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Mental Health Week: Tackling Loneliness

May 13, 2022

Joanne Reilly, Vice President of Human Resources, looks at the main theme of this year’s Mental Health Week – loneliness.

Joanne Reilly, Vice President of Human Resources, looks at the main theme of this year’s Mental Health Week – loneliness.

Initiatives like Mental Health Week provide us with an excellent opportunity to focus on the many issues, conditions and factors that impact on our wellbeing.

This year, the theme of the week is loneliness.

Millions are affected by loneliness. This has been exacerbated by the COVID pandemic, which greatly reduced the ability to connect with others and heightened the sense of isolation.

Even as restrictions lift and the world slowly returns to ‘normal’, these feelings have not subsided for many and may even be affecting their physical health.

According to the NHS, feeling lonely is a normal part of life and shouldn’t be confused with being alone.

Many people are perfectly happy in their own company, preferring to have a small number of social contacts and spend longer periods of time alone.

Loneliness is more to do with how people feel about themselves – you could be surrounded by people, but still feel lonely.

The reasons behind this vary from person to person but it could be because they don’t relate to the people around them, they find it challenging to talk to new people or be in certain social situations, or they lack confidence.

Feelings of loneliness can affect us all, but certain groups are more likely to experience them, such as older people, the recently bereaved and those with a disability or long-term health conditions.

Situations and circumstances can also trigger loneliness, such as losing a loved one, a relationship ending, moving to a new area, retiring, or even starting a new job or school.

The causes of loneliness are varied but regardless of them, loneliness should be taken very seriously: it can put people at a much greater risk of certain mental health problems, including depression, anxiety and stress.

Tackling loneliness

Dealing with loneliness will differ from person to person and will depend on what level of social contact works best for them.

However, all progress, no matter how slow or small, is good.

Excellent advice and support can be found at organizations such as Mind and Mental Health America. These include:

Try something new. This could be taking up that hobby or activity you always wanted to try. It may not even involve meeting people initially, but it could give you that confidence boost to seek out like-minded people or groups.

Connect with others. Just saying hello to a neighbor or taking your coffee break with a colleague can make a huge difference. You may even feel inspired to join a local interest or community group, or simply get involved in an online group or forum.

Reconnect. Relationships require effort and, for some, they could well be the reason behind the issues they are facing. Take the time to focus on them and rebuild them if necessary.

Don’t compare. When we compare ourselves to others, we always lose. Social media can make us all feel inadequate, so it is important to remember that people only really share the good things online. It may be worth limiting your time on certain accounts, or even taking a break from them completely.

Look after yourself. Sleeping and eating well are cornerstones of good mental health, as is physical activity. By taking care of yourself with these simple steps, you can greatly enhance your wellbeing.

Ask for help. For many of us, it is easily said but hard to do. However, help is out there. Aside from our doctors, friends and families, there are many organizations that provide support when we need it most – don’t let it fester.

Related: Taking care of your mental health

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