Sabrina Kempe is a freelance writer for NetDoktor’s medical editorial team. She studied biology with a particular focus on molecular biology, human genetics and pharmacology. After training as a medical editor at a prestigious trade publishing house, she edited trade journals and a patient magazine. Now she writes articles on medical and scientific topics for experts and lay people, and edits scientific articles by doctors.
Loneliness is a depressing feeling and hard to bear. Especially in the Corona crisis, when many people have to go into self-isolation, feelings of loneliness can spread, often combined with deep melancholy and sadness. But lonely people do not only exist in pandemic times. Read more on the subject: Where does loneliness come from?? Can it make physically ill? What can you do against loneliness?
Brief overview: Loneliness
- What helps against loneliness? z.B. Self-care, structuring everyday life, meaningful occupation, gradual contact with others, if necessary. psychological help, medication
- What each individual can do for lonely: take care of fellow men; v.a. giving time and attention to elderly, frail or immobile people in one’s own environment
- Symptoms: u.a. Feeling excluded and isolated, self-neglect, dejection, hopelessness, boredom, inner emptiness, self-pity, longing, despair
- Where does loneliness come from? Usually from a combination of several factors, z.B. certain character traits, poor quality social ties, bad experiences, social circumstances, critical life phases
- Can loneliness make you sick? Chronic loneliness increases risk of cardiovascular disease, sleep disorders, dementia, depression, anxiety and obsessive-compulsive disorders, and suicidal thoughts.
- When to see a doctor? At the latest, when loneliness becomes chronic and is coupled with depression, anxiety or obsessive-compulsive disorder
What helps against loneliness?
There can be several ways to get out of loneliness, especially in combination. The following steps are especially important:
Self-care – rediscover joy of life
The way out of loneliness starts with yourself. If you think, "I feel lonely," first try to look at your situation objectively. Being alone does not mean being lonely. Being alone can also help them relax, find peace, and relieve stress. Start taking an interest in yourself again. Ask yourself what books you’ve wanted to read, what movies you want to see, what music makes you happy, what food you like, what sports you enjoy, what landscapes or cities you like.
- Give yourself a treat, fulfill a wish.
- Find a hobby that you enjoy or revive a neglected hobby.
- Take care of yourself and listen to your needs.
- Don’t neglect your personal hygiene, eat healthy and get regular exercise in the fresh air.
- Meet yourself with kindness and compassion. Start to like yourself.
- Caring for an animal can be very fulfilling. But only get a pet if you really want to take care of it in the long run.
This can help you get some enjoyment out of everyday life without having to rely on intense outside contact.
If the days seem to drag on endlessly, there is a great danger of falling into melancholy. Sufferers withdraw, start brooding and feel lonely. What can you do about this loneliness? Now you should pick yourself up and structure your day. Create a detailed daily and weekly plan and try to stick to it.
Take small steps to get in touch with other people
What to do when you’re alone? In small steps one can try to get in contact with people again. Especially in the Corona Crisis, where direct human contact should be reduced for a while, you can make good use of the technical communication possibilities to fight your loneliness:
Look in your phone book or cell phone – who haven’t you talked to for a while? Call your acquaintances, (former) friends and (if available) family members and ask how they are doing. Do not wait for someone to contact you! If you are afraid of it, a short message is also enough for the beginning.
Of course, there is also the possibility of meeting people virtually, in social networks or chat groups you can exchange ideas with people who share your interests and hobbies. Especially in times of self-isolation, this is very helpful.
You should be aware that virtual exchange cannot be a substitute for real interpersonal interactions and relationships. If you mainly maintain contacts on the Internet, you even increase the risk of becoming lonely in the long term.
Even in a corona crisis, it’s okay to smile at other walkers, for example, when you’re out for a walk. If you get a smile back, you may be able to take courage and start a conversation with people from your daily life, such as your neighbors – in the stairwell or over the garden fence. A few words are often enough to get started.
What helps against loneliness? Whether you are lonely because you have little contact with other people or because you feel misunderstood and isolated in your environment – reach out to people who share the same interests and passions:
- Meet like-minded people z.B. in courses at the adult education center or in sports groups, learn a new language or continue your education in your field of interest.
- Taking on a volunteer position is doubly effective: you experience the satisfying feeling of being needed and helping others, and you can make new contacts at the same time.
