How to tackle feelings of loneliness

A rundown of the We Are Lonely podcast mentors' tips for tackling loneliness.

Loneliness across Australia is on the rise, to help those experiencing loneliness we have created a podcast series We Are Lonely where we hear from young people searching for connection and mentors offering them advice. Here’s a rundown of what the mentors suggest when it comes to tackling loneliness. 

Two girls sitting on a wall smiling together

Connect with yourself

Tessa Blencowe is a counsellor and author who was motivated to work in the loneliness space because of her own experience with loneliness.

“Through my work, I’ve learnt that loneliness impacts us all, no matter how old we are or how many friends we might have. Loneliness isn’t just about social isolation - very often we feel lonely when we feel disconnected from ourselves or feel unable to live authentically in the world.”

To connect with yourself, Tessa suggests writing a letter to your inner child.

“By engaging with ourselves in this way, we are able to notice the different parts at play, allowing us to have a different conversation with ourselves. Here, we can better understand what’s troubling us, and what we need to move forward.”

Another exercise Tessa recommends is recognising strengths through the eyes of others. To do this, invite two or three people you know to share five strengths they see in you, you can also share five strengths you see in them.

“We explore this as a way to nurture our sense of self-worth. Sometimes it can feel really difficult to identify our own strengths, and yet recognising and using our strengths is an integral part of building confidence, happiness and connectedness," says Tessa.

Focus on your strengths

Deidre (Dee) Anderson (OAM) is recognised worldwide for her mentoring and support of elite athletes and has worked with some of Australia’s sports superstars including Ian Thorpe and Cathy Freeman.

Dee feels everyone has a toolbox within them that’s full of strengths to create a sense of belonging. She believes it’s important to know yourself, your values, and skills and to own your own journey.

“Draw a line in the sand so that you can move forward into the life you desire. Keep looking forward, not in the rear-view mirror,” says Dee.

Dee suggests creating a list of 20 values – like wealth, family, or honesty – and then breaking the list down to your top 10, then top five and finally top three. If you try to name your three values without the process of narrowing them down, it may not be as thorough or authentic.

Start small

Sean Szeps is best known for his podcast and book that share his experiences as a queer dad. Sean feels it’s important to be patient with yourself as the road to taking action to overcome loneliness is a different process for everyone.

Sean suggests starting with small easily achievable goals and working your way up. For example, instead of jumping head first into joining a club at university, Sean suggests identifying all the groups that are of interest. The second step might be communicating with someone in the group over email.

“I did that at university. I emailed the pride group, and said I was nervous. The girl messaged me and said, ‘I felt the same way how about I meet you beforehand for coffee’? If we just focus on the first step, the second step is always easier” says Sean.

Have a plan

Sean also suggests making plans when you’re at your best. When we feel lonely and potentially incapable of proactive actions it can help to rely on systems already in place for example regular scheduled meetings with friends or therapy sessions.

Ask for help

Barry Conrad is an actor, singer and songwriter who felt that his experience in the entertainment industry as a black mixed-race man could be helpful to people like his younger self.

“No matter where you come from – socio-economically, culturally or racially – you matter and are not alone. There’s absolutely no shame in reaching out to ask for help” says Barry.

A final note from Tessa is around the power of talking openly about loneliness to reduce the stigma around it. She believes we all feel lonely sometimes and it’s nothing to be ashamed of. Rather than hiding from it, she suggests you ask, ‘What is this feeling trying to teach me right now?’ You might then find that a pathway becomes a little clearer and your first step forward feels a little easier.”

Tessa's top 5 tips for moving through loneliness

Tips from Tessa Blencowe a counsellor and author who works in the loneliness space.

1. Practice self-compassion and kindness. There’s nothing wrong with feeling lonely. It’s a human response to a feeling of disconnect. Rather than judging yourself, instead ask, “What’s missing from my life?” Use loneliness as a compass for reconnection.

2. Share with someone how you’re feeling. Sometimes just opening up about loneliness is all we need to feel less lonely. Research shows that people are kinder than we think. When we open up about loneliness, it’s a driver for connection.

3. Get to know yourself. What things help you feel relaxed, calm, energised, or happy? Be deliberate about making time to do these things. Sometimes feeling lonely isn’t about other people. Sometimes we’re just disconnected from ourselves.

4. Pursue social activities that align with your values and interests and join spaces that allow you to be your authentic self. Look up clubs, workshops, or classes in your area that you could engage with. Remember, practicing putting yourself in new environments is a life skill, which gets easier the more we do it.

5. Reach out for additional support. If feelings of loneliness persist and start affecting your overall wellbeing, speak with a mental health professional, your GP, or contact a helpline. They can provide you with guidance and specific support to help you deepen and broaden the connections in your life.

Looking for something else?

Visit We Are Lonely for more information.