Tackling Loneliness this Mental Health Awareness Week
This week is Mental Health Awareness Week, and the theme this year is loneliness.
Loneliness is a theme I notice coming up a lot more in my work since the coronavirus pandemic. So many ways of connecting socially were lost and changed, and for many people it has not been as simple as picking up where they left off. People have moved, life circumstances have changed, some networks have closed and not reformed…there are many reasons that the ways we reached out before might no longer be possible or appropriate now.
The Mind website explains that feeling lonely can have a negative impact on your mental health, especially if these feelings have lasted a long time. They note that some research suggests that loneliness is associated with an increased risk of certain mental health problems, including depression, anxiety, low self-esteem, sleep problems and increased stress. It can be a vicious circle, with loneliness contributing to mental health problems, and mental health problems contributing to loneliness.
Being alone, and feeling lonely are two different things. Sometimes you might feel at peace in your own company and enjoy the space. At other times it might be very difficult and you may want to connect and be in contact with another person. Like any feeling loneliness can come and go.
There are so many reasons that you might find yourself being lonely, the ways you might improve your well-being are similarly many and varied. There is not one thing that will work for everybody. What does underlie the different ways of alleviating loneliness though is connection, a sense of feeling a link with another person or people. It may be that it’s right for you to take it slowly and go for low intensity interactions to build up a sense of safety and to feel in control.
If you’re experiencing loneliness this Mental Health Awareness Week, please know that you are not alone in this. Reaching out for support and contact can feel challenging, but ultimately it might just be the thing that makes a difference and brings a sense of possibility and hope.
This week I hope we can all take the time to notice those around us who are feeling lonely, and to do something to create connections. Community and kinship are important, and enhance wellbeing for all involved when they are kindly and lovingly cultivated.