This week is Loneliness Awareness Week. Loneliness is something that can affect any one of us at any point in our lives, and this issue has become something even more of us have had to deal with over the last year. Even though social distancing restrictions have gradually been lifting, Loneliness Awareness Week continues to be as important as ever. Not just as a reminder that many people will continue to struggle with loneliness and isolation after lockdown, but also to reinforce the importance of social connections.
Last year research found that during lockdown reports of isolation and loneliness increased all around the country, in every age group. Women reported feeling the effects more than men, with a recent review finding that 27% of women surveyed reported they were feeling lonely. Previous research by the ONS found that younger people were disproportionately more affected by feelings of loneliness and isolation than older people. There are many reasons why this might be the case including more situationally based friendships.
While some people are able to remind themselves that their loneliness is short lived and because of a situation which is outside of their control, for others this is a more usual situation. Chronic loneliness can be described as constantly feeling lonely or alone, separated from others, even when you’re engaging in social situations. These feelings of being separate from and different to others can also be accompanied by feelings of inadequacy and low self-esteem.
When these feelings persist long term, there can be negative impacts to a person’s emotional and physical health. Increased stress levels drive up cortisol in the body leading to higher risks of type 2 diabetes, heart disease and high blood pressure.
The Marmalade Trust recommends the following tips that we can all take to help tackle loneliness:
Keep in touch with those around you
Some people will be keen to get together in person, but others might be more cautious. Make a point of having conversations which help everyone feel included, no matter what their current socialising comfort levels are.
Join a Group
Being part of a shared interest group is a great way to make connections. Many activity and interest groups are starting up again and are a great way to meet likeminded people in a low-pressure environment.
Get in touch
Organisations can offer support – find the right one for you. You might feel like you’re the only one who feels this way; connecting to organisations and charities who work in this space will help reassure you that you’re not. There’s help and support out there.
Help out through volunteering
Volunteering is a great way to meet new people and connect. Do you have a particular skill or some spare time? Many charitable organisations are desperately in need of volunteers and it’s a great way to get out and about and talking to new people.
If you’re feeling overwhelmed or stuck, the National Council for Hypnotherapy has a register of qualified and insured therapists who are able to work with you to help you understand and make changes to how you feel and to support you in the process of re-engaging with social networks.
So, if you are finding it difficult to cope with feelings of loneliness and isolation, then it can be helpful to seek out a therapist from the NCH directory who can help you.