By Diane Swaine, Counsellor and Psychotherapist
Loneliness and Isolation – How can Psychotherapy help?
Most people will feel loneliness and isolation at some point. It’s a deeply personal experience that – in most cases – will thankfully pass. But for a growing number of people, particularly those in later life, loneliness can define their lives and have a significant impact on their wellbeing.
Some time ago I decided to set up in Private Practice in Hale Village, making care in the community a key focus of mine, this need came from working for many years at The Priory Hospital and then helping to run a local charity. I am able to address directly with clients some of the most pressing issues facing our communities today: Loneliness and Isolation.
For over 25 years, I have been working with clients, supporting vulnerable people and families suffering with a range of difficulties. Usually, I found that loneliness and isolation were the main cause or at least a contributory factor causing depression and extreme ranges of anxiety. In my practice I provide a safe, warm, space whereby clients can explore, at their own pace, issues that are troubling them. Also, I offer sessions in client’s homes if this is the most appropriate for their condition. Often clients see me with agoraphobia or high levels of anxiety and don’t wish to travel, so home sessions are the best way forward to aid recovery and reduce stresses or further challenges for the client.
I work with clients who suffer with:
– Low self-esteem
– Poor self-image
– Impacts from Social Media
– Stress & Anxiety
– Loneliness & Isolation
– Relationship Difficulties
– Feelings of “never feeling good enough”
– Traumatic events and family problems
– Loss & Bereavement
Loneliness is often missed or minimised in society but has significant impacts on people’s health both physically and emotionally.
How do we fix loneliness ?
Some people find these ideas useful, but remember that different things work for different people at different times. Only try what you feel comfortable with, and try not to put too much pressure on yourself.
Take it slow
If you’ve felt lonely for a long time, even if you already know lots of people, it can be terrifying to think about trying to meet new people or opening up to people for the first time.
- Start off by going somewhere like a cafe, the cinema or a sports event where you can be around people, simply being around other people can be enough to help with your feelings of loneliness.
- If you’re going to a group or class, you could ask whoever runs the class or group if you can just go along and watch at first.
- Go somewhere like a class where everyone is focused on an activity.
Make new connections
If you are feeling lonely because of a lack of satisfying social contact in your life, you could try to meet more, or different people.
- Try to join a class or groupbased on your hobbies or interests.
- If you are able to, volunteeringis a good way of meeting people.
Try peer support
There are many different types of peer support service, which provide people with a space to use their own experiences to help and support each other, including experiences of loneliness and related mental health problems.
These are some different types of peer support which you may find useful:
- Try a befriender service. Home Instead can help with all elements of this.
- Join an online communitylike Elefriends. These communities can provide a place to listen and share with others who have similar experiences. They are available 24/7, most are free and you can access them wherever you are.
- Contact Mind’s Infoline or a local Mind to see what other types of peer support there may be in your area.
Counselling and Psychotherapy. Talking therapies allow you to explore and understand your feelings of loneliness and can help you develop positive ways of dealing with them. You can call me anytime to discuss what might be the best option for you.
Be careful when comparing yourself to others
It is very hard to stop comparing ourselves to others. We all do it, for example on social media, we very often only see what other people want to share about their lives, and this can make us feel like we are the only ones feeling lonely.
It’s important to remind yourself that you don’t know how other people feel when they are alone, or when their social media feeds are turned off.
Look after yourself
Think about how some of the following are affecting how you feel and whether you can do anything to change them:
- Get enough sleep. Getting too little or too much sleep can have a big impact on how you feel.
- Think about your diet. Eating regularly and keeping your blood sugar stable can make a difference to your mood and energy levels.
- Try to do some physical activity. Exercise can be really helpful for your mental wellbeing, and some people find it helps improve their self-esteem.
- Spend time outside. Spending time in green space can help your wellbeing.
- Enjoy time with animals. Some people find spending time around animals can help with feelings of loneliness.
- Avoid drugs and alcohol. While you might want to use drugs and alcohol to cope with difficult feelings about yourself, in the long run they can make you feel worse and can prevent you from dealing with underlying problems.
I am very happy to help with any of these issues for you or your family. If you would like a free confidential chat about anything related to the above issues then please don’t hesitate to contact me.
See more of Diane’s blog posts here.