It’s 3 am. While the world around her lies fast asleep, she’s wide awake; awake and utterly alone. It used to scare her – being alone – but she’s been trudging through life on her own for so long that alone has become as familiar to her as her own reflection in the mirror. Lying awake in her bed fit for one, she is fearless, unaware she is in the company of something dangerous – even deadly – tucked somewhere between mental illness and her life as a single woman.  

That single woman is me. The company I keep is loneliness.  


Having experienced the weight of loneliness stemming from various circumstances, I’ve always been aware of its negative impact on my already fragile mental health. Before I developed connections with other people who have lived experiences like mine, I felt entirely alone even while surrounded by friends and family. Feeling misunderstood and different from everyone else is an especially cruel type of loneliness. But finding others who struggle with anxiety and depression like me, helped relieve some of the loneliness mental illness bestowed upon me.  

A short time later I found myself facing divorce and the almost inconceivable thought of living as a single mother, forced to rebuild my life all on my own. By the time I had secured an apartment to begin this new phase of my life, loneliness had already taken up residency; I’m not even sure there was time to unpack all of the moving boxes before it made itself at home.  

Coping with being lonely is much harder to accomplish when you’re still frozen with fear from being alone. Thankfully, that fear has long since evacuated. But loneliness still lingers around.  

When I decided to write this blog about my personal experiences with loneliness, I had no idea my research would uncover truths that would be equally as frightening as the fear that left me long ago. Though familiar with the negative effects to one’s mental health, I was oblivious to how loneliness impacts physical health.


Loneliness – the physical health impact 

  • Increased risk of dementia and other cognitive concerns 
  • Weakened immune system 
  • 29% more likely to have a heart attack and increases risk of death by 26% 
  • Is contagious (research shows close family and friends of someone experiencing loneliness are 52% more likely to report feeling lonely too, and others can “catch” loneliness up to 3 degrees of separation- ie: your friend’s friend’s friend) 
  • Is as dangerous as smoking 15 cigarettes a day 
  • Impacts sleep and eating habits 
  • Makes you feel physically colder 
  • Lonely people take twice as many sick days as other colleagues  
  • Decreases productivity and increases blood pressure 
  • Loneliness and the physical problems associated with it kill more people than obesity 
  • Social rejection and isolation activate the same parts of the brain as physical pain -being alone hurts 
  • Living alone, unmarried, and having fewer friends are risk factors for loneliness 

If you’re in a state of disbelief, I don’t blame you. If you’re experiencing loneliness like me, you might be feeling a bit frightened after reading those, understandably. Luckily there are ways to cope with loneliness to keep these symptoms at bay and put your mind at ease.  


Top tips to cope with loneliness 

  • Take time to relax 
  • Express yourself through creative arts 
  • Embrace personal intimacy by putting your hand over your heart 
  • Limit social media to 30 minutes a day -research shows a strong link between excessive social media use and loneliness 
  • Join a club to connect with like-minded people 
  • Spend time in nature 
  • Perform random acts of kindness  
  • Volunteer  
  • Talk to strangers 
  • Consider therapy 
  • Join PoetsIN Mental Health Community by going to facebook.com/groups/poetsin and answering 3 questions before requesting to join 
  • Practice self-compassion and self-care 
  • Strengthen your existing relationships 

If you are one of the 33% of adults worldwide experiencing loneliness, know that you are not alone. There’s nothing shameful about feeling lonely so please reach out when you need a helping hand.  

You are loved, you are worthy, you matter.  

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