During the coronavirus pandemic, many of us have been asked to self-isolate, whether because we have caught the virus or because we might have been exposed to it.
If you are asked to self-isolate, it is important that you follow the NHS advice which is there to help keep you, your loved ones, and your community safe.
It’s no surprise that self-isolation can be difficult and lonely. Even if you have a partner, children, or housemates self-isolating at home with you, it’s natural to miss the everyday routine that seeing other people brings. Most of us are used to getting out daily, whether it’s to go to work or on trips to run errands or visit friends. To suddenly stop doing all of these things can be jarring, to say the least.
It might help to remind yourself that you’re not just self-isolating for your benefit. You’re doing it to protect others and to ensure that those who are more vulnerable aren’t at risk.
The following tips might help to reduce some of the feelings of loneliness you may be experiencing.
1. Keep to a routine
Try to keep to a regular routine as much as possible. Making these days of self-isolation feel as “normal” as possible and maintaining healthy habits can help you to get through. In a time when things can feel out of your control, it can be helpful to know that there is some structure you can keep in place.
Start each day with a plan of a few things that you will do. You might want to keep a daily diary about how you are feeling and what you are doing, or you might want to make yourself a timetable of activities. Consider the following:
- Getting up and going to bed at a similar time each day
- Eating healthy meals at your usual meal times
- Completing your usual grooming routine and getting dressed (not staying in pyjamas all day)
- Exercising regularly
- Reading, writing or crafting
- Listening to music or podcasts
- Communicating with friends, family and work colleagues
2. Stay connected
Remember, just because you are physically distanced from your family, friends or colleagues, it does not mean that you are alone or that you cannot connect. There are lots of other ways to stay connected and prevent you feeling lonely at this time.
- Set up WhatsApp or Facebook groups for your family, friends and work colleagues.
- Book in a daily phone call with someone you care about, even if it’s just to check in. Hearing a human voice can be more satisfying than seeing a message or text.
- Try video calling using apps like Zoom or FaceTime as seeing someone’s face (even if via a screen) can make all the difference.
- You can also get creative and arrange virtual social events with friends and family. Here are some ideas to get you started:
- Book in for a live-streamed exercise or yoga class with your friends
- Organise a virtual viewing party where everyone watches the same movie at the same time
- Use Skype or Google Chat to set up a mealtime video chat with family or friends
- Find and play games online with your friends – this could be anything from Words With Friends to Xbox Live and Nintendo Online
- If you live apart from your partner, arrange virtual dates so that you can chat face-to-face
In addition to staying in touch with family and friends, you can also combat feelings of loneliness by participating in online exchanges with other people around the world. Below are some examples of online connections that you can join.
- Facebook groups about topics you are interested in
- Online forums about your hobbies or interests
- Multiplayer games such as Wordfeud
- Online sports games like fantasy football
- Quarantine chat - a service specifically set up to help people connect during the pandemic
3. Do something meaningful
If you’re stuck inside, you might find that you have too much free time. Why not pick up that book you’ve been meaning to finish, that instrument you’ve been meaning to learn how to play, or that recipe you’ve been itching to try? Filling your time with different activities will help to distract you from feelings of loneliness and boost your mood. Try to plan something every day to look forward to. Here are some ideas.
- Sign up for an online course and do a bit of work each day
- Create a family tree using genealogy websites
- Research a subject that interests you
- Writing in a journal each day
- Hand lettering or calligraphy
- A daily blog journaling your experiences for others to read
- Poetry or haikus
- Short stories
- Needlework, knitting, or crochet
- Compile a photo album that you can share later with others
- Adult colouring
- Jewellery making
- Choose a space in your home and start an organising project
- Choose a room in your home and redecorate by moving things around or moving things from other rooms
If you're having trouble coming up with projects, focus on the ones that you can do with what you already have on hand. Most of us will have a notebook, paper, printer, and access to the Internet. Using those few basic tools, you're sure to find something online to get you started. You could even focus on cooking or baking projects.
