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How can I stop feeling lonely?
Moving away to a new country is a life-changing decision and there are many reasons why people seek to move to entirely different parts of the world. For some, it becomes too dangerous to stay in their own country and they are forced to rebuild safer lives elsewhere. For others, it’s an exciting new chapter that is filled with hopes and possibilities of a better future.
In those initial months, you will face many challenges. The reality of being far from everything that is familiar to you - your loved ones and friends, your customs, and your own language - can make you feel very homesick. Your days can seem long and with little purpose if you’re here alone and haven’t found a job or met anyone yet. All this can make you feel lonely.
Feelings of disappointment, anger and even regret in some cases are common if things don’t materialize as quickly as you had anticipated leaving you wondering whether you made the right decision to move to Canada.
It’s normal to feel this way and most newcomers feel like this at some point in their immigration journey, especially in those early months.
The first days can be exciting and everything is a new experience. If you arrive here in the winter from a country that does not have four seasons or snow, you may experience your first snowfall with amusement. The sights and sounds of our cities, the people of different cultures and fashion styles, and the restaurants and foods from all over the world can feel like you’re on a vacation.
But as the weeks go by, finding a job and a place to live can take a lot longer than you had anticipated. Your savings may start to run out and you may find it hard to socialize because of the language barrier. That’s when the lonely feelings can really creep up on you, weighing you down with thoughts of regret and wanting to give up.
How to Make it Through Those Lonely Times
Get out of your head, and out of your house - get out and meet people! Join community and ESL conversation groups. This is a great way to figure out the ins and outs of Canadian culture.
Meetups are an effective way to meet new people, participate in fun activities, learn new skills, and find support from your community. Meetup groups are designed by categories in areas of interest and are made up of people who share similar interests to yours.
The groups have regular meetings and outings that are typically free and organized locally in your city or town. Some meetings may involve having to pay for your own meals or drinks if you decide to meet at a restaurant or community centre, but you can choose which meetings are best for you to attend by viewing their events calendars. There are plenty of newcomer groups and expatriate (expat) gatherings happening in most cities.
Meetups categories are organized by:
nationalities (expat groups)
areas of interest (hobbies, sports, music etc.)
religions and beliefs
job preparation and networking
- learning possibilities (trainings and career workshops)
self-help (mindfulness, mental health, overcoming anxiety and depression)
And much more.
Meeting people through groups will come in handy for your job search as well. Canadian employers often refer to “culture fit” when it comes to choosing candidates. Having Canadian work experience is less about the amount of time you’ve spent actually working in Canada, and more about fitting in with Canadian work customs and culture. Employers want to ensure that you understand the work culture (values, acceptable behaviours and ways to communicate) embraced by Canadians.
ESL Conversation Circles
ESL Conversation Circles are informal gatherings offered through city libraries and community centres where people come together to practice speaking English or French (depending on where you are in Ontario).
Some examples are:
Look up “conversation circles” in your area for a group near you.
Write About your Experience
It has been proven by mental health experts that “journaling” or writing out what you are thinking can be an effective way to release some of those unsettling feelings. Even reading about other people’s loneliness can be comforting and help lift the sense that you are in this alone. The Loneliness Project was created by a Toronto woman who wanted to provide a platform for people to share their stories on what makes them feel lonely.
On this website, you can contribute your story anonymously or just read about how others are feeling. The act of sharing this experience is meant to help you see that many people are feeling just as you are and you’re not walking alone.
Mental Health Services
If your loneliness is becoming too much to bear, there are services and programs across Ontario to help you. ConnexOntario will help you assess the type of support you need. You can call, email or webchat with their specialists any time of the day. You can even download the ConnexGo app to your phone.
ConnexOntario provides support with:
Distress crisis and peer self-help
Family support if you are dealing with a family member suffering from depression, anxiety or any other mental health affliction
Talk therapy and counseling
Crisis lines if you are having thoughts of suicide
Housing support for mental health
These are free, OHIP-covered services. If you have language barriers they even offer assistance in different languages.
For More Information
- Alone in Canada is a self-help guide with 21 tips for newcomers experiencing loneliness. From the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH)
February 21, 2024