This has become just a regular part of our conversation ….”I’m self-isolating!” “He’s quarantining?” “She’s shielding”. These terms have been adopted into our everyday language for times such as these, but pre-Covid what would this sentiment have really meant?
Isolation is a definition for loneliness. The crisis of loneliness has risen to the forefront during Lockdown. The obvious challenge we face as human beings when we are not able to be together, highlights our need for each other as a foundational part of our need and belonging.
Loneliness is the feeling that no place is home. No roof brings us comfort, no matter where we are.
As Frances McDormand in Nomadland said, “I’m not homeless, I’m just houseless”….this could be seen as the emotional visual difference between being lonely and being alone. Being lonely is an emotional state that no matter what you have or who is sometimes with you, it doesn’t change.
One knows comfort on the journey, the other can’t find comfort wherever he goes.
Much has been said about the topic of loneliness over this Covid period, but the issue of being lonely, has been a silent problem many have faced for a long time. Up to 30% of the UK population admit to feeling very lonely, with 1 in 10 people that lack a close friend or someone they can confide in. Men are statistically more at risk of isolation yet, are more unable to admit it. The high suicide rate in men under 50 might go some way in highlighting this statistic.
Being “alone” is often described as a physical state where you are physically by yourself. This differs greatly from being “lonely”. Being lonely, is an "emotional state" where people often feel alone or disconnected from others, often when someone is right next to you.
Over the past 18 months, the enforced lockdown period meant that more people than usual have had to face being alone - being lonely. The results of such has had a huge detrimental effect on many peoples mental well being.
Loneliness becomes chronic loneliness when feelings of loneliness and uncomfortable social isolation go on for a long period of time.
Signs and symptoms of chronic loneliness.
There are many signs that may indicate that you or a friend maybe experiencing some form of loneliness. They may take the form of:
Inability to connect with others on a deeper, closer level. This may include many of the friends and family in your life. Engaging with them on a surface level, maybe easy, but to really get beyond that can sometimes be a problem. Your interaction doesn’t feel connected in a way that is fulfilling and this disconnection seems never ending.
No really close or "best" friends. As we age, this group tends to get smaller, by default. You may have friends, but they are more casual acquaintances and you feel you can find no one who truly "gets" you. This doesn’t necessarily mean that you are lonely, as it can often be by choice.
The overwhelming feeling of isolation, regardless of where you are and who’s around, is a great indicator. Surrounded by lots of people, yet you still feel isolated, alienated or disengaged. This feeling may take place in the social or work environment, and seems to continue for some length of time.
Ones self worth has a negative or self-doubt about it. This feeling over a longer term are more likely to be symptom of chronic loneliness.
When you try to reach out or consciously connect with someone but it’s not reciprocated, as though you don’t exist, compounding ones feeling on self worth.
All these negative affects can lead to exhaustion and burn out when trying to engage on both the social and work fronts. This can lead onto other serious issues like depression, sleep disorder, Type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure , weakened immune system, poor diet etc..
Other forms of loneliness can include:
New-situation loneliness: moving to a new city or you've started a new job, started at a new school full of unfamiliar faces.
I'm-different loneliness: have a blase'
No-sweetheart loneliness: looking for love
Life changing loneliness: loss of loved ones, change in emotional chapters: children leaving home.
Dealing with chronic loneliness.
Chronic loneliness is something that won't go away overnight and has been experienced by people for very long periods. To manage it properly, it may be advisable to consult a doctor or therapist, or another health care professional.
Chronic loneliness isn’t just limited to feelings of social isolation and alienation from others. The problem is often tied to ongoing and deeply rooted negative beliefs about yourself or environment. A professional will help diagnose the issue and recommend a course of treatment.
Try to engage with other people in a positive, healthy way (easier said than done). This will often or not be difficult as trying to make the effort may not have the desired results and . Volunteering, hobby clubs, workout groups, and other opportunities, can help boost self-esteem and provide a safe and satisfying way to connect with others. Joining a club/hobby group or taking up a new sport can often lead to meeting new people, with the hobbit/sport as the focus.
Time outside. Exercise and sunlight can help elevate endorphins and serotonin the brain hormones. This can provide a positive boost in your mood, help improve sleep, and generally make people feel a lot happier.
Along with doing a new sports/hobbie group, find a support group. These support groups for chronic loneliness bring sufferers together to discuss the likeminded issues and side effects. Talking ,often helps in dealing with the issue. Receiving support and encouragement from others who may share similar feelings, could help ease symptoms of chronic loneliness. It’s important to look for moments to share and be honest with how you’re feeling. More of us than we think are feeling exactly the same way.
If you are dealing with long term loneliness, the kind that doesn’t go away, talk to your doctor or another health care provider so they can help. Chronic loneliness is not just about feeling alone; if left unchecked it can put you at risk for serious physical and emotional issues.
"Being alone is a state of being, while loneliness is a feeling".
Follow this link to an inspiring story of a man who experienced great loneliness and made a life altering decision to change his circumstances and in turn change his lonely state. This is not what works for everyone but the hope he’s found, helps inspire us to less lonely places.
The busiest places have the loneliest people. I’m not sure if that’s true or not, but I have noticed that the elderly people on my street are quite happy to chat. More often than not, about nothing, something I seem to know a lot about. Either way, it’s a nice simple way to engage.
It only takes a few minutes to stop and ask how people around you are doing. The few minutes to you can be worth a hundred more to those who feel slightly less alone and know they’ve been heard and seen by someone.
Try to say yes to things that your natural response might have usually shut down. Experiencing new things can sometimes be an opening that we don’t know we need.