Everyone feels lonely from time to time. But loneliness can become a problem when your need for rewarding social contact and relationships is not met. Loneliness is not always the same as being alone, because you might choose to be alone and feel content without much contact with others. One the other hand, you might have lots of social contact, or be in a relationship or part of a family, and still feel lonely – especially if you feel misunderstood by or disconnected from the people around you. Loneliness can have a negative impact on your mental health, especially if you have felt lonely for a long time. Research suggests that loneliness is associated with an increased risk for certain mental health problems, including depression, anxiety, low self-esteem, sleep problems and increased stress levels.

Here are some suggestions to coping with your loneliness:
1. Take it slow. If you have felt lonely for a long time, it can be scary to think about meeting and connecting with new people. You do not have to rush into socializing. Start off by going to a park or outdoor café – somewhere you can be around people, but you do not have to talk to them. You might discover simply being around other people is enough.

2. Make new connections. If you feel lonely because you lack satisfying social contact, you can meet people by joining a class or group based on your hobbies or interests. Volunteering is also a great way to meet people. Helping others can also help improve your well-being. For example, if you find holidays unbearably lonely, you might volunteer at a soup kitchen.

3. Try peer support. There are many types of peer support services providing you with a space to use your experiences to help and support others. You might look into online or virtual communities. These communities provide a place to listen and share with others who have similar experiences. Many online groups are available 24/7, most are free, and you can access them wherever you are.

4. Open up to others. You might know plenty of people, but you do not feel close to them, or they do not offer the care and attention you need. It might help to open up about how you feel to friends and family. If you do not feel comfortable opening up, try speaking with your EAP Assist counsellor.

5. Avoid comparing yourself to others. It might be hard to stop comparing yourself to others, but remember things are not always what they seem from the outside. For example, on social media, you only see what others want to share about their lives, and this can make you believe you are the only lonely person. You do not know how others feel when they are alone, or when they are not posting on social media. If you are concerned that social media is affecting your mental health, take a break.

6. Care for yourself. Feeling lonely can be stressful and impact your general well-being, which might make it harder to take steps to feel better. Think about how the following areas are affecting how you feel:

• Sleep. Getting too little or too much sleep can impact how you feel.
• Diet. Eating a nutritious diet on a regular schedule makes a difference to your mood and energy levels.
• Exercise. Physical activity is helpful for your mental well-being, and it might even improve your self-esteem. This can also be a great way to meet new people.
• Spend time outside.
• Spend time with animals. Whether you own a pet or spend time around animals, your mood can improve simply spending time with furry companions.
• Avoid drugs, alcohol or overeating. While you might want to cope with difficult feelings using comforting substances, over time they will make you feel worse – even increasing your feelings of isolation.