I read this article in the Sunday Times Magazine, appropriately published in time for Loneliness Awareness Week, which ran from 23rd June, 2020. Since ‘Lockdown’ due to the Coronavirus crisis, we are now becoming increasingly aware of how loneliness can be detrimental to our wellbeing – both physically and mentally – and that we are all susceptible to it!
Most of us have experienced loneliness and isolation at some point – possibly at many times during our life – whether we have acknowledged it or not. Now, there seems to be greater awareness of loneliness as an issue. We are encouraged to realise that we are not alone and that there are many ways of expressing our feelings of loneliness and seeking support to help combat them; from helplines, such as the Samaritans, Movember.com, online resources, and even a government initiative designed to help tackle loneliness: https://letstalkloneliness.co.uk/#ldnse.
Loneliness causes and effects
Feeling lonely can be a result of so many things that affect our life: bereavement, the breakdown of relationships, loss of work, health issues, and financial losses… the list is long. Anyone can have a sense of a loss of meaning, purpose and belonging. Thoughts of failure, fear and “no one can really understand me”, or “what I am going through?” can lead to anxiety and regret, causing greater or more long-standing issues, emotional and physical pain. In those situations, it can feel like our world is falling apart; yet so many leaders put on a brave face and carry on, or feel pressured to do so, even though all the internal walls are crumbling. Denying these lonely feelings and putting on the mask of a ‘brave face’ while continuing to support others, while the person who needs your support most is YOU!
Give yourself an oxygen mask first
Think of it as the aeroplane analogy of putting the oxygen mask on yourself before attending to the people around you in times of extreme turbulence. This is a way many of us can learn to cope when things are not quite right, or when we are faced with a difficult situation. At this stage, it is vital to show kindness to yourself; to find the courage to do the right thing for you in that situation. Many of us turn first to excuses: ‘there are others worse off than I…’, “I have to think about x, y and z and then the financial implications…” If we are the head of the family, the financial provider, or main carer we become invisible, because we are not the priority.
Denial, not listening to that inner voice telling you something is not right and the excuses to not take care of yourself can lead to additional problems. Neglecting yourself after sleepless nights and/or not nourishing your body properly when ‘burning the candle at both ends’, or the other extreme, compensating yourself with a comfort such as eating, drinking too much of the wrong things. You might find yourself, like many others in the COVID-19 lockdown quarantine period, buying items you don’t really need or want, seeking comfort through the crisis. None of these serve you well or combat the core feelings that are causing the issues.
Interventions and support in stressful times
- Care for yourself
Self-care, however basic, can be the first important step – think better sleep, food, hydration. Exercising your creativity while taking a break from the screen or meetings, by getting out into nature or trying some creative writing, painting, reading something that inspires you. Getting some exercise, even if it is a 15-30-minute walk to clear your head and blow away the cobwebs. These breaks away from the norm and business stresses help you to express your emotions, which allows you to become strongly aware of how you feel and helps you accept the situation, so you can let go.
- Write it down
Keep a journal to help you address and accept your feelings in a practical and creative way. You may find patterns and recurring themes that can help you get to grips with what doesn’t feel right.
- Talk to someone who understands
Share your feelings in a safe space. These could be:
- There are several helplines, the NHS have a valuable helpline listing an A-Z of support in crisis: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/stress-anxiety-depression/mental-health-helplines/
- Reaching out to others who have had similar experiences and someone you can trust and won’t judge and this can be a friend, a relative, colleague or your doctor
- Create and tap into the infrastructure of support through family and friends. You never know what someone is going through or has experienced; you may be surprised by the support and understanding that you didn’t realise you already have.
You are not alone
You do not have to struggle with this alone and walk down the dark path of loneliness or isolation. If there is one thing, we must all learn and take to heart, it is that we are not alone!
I encourage you to be kind, be brave, have the courage to learn and listen to you. This will help you see what you need to come through and view a bright new horizon.
#Listen #Talk #Inspire
If this resonates with you and you would like a professional guide to help you get there, get in touch.
I will listen to your thoughts, feelings and concerns, talk with you about how to navigate and lead the road ahead, inspiring you to make the changes you need to come out the other side.