Coping with loneliness and isolation in difficult times

Posted by Oliver on 06/01/21 in Articles

With another national lockdown upon us, and more weeks of social-distancing and shielding ahead, it might be trying for many people to keep their spirits lifted. The days are shorter and the weather is colder, so it might feel harder to be both physically and socially active.

The present situation means we can’t meet many of our friends, see family members, or visit loved ones without feeling like we are putting ourselves and others in unnecessary danger. When a simple chat at the garden gate with the neighbour feels risky, the tendency to feel lonely or isolated becomes increasingly high.

However difficult, there are many things you can do to give yourself a lift. We’ve got a few ideas for you here.


Stay active

One of the best things you can do to keep your mind happy is to stay physically active. That could mean a walk around the local park, a potter around the garden, or even a trip to the corner shop and back.

If leaving the house seems like too much of a chore (and in the British rain, who can blame you?), then staying in the house doesn’t have to mean a sentence on the settee. Little challenges here and there do wonders for the mood. Why not do a spot of weightlifting with some tins of beans, dance around with the hoover, or do ten laps of the living room? Some simple, basic floor stretches can feel like a lovely reward in the middle of the day.

WATCH: Incredible 81-year-old vegan whose mission is to complete ONE MILLION press-ups

If mobility is an issue for you, you may be entitled to support through The Vegetarian and Vegan Fund, a grant scheme run by V for Life. The scheme is available to anybody over 60 who may not be in a financial position to make that one-off purchase that would improve their independence. This could be something as small as a handrail outside the front door, or something more substantial like a mobility scooter.


Eat fun

Preparing some nice nutritious food for yourself is one of those hidden exercises that we don’t know we’re doing, and keeping your meals varied and exciting is also a great source of pleasure for many of us.

Food is enjoyable and it doesn’t have to take much effort. Whether you’re still visiting the shops or shopping online for home delivery, why not pop into your basket one item that you’ve never tried before? It could be a strange piece of fruit or a vegetable or meat alternative that you’ve never cooked with.

And, as the saying goes, try to eat a rainbow of foods every day. If you find your plate is getting a little beige (pies, potatoes, pasta etc), then consider jazzing it up with some colourful veggies. Tomatoes, peppers, and leafy vegetables are a good start, but add a little purple broccoli, beetroot, or lemon slices (depending on your dish of course) and the joy begins to flow from the plate.

Instead of white potatoes, substitute in one of the blue varieties, or turn to sweet potatoes. Instead of baked beans try a different variety, such as butter beans, kidney beans or cannellini beans.

If you make your own pizza out of a ready-made base (or a flat bread such as naan) then you can pack the top with whatever takes your fancy – yes, even pineapple.

V for Life has a multitude of free recipes on its website or available on request. For a quick, tasty dish with a wide range of colourful ingredients, try our Versatile Stew.

Or for an alternative to the baked potato, try this Baked Sweet Potato with Avocado Salsa.

Cooking doesn’t have to be chore. If eating is so much fun then cooking can be, too.

If you’re a member of a local community group or organisation in some other capacity, and are eager to learn some new recipes, V for Life has been running online cookery demonstrations since early 2020. This is a free service that we usually offer in person but have adapted to work online over the social communication channel, ‘Zoom’.

For individuals, we even run a monthly virtual vegan lunch club!

To find out more, or if you would like to book a lesson with one of our top Roving Chefs, email our Cookery & Training Outreach Coordinator, Ellie (ellie@vegetarianforlife.org.uk) or call 0161 257 0887 to arrange over the phone.


Stay social

It’s important to keep in contact with your friends and family, so why not make use of programs such as Facebook and Whatsapp for sharing photos and a (virtual) face-to-face chat?

V for Life runs the Mature Vegans and Veggies UK group on Facebook, which already has over 1,600 members. You can also try Skype video calling if you have a computer or laptop at home, or via your mobile phone.

If the telephone or writing are more your thing – but you don't have anyone to reach out to – why not try The Silver Line's free helpline on 0800 4 70 80 90?

The Silver Line offers an emotional lifeline to many, giving older people a place to turn to for whatever they need. More information can be found on the charity’s website at https://www.thesilverline.org.uk.

Alzheimer Scotland also has a 24 hour Freephone Dementia Helpline on 0808 808 3000, which you could use for support and information, and if you or a family member need help with things such as shopping or collecting medication. 

Last but not least, V for Life runs a veggie pen- and phone-pal scheme, exclusively for older vegetarians and vegans. The scheme offers you the chance to make new friendships with like-minded people up and down the country. 

Contact made through the scheme might lead to close friendships being formed and can offer reassurance that there is someone you can approach to discuss a particular topic or interest with. Full details are available on our website here or call us on 0161 257 0887 for a hard copy in the post.

We hope that you and yours stay well during this difficult time. If you're experiencing any difficulties, please don't hesitate to reach out to us. Never be afraid to ask for help.


Below is a list of other external organisations with resources to help during this difficult time:

  • Able Futures - They deliver the Access to Work Mental Health Support Service which can give you a regular opportunity to get advice and information from a Vocational Rehabilitation Consultant who is a qualified mental health specialist about things you could do that could benefit your mental health.
  • 5 Ways to Wellbeing - The Royal College of Psychiatrists, the NHS and many other organisations including MIND all agree that incorporating elements of all 5 Ways to Wellbeing in our daily lives will help us feel better both mentally and physically. The 5 Ways to Wellbeing include connecting with people, being active, learning, noticing and giving: www.youtube.com/watch?v=UYM0GSM33ws 
  • ‘Resilience – Top Tips’ - Webinar delivered by Keith Goddard, Occupational Psychologist: https://ageuktheloop.com/2020/07/31/zurich-webinar-recordings-available/
  • Grey Matter Stress Awareness course - This course covers the essentials and includes practical strategies to help staff recognise and manage stress; build resilience; and cope with stress: https://greymatterlearning.co.uk/onlinelearning/stress-resilience-course/
  • Kings Fund ‘Quick Reads’ -  The Kings Fund has produced a 4 minute ‘quick read guide’ to help people manage anxiety about the different forms of loss they’re experiencing at this time – loss of a sense of safety/peace of mind; loss of people close to them; loss of routine; loss of contact. It includes four strategies for surviving and managing anxiety about loss.

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