Loneliness affects us in different and often unexpected ways -you can be surrounded by people but feel totally disconnected.
The pandemic has created physical isolation, and for others, everything has moved online in an already extremely digital world. Loneliness is very real but also very common. Here are eight tips for combating loneliness in the office or at home.
Know that it’s normal
Loneliness is often associated with periods of change and we’ve all been through a huge change since the pandemic. So go easy on yourself and know that others are feeling the same. Loneliness, along with change, is a natural part of life.
Do something for someone else
It might sound counterintuitive but research shows that helping others can make us feel less lonely and improve our wellbeing. Look into volunteering, join a local community group, do a favour for a friend, colleague or neighbour, or just check in with a family member to see how they’re doing.
Anticipate your loneliness
We all have lonely times or lonely ‘parts’ of our lives; it’s just how we respond to them. When do you get lonely: is it evenings, weekends, Christmas or bank holidays?
Plan ahead and make sure you’ve got things on. It doesn’t mean you’ve got to have a packed social diary, it can be having a box set lined up, a book to read or an online course you fancy trying. Anything that fills your time in interesting, nourishing and enjoyable ways.
Go to employee events
Now that the world is reopening, employers will be keen to rally employees and celebrate with social and wellbeing events. These events usually involve team-based activities to get people talking so make sure you try to attend.
It can be a fantastic way to reconnect with colleagues after being apart for so long. Arrange to go with someone if you are feeling nervous or meet him/her outside and walk in together.
Endeavour to not let your loneliness deter you from doing things you would usually enjoy; many people around you are probably sharing some degree of the same feeling.
Walk and talk
Emails are efficient and convenient 90 percent of the time. On the contrary, have you ever stopped to think about walking over to the recipient?
Keep in mind that our social skills might be a bit rusty so small interactions like a response to a quick email is a perfect way to practice speaking to colleagues again. One conversation in real life can also be quicker than a gazillion emails going back and forth!
Don’t always talk about work
Don’t underestimate the small important exchanges you have with co-workers, even if they are brief. Pick up the phone and call someone for five minutes during the day and talk about something other than work: What are they doing later?
Did they see the latest episode of xyz? Better still, if you are working in the office, get a tea or water with a colleague and enjoy being able to do small things together.
Don’t default to tech
Employers have a duty to ensure our wellbeing and within that they need to assess how much agency we sometimes give to tech. Logging on and zooming has been exceptionally beneficial in keeping us connected, especially over the last 18 months.
Having said that, there is something to be said about holding face-to-face meetings and seeing someone’s expressions in natural environment. You could also support each other by having no phones at lunch to encourage conversations. It’s astounding how many nuanced interactions you miss by looking down and scrolling.
Stop comparing yourself to others
During lockdown, our time online has surged and you may have been bombarded with a myriad of people learning Spanish while baking sourdough on a newly whittled chair. If you haven’t learnt a new skill but survived, then that in itself is a massive achievement.
Socialising with colleagues might be intimidating especially when your confidence may not be as high as others and you’re feeling lonely. With this in mind, remember your accomplishments are unique to you.
When people post about their lives, we may think we’re the only ones experiencing loneliness. It is vital to remember that we have no idea what other people are feeling so try to avoid comparing yourself to others.
If you’ve followed these tips but still feel like loneliness is affecting your mental and physical health, don’t be afraid to reach out. Ensure your own wellbeing at work by speaking to your line manager, HR, close colleague, friend or counsellor.