Find sources of comfort
Finding ways to give yourself comfort even when you are feeling lonely can help to improve your mental health. Here are some ideas:
- Giving yourself a foot massage or using a foot spa
- Taking a bath
- Focusing on your pet
- Cooking healthy comfort food
- Watching favourite TV shows or reading favourite books
- Having a cup of herbal tea (chamomile will help you to relax)
- Lighting scented candles (lavender will help to reduce stress)
- Go back and re-read some of your favourite childhood books
- Join an online book club like the ones at Goodreads
- Give yourself a reading challenge by choosing a list of books you've always wanted to read or a list based on a theme (e.g., books set in places you've always wanted to visit)
- Read books of poetry if you find it too hard to concentrate on longer books
- Read magazines on topics that interest you
- Listen to audiobooks through services like Audible or Scribd, or to podcasts, if you struggle to read or have vision problems
Watch TV, movies and videos
- Watch TED talks on YouTube about topics that interest you
- Watch a series of movies on a theme (comedy movies will help to ease your stress)
- Watch a television series on a streaming service
- Watch documentaries on topics you've wanted to catch up on
Create or listen to music
- Go back and listen to your favourite songs from when you were a teenager
- Create a playlist of happy songs and listen to those
- Play an instrument such as the piano or guitar
Other fun ideas
- Take a virtual tour. Many museums offer digital access to their collections including the Louvre and Guggenheim
- Play games that engage your mind such as Sudoku, crossword puzzles, solitaire, or online chess
Plan for the future
While it might feel like this loneliness will last forever, there will come a time that you'll be back to your usual routines. One way to feel less alone now is to make plans for the future or do things that help you to focus on the future. Below are some ideas:
- Make a "future list" of all the things you want to do
- Order online and plant some spring bulbs
- Plan a fun event for when you are out of isolation
- Make a bucket list of things to do in your lifetime
- Make a "goals" list for some area of your life
4. Stay active
We sometimes forget that our physical and mental health are delicately intertwined. If you spend the whole of your isolation not getting any exercise, this may have a detrimental effect on your ability to cope mentally.
Search YouTube for an at-home workout that doesn’t require weights if you’re unsure where to start! Below are some links you might want to try:
- NHS Live Well: for more information, advice and fitness guides
- NHS Fitness Studio
- NHS Better Health
- NHS Fit4thefight: A free online fitness hub dedicated to NHS staff – class range from yoga and pilates, to family sessions, to high intensity workouts
If you are able to go outside without breaking the rules of your self-isolation, get some fresh air. This can be tricky, but if you can have a cup of tea in your garden or on your balcony, it will help negate the feeling that you’re stuck at home. Even if you don’t have outdoor space at your home, try opening the windows to let in fresh air and sit in front of it to take in the ‘outside world’ and appreciate the nature around you.
5. Practise self-compassion
Most importantly, practise self-compassion during this difficult time. If you find yourself saying things like "I shouldn't be feeling this way" or pushing away difficult emotions, this will only make your loneliness persist.
Instead of resisting your feelings, find ways to be accepting of them as coming and going. This helps to take away their power and ease your unhappiness.
Remember that your feelings will change. If you are still struggling, try practicing guided meditation following an app, podcast, or YouTube video.
Show compassion to others. It might seem counterintuitive, but if you are struggling yourself, sometimes offering help to others who are feeling lonely can make you feel less lonely yourself. Make a phone call, send a text, send a letter, or comment on someone's social media posts. Be supportive and offer words of encouragement.
Another important thing to remember is that this will pass. Your isolation will not last forever. It will take time, but it will pass.
6. Seek further support
Look into community resources available to you. Nextdoor, the social media platform that connects neighbours, can be a great resource if you need help with errands, groceries deliveries, and packages that need to be picked up. (Be sure to follow guidelines for safety to avoid scams and protect yourself.)
If you are struggling with loneliness whilst self-isolating and want to chat to someone, the NHS Volunteer Responder service can help arrange a friendly call with a volunteer. They can also help with things like collecting shopping, medicines and prescriptions. Call 0808 196 3646 (8am to 8pm every day) to arrange help.
If you are struggling, remember that mental health support can be accessed online or over the phone. A number of charities have phone lines and online support groups where you can talk to someone about how you are feeling:
- Samaritans provides confidential support for those experiencing distress or despair
- The Mind Infoline offers information of mental health support and signposts services
- Side by Side is an online supportive community where you can connect with others who understand what you are going through. The community is available to all, 24 hours a day. It is moderated daily from 8:30am to midnight.
- Campaign to end loneliness - What to do if you're feeling lonely during self isolation
- Lifeworks - Coping with loneliness during self isolation
- NHS - Coping with loneliness during coronavirus
- Priory group - Ways to cope with feeling lonely in coronavirus self isolation
- Very well mind - How to cope with loneliness during coronavirus
Updated on: 13/04/2022