Loneliness and Mental Health during COVID-19 - By Jen Wood at the Restoration Yard
Feeling lonely? You’re not alone. Some suggestions to cope.
Good relationships are so important for our wellbeing that they help us live longer. On the flipside, poor relationships are as dangerous for our health as smoking.
As we prepare ourselves for another three weeks of lockdown, we start to count the cost of separation from our nearest and dearest.
For some of us, this period has meant enjoying more family time. For others, it has released us from the pressure to socialise. However, for many people who live alone, or who don’t feel connected to those whom they live with, this has been an increasingly difficult time.
The level of loneliness, isolation and anxiety is increasing, and the media tells us that we are facing a mental health crisis which could be at least as damaging as the impact of covid-19.
Loneliness has reached epidemic proportions according to the Office of National Statistics, with 2.4 million adults already feeling lonely before lockdown.
The separation of families and friends, as well as unemployment and financial worries are known risk factors for mental health. Poor mental health, can cause reduced immune function, and if there’s something we all need just now it’s an effective immune system.
Small things like chatting to the person sitting next to us on the train can increase our happiness, and many of these things are unavailable to us for now.
I don’t know about you but I feel like my whole life is being lived through the same laptop and phone screens, and I’m starting to lose the separation between life and work that I find so valuable.
When reflecting on loneliness and isolation, I realise that they don’t impact everyone equally. A young person may experience social loneliness when they can’t meet up with friends, while an older adult may experience emotional loneliness, particularly if they have been widowed and feel less comfortable with communication using technology.
We need to act now to reduce the impact of the mental health crisis.
But what can we do?
Here are some suggestions.
Practice gratitude – write down ‘3 Good Things’ at the end of each day that have brought you joy or a sense of achievement. It doesn’t matter how small they are.
Stay in touch – FaceTime, Zoom, Skype, WhatsApp and Messenger video calls and Houseparty can give a range of options to see and speak to each other. I have been speaking to one person each day (outwith my usual work conversations) and it really makes a difference. I use Zoom for work and other apps for social, which gives me helpful separation.
Be creative – how about hosting a virtual dinner party or having a virtual walk with someone? Restoration Yard has a programme of virtual wellbeing classes which can be accessed here (insert hyperlink). Why not arrange to do classes with your friends from the comfort of your own home. There are HITT PT and yoga classes as well as mindfulness and stress reduction.
Self-care – the less you feel like it, the more you benefit from it. Why not create a self-care plan and ask a friend to be your self-care accountability partner? You could share your self-care intention for the day and what you are grateful for at the end of the day too.
Connect with others who may be lonely. We feel better when we reach out to others, and contribute to their wellbeing. It’s a win win.
Ask for help if you need it (see below) Sometimes calling a friend is enough, but there is help out there if you need it. Mental health care is a bit like pain relief. Prevention is always better than cure.
Practice Compassion (to self and others). If we can develop more compassion towards others and ourselves, we can increase our general life-satisfaction, as well as our emotional and psychological wellbeing and mood. There are a range of ways to develop self-compassion, and I have recorded an affectionate breathing practice and a suggestion for soothing touch which you can listen to here.
Please be in touch if you would like any information or support [email protected]
Samaritans can be contacted on 116 123. Anxiety UK 03444 775774. Mind 0300 123 3393 .
Jen Wood is an emotional wellbeing coach, psychotherapist and mindfulness teacher with 20 year’s experience. She is Wellbeing Consultant at Dalkeith Country Park. Jen offers individual wellbeing coaching, therapy and mindfulness sessions via Zoom or by phone. She can be contacted on [email protected] or via her website at jenwoodwellbeing.com.
Restoration Yard’s Virtual Wellbeing Lab classes can be found at restorationyard.com.