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By Nicki Cawood

Despite living in such a busy, noisy and on the surface sociable and connected world, social isolation is a real and relevant problem in today’s society.

Social isolation can have a significantly negative effect on many aspects of your life. I look at what social isolation is, how it can occur and how we can tackle it.

What is social isolation and who is at risk?

You may consider yourself an extrovert, someone who is comfortable talking to others, being in the limelight and so on. You might consider yourself more of an introvert, someone who is quite happy to studiously beaver away behind the scenes. Both of these are positive ways of thinking and living, using your particular skill sets to your advantage. Social isolation is different to introversion and can be damaging.

The textbook definition of social isolation is being apart from others, experiencing low self-esteem and being lonely. This can lead to anxiety, particularly when thrust into social situations, depression and more. Anyone can find themselves socially isolated, be it through lack of confidence or through being isolated because of working from home. Social isolation can vary in severity and anyone can be at risk of falling into this trap.

Proactive ways to combat social isolation

From a proactive point of view, tackling social isolation can be difficult. If, for example, someone is new to an area, now works from home and doesn’t know many people or is perhaps shy, what opportunities are there to deal with loneliness?

Thankfully these days social anxiety and isolation are well-recognised and people are not simply dismissed for being shy or awkward and left to their own devices. These are just a few ways to proactively chip away at social interaction.

Join a social group

This might fill you with dread but with so many different groups available, there is bound to be something that might interest you. I’m not suggesting you jump right in and join a theatre group (unless you want to) but do look around. A local book club, an exercise class, something more niche where you can more confidently talk about your interests and make connections can be a great start.

Visit local events and points of interest

Go swimming, go to the cinema, go for walks and to local events. This is a gentle but effective way to push you out of your comfort zone and encourage interaction with others. Even a brief conversation with someone at a museum about something you’ve seen is a start and a way to break the ice.

Attend a coworking group

Working from home can be a keen contributor to social isolation and lead to social anxiety. You don’t have colleagues, don’t necessarily go to meetings and can quite easily go a day or even a week without seeing someone else. What starts as enjoying the peace and quiet can become social isolation. Try working away from home a few times. Use the local library or coffee shop. A coworking group offers a regular opportunity to work alongside others who might also be home alone with their laptop. This kind of set-up can be great for beating loneliness.

Seek help

Sometimes social isolation can become severe. In cases like this, the most proactive thing you can do is to seek help. Speak to your GP, particularly if you are feeling depressed or anxious. Counselling might be something that could benefit you or anyone you know who is struggling with this issue.

In conclusion

Social anxiety and isolation are real issues and one may people suffer with. There isn’t always a one-size-fits-all solution however there are solutions. Building up your self-esteem or working on your confidence takes time. It can be done though. Whether a person has always struggled socially or has become isolated due to circumstances there are ways to turn things around. If a little extra help from peers, friend or professionals is needed, there is nothing wrong with that.

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