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What you can do if you feel lonely during the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak

The coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak has made it harder to be with others. Contact with family and friends continues to be limited, and social and leisure activities are restricted, which can cause feelings of loneliness – particularly if you are staying at home.

You might be missing family and friends, colleagues or other everyday connections you had. It's natural to feel like this, and you should not blame yourself for feeling like you are struggling, now or at any other time.

It's really important to remember these changes will not be forever.

If you're feeling lonely at the moment, the following tips can help. Different things work for different people, so try to find what suits you, and seek further support if you feel you need it.

1. Explore ways to spend time together

When you are staying at home, you can still spend time with others. There are lots of ways to reach out to friends and family without having to meet in person. Chatting on the phone, video-calling and using social media can remind you that you're not alone.

Lots of people are doing things together online, like watching films, playing Scrabble or having dinner.

You could join one of the many online clubs and virtual social events taking place, and invite your friends and family to take part too.

2. Be more social and check in regularly

Creating a regular routine of checking in with others and being more sociable can be good, as it can make it easier to reach out at the time you feel lonely.

You could try messaging old friends or colleagues on social media or text someone you have not spoken to for a while. Or set up a group chat on WhatsApp or Messenger if you prefer to talk with a few people at the same time.

Most of us love hearing from people we have lost contact with – and that's especially true now. It may also encourage them to contact you more, or you could ask if it's OK to have a regular check-in.

3. Share your feelings – but do not compare

Being able to share your feelings with others can help with loneliness, and hearing a familiar voice or seeing a friendly face makes us feel less isolated.

Telling someone you trust that you're feeling lonely can help, and it may be easier to do this when you have had some time to chat and relax together first.

Remember that many people may only share the good things happening to them on social media, so avoid comparing yourself to anyone, as this can make you feel lonelier. Plus we can never be sure of what someone else is going through.

4. Do more things you enjoy

Filling your time doing more things you like can stop you from focusing on feelings of loneliness and is good for your wellbeing.

If you can go out, a trip to the park can help, but always follow social distancing guidelines when you are outside your home.

When you're at home, entertaining radio shows or podcasts are a good way to occupy your mind and keep you company. You could listen to audiobooks, and join an online book club to talk about them with others. There are also lots of comedy clubs online, so search for something that will make you laugh.

Exercise can lift your mood and help take your mind off things, so try walking, cycle or running outdoors if you can – or make an indoor class part of your daily routine.

If you want something more calming, try a free mental wellbeing audio guide, or give a relaxation or mindfulness app a go.

5. Stay busy by learning something new

Now is a good time to pursue a hobby or something you have always wanted to be able to do – and it can be a good way to spend time with others. If you enjoy learning with others, you could join an online class for arts and crafts, cookery, DIY or gardening.

Become a guitar hero, learn piano or join a virtual choir.

If you want to do something that gets you thinking about other things, you could try learning a language. There are many online courses, from beginners through to advanced classes.

And if it's new work skills you want, there are plenty of free online professional courses out there.

Give it a go – many of these classes are free.

Video: Keep learning

Setting goals and learning new skills can be a great way to meet people, build your self-esteem and feel a sense of achievement. Watch our video for tips to get started.

6. Volunteer to help others

Another way to stay busy is by helping others, which can also boost your mental wellbeing. You can volunteer during the COVID-19 outbreak from home or in your community, but follow the government guidelines if you are going out.

If you would prefer to help others from home, you could volunteer to be a phone buddy to someone. Some charities run groups, like Age UK's Call in Time, that put volunteers in touch with people to call for a chat and see how they're doing.

You may even make new friends while volunteering.

7. Join an online community

If you're struggling with feelings of loneliness or other mental health issues, remember you are not alone.

Join an online community or peer-support group so you can talk to others about how you feel. Groups like Side by Side and SANE Support Forum are available 24 hours a day.

There are also many helplines and support groups that offer expert advice and cover a range of mental health issues.

If you cannot wait to see a doctor and feel unable to cope or keep yourself safe, there is urgent support available.

Further support and advice

Many organisations offer advice and support on coping with loneliness, including local and national forums and phone support services. Here are just a few.

Mind offers advice and support services to help people manage their mental health and wellbeing including tips for coping with loneliness plus advice on coronavirus and wellbeing.

The Let's Talk Loneliness website offers advice and stories on coping with loneliness.

There is also helpful advice on managing feelings of loneliness on the Campaign to End Loneliness website.

If you do not live in England

Additional country-specific COVID-19 guidance is available for Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.