The Coronavirus has swept the globe at a time when more people are living alone. With social isolation the only way to control the outbreak, there’s real concerns about how anxiety and loneliness can exact a physical toll, triggering higher blood pressure and heart rates. But there are things that you can do to help because let’s face it, we can’t all be like Tom Hank’s character in Cast Away and make a friend named Wilson from a volleyball.
A social recession
Once the risk of Covid-19 dissipates, there is the danger that its legacy will mean that people continue to remain isolated. We often hear about the old being lonely but the reality is that loneliness can affect anyone including those busy with a family, downsizers and young professionals to name just a few groups. The impact that it has on our wellbeing can be very hard, which is why the Government has acknowledged the issue with a Minister for Loneliness.
Build to Rent (BtR) developments have been created understanding the issues that affect the traditional rental market, specifically the lack of community. Being able to establish long-term leases helps to embed renters in their area and build friendships. There are also amenities in many developments that actively encourage interaction with shared spaces such as residents’ lounges, workzones and fitness centres. The Love to Rent portal has gone one step further and each tenant can join the ‘Live’ area, created exclusively to share news, join groups, post messages and meet new friends at social events, all helping you make the most of where you live. So even if you can’t take advantage of any of the face to face social spaces or activities, you can still get online and meet the residents of your building, which will help to keep you informed of what’s going on in your neighbourhood during the pandemic.
With more people living alone, studies have found that canine companionship can help beat loneliness. Dogs need walking and they are a great point of conversation to get you out and about. Living in a BtR property, there are many developments which welcome pets so you could probably find some human companionship with other residents and their pups to enjoy dog walks together. During the pandemic, your neighbours may be unwell and unable to go for their one hour of exercise a day, so volunteer your services as a dog walker. Remember to keep dogs on a lead at all times in case they become concerned and try to run back home to their owners.
While too much tech can be a cause for loneliness, there are also a number of tools that can be downloaded to help you meet new people, vital when face to face meetings are all put on hold. Apps such as Citysocializer, Meetup, Peanut and Meet My Dog all aim to connect you with like-minded people to share interests and enjoy new experiences. During the pandemic, you can take your time getting to know new people by chatting online and when you do finally meet, it will feel that you have known each other for ages.
During the pandemic, the country is looking for volunteers to help in many sectors from being an NHS volunteer to the numerous charities that are feeling the full force of the lockdown. Much of the work can be virtually carried out, including providing support on the telephone. This will create a feeling of camaraderie and can be something that you can continue after the lockdown is lifted. There’s lots of ways in which you can help and be in touch with like-minded people who have the same interests as yourself. Anything from helping out at an animal shelter through to coaching a local football team.
Join a virtual book club
If you like reading, this is a great way to meet new people and bond over a love of literature. Not only will you read books that you may have dismissed before but you will probably become a better conversationalist. As the world goes into lockdown, reading groups are going online on Zoom, Twitter and Instagram. Salon London has launched a fortnightly book club including live author talks to stream on YouTube and writer Robert Macfarlane has recruited hundreds to his global read along under the hashtag #CoReadingVirus. If you fancy a bit of Hollywood inspired reading, join Reese Witherspoon’s book club @reesesbookclub on Instagram and involve yourself in the conversation along with 1.5 million people. Whether online or virtual, book clubs are a great way to strike up a conversation with new people.
Relax into new forms of communication
After years of seeing friends face to face, it can feel a little hard to communication via a screen. It can be strange to shift from comfortable chats over coffee or wine to scheduling time to talk. Comfortable silences don’t translate well over a screen so you may feel the pressure of keeping the conversation going a bit more than usual. It might feel odd but it is important to push through these moments and settle into a new pattern of relating to one another. This is new for everyone and the person you are chatting to is likely to feel as awkward as you too. Plus the strangeness of this situation may lead you to make lifelong friends.
- Ask questions and be interested.
- Don’t expect too much.
- Be open and smile.
- Make an effort to stay in touch.
- Set a target of how many new people you want to meet.
- Take the first step, someone has to.