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A Closer Look at Loneliness

Rachel has over 30 years’ experience in both NHS and the Corporate sector working as a Senior nurse; working closely with employers to support mental health within the workspace.

Rachel delivers an extensive portfolio of Mental Health First Aider and resilience training to our customers and is dedicated to raising awareness of mental health matters.

Could kindness be the cure for loneliness?

Loneliness can be viewed on a spectrum; we can all feel lonely sometimes and that’s normal. Everyone’s experience is unique to themselves. So, if you’re feeling lonely, I’m certain you are not alone in this. Raising awareness and normalising the subject matter can do so much to help vulnerable people speak up and share how they’re truly feeling,

As a nurse, Early Intervention is crucial in so many aspects of recovery in both physical and mental health. This is also reinforced by the World Health Organisation’s 1970’s mantra that “Prevention and early detection is always so much better than the cure”[1]

It has been identified that nine months into covid restrictions (November 2020) 24% of adults in the UK had feelings of loneliness such as sleep problems, low self-esteem, anxiety and low mood[2]. As a nurse, early intervention is crucial for recovery, why is loneliness so common amongst our society and what we can do to help prevent these feelings of isolation?

Looking beneath the surface

As a nurse I’ve been working with people who have been stripped of, some might suggest, luxurious working environments and associated benefits due to the pandemic. We spend on average 7-8 hours a day at work, approximately a third of our lives…really? So, what happens when the environment we’ve become so use to, is suddenly taken away from us?

The reality of working from home

A workplace environment can provide a person with so many wellbeing positives. During the pandemic, people were forced to work from home. Some have shared that they’re more than happy to stay at home but for others, working from home has been a lonely experience.

We forget that work provides so many things to different people such as purpose and structure, a sense of comfort, unity, luxurious surroundings, social interaction and the pandemic has most definitely led to different forms of loneliness amongst the younger population. As a result of this, it’s important for employers to provide colleagues with sign posting to credible organisations to help support those feeling vulnerable, you can find links to these at the bottom of the page.

The different sides of loneliness

Having worked as nurse for over 30 years, I’ve seen differing forms of loneliness. When working in the community, I might have been someone’s only meaningful form of contact in a week, interactions like this can be so important to avoid social isolation, never underestimate the power of a smile and a friendly hello.

Loneliness has many different causes varying from person to person. We don’t always understand what it is about the experience that makes someone feel lonely. It can be a life event such as bereavement, retiring and loosing social contact with work, university life, times of the year for example “exam season” where there is little to no social contact available.

It has been recognised that certain groups and circumstances are more vulnerable to loneliness. There are no stereotypes here and this list is not exhaustive, but it has been identified that some single parent families, those people with no family or friends who find it hard to socially interact with others, minority groups, asylum seekers and people living in poverty or with a disability could be more vulnerable.

Kindness could be the cure

From what we know about loneliness which is in parity to how we treat others with poor mental health, it would do us good to remember that although it is mental health awareness week this week that small acts of kindness and empathy goes a long way in helping to support those who are struggling.

How you can help friends, family and colleagues combat loneliness:

  • Encourage them to reach out when they are feeling low
  • Make yourself available
  • Check in regularly
  • Encourage them to participate in a new social activity
  • Keep your promises, whether you’re a line manager or a friend missing phone calls may seem minor, however to someone feeling vulnerable this can be a big deal

How you can combat loneliness

  1. Remember your friends’ family and support services are all here for you, talk to them
  2. Be kind to yourself, spend time for yourself, treat yourself
  3. Practice being present with your emotions, allow yourself to take time to reflect
  4. Embrace your creativity through hobbies and interests, share your skills others
  5. Building confidence and skills will help you connect and engage with others
  6. Prioritise quality over quantity, the better your connections the easier it is to combat loneliness
  7. Making new friends and volunteering

For more tips to help combat loneliness visit mentalhealth.org

 

[1] WHO | World Health Organization

[2] Loneliness during coronavirus | Mental Health Foundation