During the pandemic, loneliness was almost three times more prevalent, according to a study by The Mental Health Foundation, with 24 per cent of adults feeling lonely in late 2020. That’s why they’ve chosen loneliness as the theme for this year’s Mental Health Awareness Week (9 - 15 May 2022).
Running a small business can also be a lonely place, with the ultimate responsibility for the business and its employees resting generally with you as a small business owner. Christine Husbands from FSB Care explains what loneliness is, how you can manage it, and where you can find more support.
What is loneliness?
There is a difference between being alone and being lonely. Some people are very content with very little interaction with other people, whilst others may not be.
Loneliness is often described as the feeling generated when our need for social interaction and relationships is not met. Some people find they still feel lonely despite having a lot of social contacts and this is thought to stem from feelings of not being valued or understood by those they are in contact with.
Loneliness is not in itself a mental illness but it can have a negative effect on mental wellbeing, particularly over long periods. It can lead to mental health conditions such as depression, anxiety, stress, and low self-worth.
What causes loneliness?
It can be caused by life events such as a relationship breakdown, bereavement, or redundancy. Alternatively, personal circumstances may be the cause, for example, mobility problems, ethnic minority, sexual orientation, and health vulnerabilities.
How to manage loneliness
Remember, everyone is different and different things work for different people at different times. These ideas may not suit everyone and it’s important to take things slowly, gradually try things, and avoid putting pressure on yourself.
Acknowledge the unwanted feelings, in what circumstances they occur, and how they impact your wellbeing.
2. Be kind to yourself
Look after your own wellbeing, which might include:
- getting enough sleep
- maintaining a good diet
- avoiding drugs and alcohol
- doing some form of physical activity (ideally outdoors)
- engaging in fulfilling activities such as sports or hobbies
3. Connect with others
Look for ways to get more social contact with like-minded people, perhaps join a class, look for a volunteering opportunity or attend a networking event.
4. Give something back
Helping others can give social contact as well as boost self-esteem and give a sense of purpose.
5. Avoid comparing with others
Social media in particular can be very misleading and contribute to our feelings of loneliness or inadequacy. It’s important to recognise this and if affected, consider taking a break.
Finding someone you trust to talk to can help to keep things in perspective and receive encouragement. Talking therapies from professionals such as a structured course of counselling or CBT may help you address negative thoughts and feelings and develop coping skills in a confidential supportive environment.
Where can I find help?
Whilst we can do a lot to help ourselves, unfortunately, some people who have prolonged periods of loneliness can develop mental ill health and need professional help.
Your GP should always be consulted with health concerns, whether they are physical symptoms or persistent mental symptoms such as low mood, stress, or anxiety. Whilst it can be difficult to get a GP appointment, the sooner the request is made, the sooner the appointment will be and the first step towards recovery.
In addition, FSB members also have free access to FSB Care which provides long-term access to a registered, mental health or general nurse for professional advice, guidance, and support, as well as sourcing the most appropriate form of therapy or other appropriate professional help.
There is no need to see the GP or have a formal diagnosis before accessing FSB Care.