When you think of a pandemic you probably think Covid 19. But there’s another pandemic that’s affecting millions of us across the world. Loneliness. It might sound like something you hear about on the playground, but for anyone who’s experienced it, you’ll know that’s not the case. It’s making loads of you feel shit on the regular. That’s why we’re taking a deep dive into feeling lonely. Strap in.
3 million people in the UK say they feel lonely. In part, because literally anyone can feel lonely, no matter of age, gender or background. Add in social distancing and all the other restrictions of the past 2 years, it’s no surprise that people are feeling lonelier than ever.
Recent research by CALM found that 2 in 3 of you are feeling overwhelmed, with 37% saying your mental health has got worse since 2020. And it tallies. CALM’s helpline is being used more than ever, with our staff answering a call every 59 seconds in 2021.
So what is loneliness?
First thing’s first, loneliness is a feeling. A person with a big family and loads of friends and work colleagues can still be lonely. Likewise, someone always by themselves can be perfectly happy alone. Loneliness is what we feel when there is a mismatch between the social connections we have and those we want or need.
What does loneliness feel like?
We chatted to Wendy, our head of services at CALM, for a little more info. She says loneliness often feels like being inside an ‘empty bubble’ where there's an invisible barrier preventing you from connecting to others meaningfully.
“You can be in a room full of people and still feel alone, so loneliness is a feeling of emptiness, of not being wanted or really cared about, and a feeling of being stuck in this place.”
Loneliness can also lead to or be triggered by other stuff that’s going on in your head, like stress, a new job, anxiety or depression. If it's feeling a bit overwhelming, Wendy suggests thinking about what’s really going on.
“It really depends if loneliness is the main thing making you feel shit, or if there are other symptoms going on too. If you're worried about this, talk to your GP, who can help you work out what's really going on.”