Our world might be better connected than ever but so many of us still feel lonely. Add in a global pandemic which keeps us apart, and it’s no wonder feelings of isolation are reaching new highs. We want to help tackle this hidden crisis, so we’ve teamed up with the brilliant Vicky Pattison to break the silence on loneliness. Here's what she had to say.
Loneliness - Vicky shares her experience
How have you found the last year being away from family and friends during lockdown?
This year has been incredibly hard for everyone - we’ve all had various challenges we’ve faced and difficulties we’ve had to overcome. I’m super close to my family and being so far away from them and not being able to see them was awful. My sister had a baby last year and I just feel like I’m missing loads of Mavie’s little milestones which is a difficult pill to swallow. My friends too - we’re all pretty much like sisters we’ve known each other that long and we’re at the stage in our lives where everyone’s getting engaged and pregnant and not being able to celebrate these occasions with them and share in their happiness has been torture. I’ve ended up sending so many ‘congratulations’ bouquets, I’ll tell you that much 😂😍💐
Have you struggled with loneliness over the past year?
I think we’ve all experienced loneliness this year if we’re honest with ourselves. Being locked away from our loved ones for so long isn’t natural and these feelings of isolation and loss are bound to manifest themselves in various ways. In my more self-indulgent moments - I’ve done a lot of crying and lot of whinging. But, in the fleeting moments of clarity I’ve experienced, I’ve promised myself I would learn from this experience, and not ever take my freedom and time with my friends and family for granted ever again.
What have you done to combat any loneliness?
I’ve tried all sorts to get a handle on my loneliness this last 12 months. Keeping healthy and strong with exercise and good nutrition, keeping positive with good music and gratitude journaling. I know some people preach the benefits of yoga or meditation and honestly, it doesn’t matter what it is that works for you, we’re all different. But one thing I’ve found that never fails when I’m feeling lonely and down - is reaching out to someone. We’re so wrapped up in our pride or not wanting to seem weak or put our problems on to someone else that we suffer in silence, unnecessarily. I guarantee, if you’re feeling lonely, then chances are you aren’t the only one, and the person you’re reaching out to will be so pleased you shared with them. They’re probably going through something really similar. That’s what I’ve found anyway 💕
In our recent study we found that over half of people never see the majority of their Facebook friends – and 68% wouldn’t consider most of them real friends. Would you agree with this? How often do you get to speak to your friends?
Social media is a super interesting place. You can build a huge community of people and reach millions at just the touch of a button, which in theory sounds amazing. But in reality, isn’t always the case. There are many pitfalls of social media; negativity, trolling, catfishing and don’t even get me started on comparing yourself to others online. We scroll mindlessly for hours on ‘social media’ comparing our reality to other people’s highlight reels feeling progressively worse about ourselves for failing to match these unrealistic images of perfection, and despite being part of something that claims to be ‘social’ feeling more and more isolated and alone.
Real friends aren’t edited, they don’t care about if you’re perfect or what filter you chose to use - they love you for you and will be there for you when the going gets tough. So don’t measure your worth by your followers on social media - instead reconnect and reach out to your day ones, your friends and family who will be there for you when you need them the most.
Have you noticed a change in your friendship groups – with people becoming withdrawn during lockdown?
I’ve had the same group of friends since I was about 16 - with a couple of exceptions and some wonderful additions from my uni days 😂 And I can honestly say I wouldn’t have survived this experience without them. They are strong and kind and we always make time for each other. But that’s not to say we all haven’t fallen off the map occasionally over the last year. It’s been really hard.
Make sure you check in on those who are quiet in the group chat or who’ve missed the virtual happy hour a couple weeks in a row or who’ve made excuses not to join the various zoom quizzes you’ve all planned. Fair enough, they might just be busy, or they might be really struggling and need your help. And we all need a little help from time to time.
What advice would you give to someone who wants to reach out to a friend who may be struggling, but doesn’t know how?
Never be afraid to reach out to someone who you think is having a hard time - it just shows you care. Be sensitive and tactful and draw on your own experiences when initiating the conversation. For example, ‘Mate, I am missing you so much - I’ve really struggled with this lockdown - have you?’ By sharing your own truth, you normalise them talking about their own, showing them it’s totally ok to be vulnerable. Which we can all struggle with at times.
Want to show someone they're not alone? Share something real with hand-crafted blooms and we'll donate 10% of the profits to help Samaritans tackle loneliness. Together we can break the silence.