In 2018, nearly half of Americans reported feeling lonely. A study done by Cigna, a major health insurer in the United States, surveyed 20,000 people in their 2018 Loneliness Index with findings showing that 46% of participants reported feeling lonely either sometimes or always.
If someone can go through their daily routines and still feel lonely, imagine if you were placed into a situation that isolated you from your routine and previous lifestyle – for example, becoming a caregiver for a loved one.
Many caregivers (around 40-70%) experience symptoms of depression, two of which are isolation and loneliness. These feelings are commonly due to feeling isolated and withdrawn throughout the caregiving process.
Impact of Loneliness
Whether or not you are a caregiver, loneliness can have a significant impact on your life. For some, it may take a toll on your physical health – by means of higher blood pressure due to stress or even physical pain. Some caregivers trying to cope with loneliness turn to food – a form of stress management – which can lead to weight gain.
Loneliness is unique to everyone. Everyone can feel it, but often experience it in different ways. Some may experience physical symptoms, while in others it can manifest by affecting their mental health.
Common symptoms of loneliness that affect mental health are withdrawal and depression. Caregivers that feel lonely often describe the impacts of loneliness taking their focus off of work, their families or responsibilities outside of their duty to care for a loved one.
How to Cope with Loneliness
There are many ways to help you cope with loneliness. We turned to our favorite experts, our CaringBridge community and their loved ones, to share their best tips.
1. Spend Time with Those Who Love You
Spending time with friends and loved ones can be incredibly healing. Quality time can mean more to someone coping with loneliness than you might realize.
“Please don’t be afraid to take your friends up on their offers to help you. The offers are sincere and they will feel good helping you.”
2. Spend Time with Your Community by Volunteering
On the days when you don’t feel like social interaction, but are feeling the pangs of loneliness – try and volunteer your time. One popular option is spending time at a local animal shelter. Giving back to people in your community can help you find more meaning in life, and as a result, can decrease feelings of loneliness.
3. Find a Support Group
Whether online or in person, support groups can be an incredible resource for coping with loneliness. There, you can connect with people that can relate to your situation and even form strong friendships.
“Join a support group. I’ve been in a group for over two years. It’s the best thing I ever did for myself. It’s helped me out a lot, and everyone in our group are terrific and wonderful people.”
“Support groups, even online ones. I didn’t do that for years and I wish I would have!! I’ve made such great friendships and the support from those in the same circumstances who truly understand is AWESOME.”
4. Start a CaringBridge Site
CaringBridge is a safe place for stories to be told. You can share your journey with your family and friends, as well as find resources that can help you cope with loneliness or other feelings you may experience throughout a caregiving role.
“Start a CaringBridge site! You would not believe, near and far, how many loving, supportive people are out there, eager to follow your health journey and give you tons of love and strength. You cannot feel lonely or isolated once you’ve started reading your “followers” comments and noticing how many are visiting your site regularly!”
5. Look for External Resources
Having a supportive network of family, friends and community can be massively helpful when coping with loneliness. However, sometimes in order to cope with loneliness, it helps to have external resources available to you as well.
“In addition to a CaringBridge site, look for patient/caregiver resources related to the situation you’re facing: organizations such as the American Cancer Society, Alzheimer’s Association, March of Dimes, etc. can have great resources.”
Here’s a list of caregiver support groups that may be helpful.
6. Be Open to Kindness from Others
Whether you’re experiencing loneliness, or you’re helping a loved one cope with loneliness, kindness really can go a long way. Keep an open heart and accept love from those around you.
“Everyone deserves to feel compassion from others!”
You Don’t Have to Be Lonely
Feeling lonely is temporary – it’s not a permanent state. Reaching out to your family and friends for support when you need it or spending time with your community are all ways to cope with loneliness in a healthy way.
Have you ever experienced loneliness? We would love to hear your tips for coping with loneliness that you found successful. Please share your tips and ideas below.