling of loneliness.

However, if your feelings of loneliness just won’t seem to go away, even when socialising or seeing loved ones, then you may be experiencing chronic loneliness.

When dealing with chronic loneliness, seeking support can feel difficult. You may feel as though you have no one to turn to, even when you are in a room full of family and friends.

In extreme cases, you may even feel as though you don’t even have any close family or friends to reach out to at all. Chronic loneliness can make you act withdrawn and awkward in social situations and may leave you feeling exhausted when you do spend time with others.

If you are feeling chronic loneliness, it’s important you do your best to get in touch with a loved one, somebody you trust, your GP, or a social prescriber.

How to cope with loneliness

Whether you’re looking for ways to manage your chronic loneliness or your loved one is showing symptoms of loneliness, there are plenty of ways to help cope with loneliness, such as:

  • Socialise with loved ones: A great way to cope with loneliness is through socialising, so try to make time in your schedule to see friends or family, if you feel up to it.

  • Meet new people: There are also plenty of online tools that can help widen your social circle, where you can meet people who have similar hobbies or interests. Try exploring these apps and speaking to new people as a way to cope with loneliness.

    Additionally, try searching for in-person social clubs near you. Language learning groups, book clubs, drama clubs, or even running or exercise clubs, there are tons of events around hobbies that can help you meet new people.

  • Be comfortable with yourself: There is a big difference between being alone and being lonely. Getting comfortable sitting with just yourself can go a long way when you are dealing with the feeling of loneliness. Prioritise doing things you enjoy, whether that be reading, going to the cinema, or cooking, and don’t be afraid of doing them by yourself and for yourself.

How to help someone who is lonely at Christmas

Did you know nearly 1.4 million elderly people feel isolated and experience more loneliness at Christmas time compared to any other time of the year?

So, if it is reaching that time of the year and you notice signs of loneliness in the elderly members of your family, try encouraging them to socialise and get out more, where able, to help them cope with loneliness.

For example, charities like Age UK run coffee mornings and social lunches for those 60 and over. Try searching for one close to your elderly loved ones and recommend they attend. These cafés are great for socialising and managing the symptoms of loneliness.

Whether you’re looking for ways to boost your immune system or you’re worried your loneliness has caused depression and want more advice, head over to our Be Healthy hub.

Worried about your mental health? As a member of Benenden Health, you can call our 24/7 Mental Health Helpline in the meantime for immediate emotional support and signposting.