Tip:In times of the Corona crisis, voluntary work is still in demand and necessary, for example in neighborhood assistance. Courses can also be booked for the time after the restrictions or even take place online.
If you want to confide in someone and don’t know who to turn to, you can first call the telephone counselling service. There you will find people who can listen to you attentively and actively and give you valuable advice. Self-help groups are also a good place to start.
Overcoming loneliness in old age
Older people in particular are the most vulnerable to loneliness. Important caregivers, friends, relatives and acquaintances of the same age are dying, the social network is getting smaller and smaller. In addition, there are often illnesses and limited mobility.
At older ages, it is also more difficult to make new contacts, and friendships become harder to form. But even at this age, there are ways to connect with others:
- If you can, take advantage of virtual opportunities such as chat groups or social networks.
- Stay in touch or. Get in touch with younger relatives through short messaging services or video calls.
- If possible, live out your hobbies or find new ones.
- If you are fit enough to do so, a pet can keep you company.
- Educate yourself further, z.B. with a study in old age or with a language course – meanwhile there are also online offers.
- Even small activities help: Beat z.B. Suggest to a neighbor that we go for a walk together.
- Take advantage of senior gatherings in your community.
- If your physical condition allows, join a walking group or club.
- Find a volunteer position that excites you, such as a telephone counselling service, visiting patients in a hospital, reading aloud in a library, or being a surrogate nanny or surrogate nanny.
What each individual can do for the lonely
It is important to take care of each other. Not everyone living alone, young or old, is lonely. However, if someone complains of loneliness, we need to take it seriously. This could be a warning sign of depression starting to set in. Then we should be there for that person and make time for them.
At present, we should not meet older relatives and acquaintances, so as not to put them at risk of infection with SARS-CoV-2. Then important contacts fall away for them, and they might actually fall into loneliness. Especially now, we should therefore signal to them daily that they are not alone: Call your elderly or single relatives, acquaintances or neighbors, slip a note under the door, send a postcard, talk to them over the garden fence with the necessary distance or serenade them outside the window.
Tip! When direct contact is again safely possible, we should visit our elderly, frail relatives and acquaintances and give them a portion of our time.
Visiting services are a great help in providing human contact for elderly, immobile people and protecting them from neglect:
- Visiting services of welfare associations, z.B. NAHbarn" campaign in Jena and the surrounding area: volunteers visit elderly people once a week in their homes, keep them company, listen to them, apply for care services, take care of setting up a home emergency call button or arrange social services.
- Neighborhood networks, z.B. Action eyes open! of the AWO Foundation Hamburg: Coordinators take tips from the public, doctors or pharmacists via a free telephone hotline, establish contact with seniors in need of help and organize free assistance in the home.
The definition of loneliness is the feeling of being excluded, lack of belonging and emotional isolation. Typical feelings of loneliness are sadness, dejection, helplessness, hopelessness, boredom, inner emptiness, self-pity, longing, and despair.
Loneliness is an inescapable experience of every human being, but it is experienced differently depending on life situation and individual character. Therefore, loneliness is a subjective phenomenon and not the same as actually being alone or socially isolated: there are many people who are often alone but do not feel lonely!
Conversely, even people with many social contacts in family, work, school or social institutions can feel lonely.
sorely miss social contacts
Those affected experience and evaluate the inner separation from others and the extent of their social ties as negative. They feel the subjective lack of social contacts as painful, because this is usually accompanied by a lack of recognition, affirmation, appreciation and affection by others. Those affected wish to be noticed, but have difficulty in establishing a mutual relationship. Find it difficult to overcome their seclusion on their own.
Common characteristics of lonely people
Common traits that show up in lonely people include the following:
- You see yourself very differently than other people would describe you,
- are very self-critical,
- pay more attention to failures than to successes,
- Justify yourself defensively,
- Are afraid of rejection,
- devalue their counterpart,
- quickly withdraw into themselves,
- Are introverted or have less well-developed social skills,
- often exhibit pessimistic, irrational, and action-paralyzing thought patterns or. Basic attitudes.
However, these characteristics do not necessarily lead to loneliness! Quality social ties and support networks can cushion these people.
Conversely, are often even people with completely different character traits get lonely. This can happen, for example, if they lack such networks or have had drastic negative experiences in dealing with other people.
Loneliness varies in degree: It ranges from people who are lonely only for a certain phase of their lives to those who are resignedly hopelessly lonely. In this case one speaks of chronic loneliness.