Mental Health Awareness Week, this year running from 9th to the 15th May, has become one of the biggest awareness weeks of the calendar across the UK. This year the Mental Health Foundation has set the theme of loneliness to drive awareness of the crippling impact loneliness has on our communities in a bid to tackle the feeling of isolation so many individuals have been and are still experiencing.
Data has shown that the pandemic has accelerated feelings of isolation and loneliness and a number of mental health organisations are attempting to reconnect people this week to try and help these feelings and help people get back to togetherness.
We have a few ideas of our own on how to tackle loneliness if this is something you are experiencing.
The first step to feeling better with any difficult experience of emotion is to acknowledge it. How do you really feel? Are you a little lonely or are the feelings of isolation very intense? Are you getting very sad with your loneliness? Are you fighting the feelings and perhaps wearing your ‘everything is fine’ mask?
To accept how we feel can be difficult as often, if it’s a negative emotion, we want to simply push it away or ignore it. But we mustn’t try not to ignore our inner selves, we must instead try listening to those thoughts and feelings first so we can understand where they are coming from, then put things right. Is the reality that you don’t have any or enough friends and family close by you can frequently connect with? Or is it that they are there and you are simply not reaching out enough? We can all, on occasion, let time slip by between catch ups with friends and family members but these are the people to start with when feeling lonely. They care and, if they have your best interests at heart, and are true friends, they will want to help. Can you perhaps start scheduling in and diarising face to face time with those already in your network? Just planning those weekly or monthly visits with those you love could ease feelings of isolation instantly and give you something to look forward to.
We may have all become used to zoom calls and FaceTime but does it really make us feel connected? Our online lives have become so important and embedded in our everyday lives that perhaps we have forgotten about the outside world. With the development of technology we rarely have to leave the home at all if we don’t want to. But there is a big world outside of our homes, full of people we could be connecting with on a human level, relating to and sharing our lives with in a physical way.
Human touch is essential to feeling connected to others. Remember how you felt as a child when a loved one gave you a hug? As adults, we still crave that physical connection, and now the rules have eased hugging may be back on the activity list. I’m not suggesting you go and start asking strangers for hugs, but perhaps it’s time to open a meeting with a handshake again, if you feel comfortable doing so.
As the weather warms up, getting out into nature and connecting with friends in the fresh air through exercise and outdoor social activities can be a double wellness whammy! Nature is good for mental wellbeing and connecting with others can help you if you are feeling alone.
If you do not have a circle of friends easily accessible, perhaps try joining a local club or a community class in your local area to meet new people and develop fresh connections. You could try a sports club or artistic class close to where you live and learn something new whilst also making new friends.
For more information from us on how to battle loneliness check out our article here on Tackling Loneliness with the 5 Ways to Wellbeing