This week is Mental health Awareness Week in the UK and the theme for this year is loneliness.
We know only too well how lonely and isolating it can be for the children in our care, if they have lost or are separated from a beloved family member. Here are some of the simple ways we can all try to restore connection when we find things difficult and are feeling lonely.
1.) Is there someone you could reach out to?
Often, if we have been feeling a bit low, we might have stopped socialising – stopped seeing even the people who we really love spending time with. The more we isolate ourselves, the harder it is to break that cycle and start to see people again. Does this sound like you? Is there someone you could text, just a quick note to say, “Sorry I’ve been quiet, I’ve been a bit down.” You might be amazed at the response if you try it. You don’t have to suddenly switch modes completely and start inviting everyone to a big night out – keep it really simple and achievable, and just tell someone you’ve been finding things hard lately. You may find they have been struggling too, and if they’re feeling able, they may offer to help you in lots of ways that will make you feel much less lonely.
2.) Are you surrounded by people but feeling all alone?
When you’re with lots of people but feeling lonely, it could be that you’re not feeling heard, or seen, or understood. It can be tempting to start blaming others: “Why does nobody get me?” But that could leave you feeling even more alone. Instead, you could try being your own best friend, your own kind, sympathetic ear. Self-compassion is something that can feel very hard, and it really is – but what makes it easier is practice. Ask yourself: “What’s going on with me? What am I telling myself at the moment? What meaning am I giving to what I’m thinking or feeling or how I’m behaving?” Ask with kindness, as you would a friend who was going through something difficult. It can be hard to get others to hear or see or understand you, but if you can be there for yourself, you’ll never really be alone.
3.) Could it be time to talk to someone?
Sometimes when we feel lonely, it can be a warning sign that we are in a downward spiral of some kind, perhaps starting to sink into anxiety or depression. With both, we may start to isolate ourselves from others, which becomes a cycle of isolating ourselves, and that can be very hard to break. Above we suggested reaching out to a friend – but we know all too well that even that at times can feel impossibly hard. If that’s the case for you, it could be time to get some help. There are so many services available to people in the UK facing challenges with their mental health. Samaritans are a great first port of call. Their trained staff and volunteers are there to listen, without judgment, and can help you get the support you need. Mind can give you advice on where to get support in your local area. Even talking to your GP can help, and they can refer you to local support, potentially even counselling if required.