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The Link Between Loneliness and Mental Health

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Mental health is a delicate subject at the best of times. But it’s been harder to ignore during the recent coronavirus pandemic

Aside from the feeling of being trapped and not in control of our own lives, many people have also been forced into relatively lonely situations as a result of the lockdown.

Not everyone is fortunate enough to live with people they love and care about. During the early days of quarantine, it was only natural that those individuals felt cut off and alone. 

This scenario can have a huge impact on your mental health. Feeling cut-off or isolated can trigger a series of negative side effects, including:

  • increased levels of stress
  • poor decision making 
  • a loss of memory 
  • alcohol and drug abuse 

Let’s take a closer look at the link between loneliness and mental health, as well as focusing on what you can do to tackle any problems you’re facing. 

Causes of loneliness 

There are several reasons why someone might suddenly start feeling lonely. These include things like:

  • A bereavement. Experiencing the death of someone close to you can cause you to become withdrawn within yourself. The natural by-product of this is isolation and loneliness, where you put up a wall to those around you.
  • A break-up. Similarly, some break-ups can be incredibly traumatic. You may feel like some of your friends were lost if they were closer to your partner. Again, you’ll also not feel like talking to as many people, which can cut social ties. 
  • Moving away. When you move somewhere totally new, you effectively have to start over from a social perspective. This can be incredibly hard for some people and might cause them to feel unwanted or alone. 
  • Starting a new job or school. Many people feel like an outsider when they go to a new school, university, or even workplace. Seeing people laughing and joking highlights how out of the loop you are. 
  • Being elderly. Sadly, one of the least preventable forms of loneliness is old age. As many as 2 million elderly people in the UK are expected to suffer from loneliness by the year 2025.

As we’re discovering, ultimately, it’s being placed in totally new situations that often triggers loneliness. Even in the case of the elderly, it’s often a bereavement of a pet or partner which can cause the feeling of isolation to kick in.

The vicious cycle 

It’s when you’re feeling at your lowest that the cycle of loneliness will most commonly take hold. A lot of people fall into the trap of this kind of cyclical thinking:

‘Being lonely has damaged my mental health. Therefore, I am unable to go out and enjoy life. Because my mental health is damaged, I feel incredibly lonely.’

The pattern can repeat for months or even years if you don’t take steps to prevent it from engulfing your life. But don’t fret. There are ways to stand up and battle past loneliness and isolation. 

What you can do to help yourself 

Here are some of the best ways to tackle the issue of loneliness. Some of their best tips include:

  • Make a plan. Don’t just let yourself fall victim to loneliness. Come up with a full plan of how you’re going to combat it. That includes making sure you stay physically and socially active, as well as building a support network around you. 
  • Find people like you. Newsflash, you’re definitely not the only person feeling cut-off or lonely. Reach out to other people in a similar position by looking on online forums. Hearing their experiences might help you open up.
  • Take socialising slowly. Don’t expect a full group of people to instantly warm to you – especially if they’ve all known each other for longer than you. Take it event by event, until you eventually feel like a real part of the group. 
  • Be kind. When you do get the chance to socialise, make sure to be kind. That doesn’t mean doing people a load of favours. Just be open, honest, and try not to be too negative or scathing with your comments.

The connection between mental health and loneliness is a complex one. But whatever stage of the process you’re in, always remember there is a light at the end of the tunnel, no matter how dark it might seem in the moment.

Geoffrey Aldis is a freelance writer.

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