Holly Smale: My top tips for dealing with loneliness

This article was first published on 8th May 2020.

We all feel lonely sometimes, but during this time when routines are disrupted and we can’t see friends and family, we might be feeling it more than ever. Holly Smale, author of the Geek Girl and The Valentines series, has lived and worked alone for years and has learned to make it work for her.

We asked her to share her top tips for dealing with loneliness.

Holly's top tips:

1. Allow yourself to be lonely

... without blaming yourself for feeling that way. Make friends with yourself – maybe sit with that sensation of loneliness and use it to learn more about yourself, about what you want, about what makes you happy. Do things that you enjoy, by yourself. Often, the act of being kind to yourself and loving yourself helps ease loneliness.

2. Remember you’re not alone in your loneliness

Other people are probably feeling lonely too. They might just be too embarrassed to admit it. So reach out – text a friend, ask them how they are, ask if they’re struggling. You can admit that you’re struggling, or that you’re lonely, and you’d love a chat. Often, you’ll find they feel exactly the same way. I live alone, but I will call my sister and tell her I’m lonely – we’ll watch a TV show at the same time, so we feel connected.

3. Reach out to others who are struggling

Pay special attention to the people who might have it even worse than you. Maybe a grandparent who lives alone, or someone new at school or college who doesn’t have many friends in the area. Reach out to them, even if just to say hi or send a funny meme.

4. Know that loneliness isn’t something to feel ashamed of

All over the world people are struggling at the moment. This is a great chance to be open and allow ourselves to express some of our vulnerabilities, because so many others are dealing with the same problems.

5. Find what works for you

There are small, practical things I’ve found really help me when I’m struggling with loneliness:

  • Turning on a radio first thing when I wake up so I hear voices and I feel connected to the world
  • Having a book on the go, so there’s a world I can retreat to with people in it
  • Watching old TV shows – ones I used to enjoy, or know really well. It brings me comfort, being surrounded by familiar characters and plot-lines
  • Going outside for a walk or run.

The more open we are about how we’re struggling, the easier it will be for others to open up and for us all to connect with each other during a difficult time.

The pain of loneliness isn’t forever, I promise.

If you need support

You should always tell someone about the things you’re worried about. You can tell a friend, parent, guardian, teacher, or another trusted adult. If you're struggling with your mental health, going to your GP can be a good place to start to find help. Your GP can let you know what support is available to you, suggest different types of treatment and offer regular check-ups to see how you’re doing.

If you’re in need of in-the-moment support you can contact Childline, where you can speak to a counsellor. Their lines are open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

There are more links to helpful organisations on BBC Action Line.

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