As we continue to ride the wave of uncertainty with rolling lockdowns and tier restrictions, the signs of stress are showing in even the most serene of us.
Remember way back in early 2020 as we went into the first lockdown, and some of us relished it. You could put this down to whether the lovers of lockdown #1 were introverts versus extroverts. But it’s safe to say that a year on, everyone is fatigued by the emotional toll this has all taken.
Isolation, even if you’re not, strictly speaking, in Covid isolation, or completely alone, is challenging. On some level, we all crave human interaction.
What loneliness does to a person
If we were to look to research, a prolonged sense of loneliness can impact our mental health. It may cause anxiety, depression or feelings of stress. Of course, feeling lonely now and again doesn't mean you have to worry about getting depression, for example. At the same time, loneliness shouldn’t be trivialised. There are ways to tackle it and help others who are experiencing those emotions.
It’s also important to note that we are all human, across the age groups. Just because you’re young, old or somewhere in the middle doesn’t mean that you can’t feel lonely and struggle with your mental health as a result.
If you are concerned about a friend during lockdown, or you’re feeling lonely yourself, there are ways to increase your connection with the world safely, and within the guidelines. Here are six ways to spark your inspiration.
1. Simply send a message
It really can be as easy as that. Everyone has different pressures and responsibilities during this time. Perhaps you’re home-schooling your children. You may be working increased or more erratic shifts. Alternatively, you may be one of the people with too much time on their hands.
None of these scenarios or any others you may think of are comfortable places to be in. The good news is that there is a straightforward way to reach out to someone and feel a glow of connection. Sending someone a quick text and starting up a conversation is something most of us can fit into our days and benefit from.
2. Plan face-to-face time
You may get a lovely boost from a message from a friend, but seeing someone’s face can pep you up like nothing else.
If you can’t be with someone due to distance, restrictions or because you’re shielding, a video call is the next best thing. Now, we’re all a bit more au fait with video calls after months of speaking to loved ones that way, but they can still be tricky to navigate, which may put some off. Like anything else in life, we can learn and improve, though! Some tips can make all the difference to enhance your calls.
If you can meet up in person and follow the guidelines, find time to do just that. This is the best way to truly engage with someone and lift your spirits, and that’s worth prioritising.
3. Brush up on your active listening skills
If you’ve ever had training on active listening, you’ll know all about this one straight away. The problem is whether you realise it or not, we’re all guilty of failing to practice active listening a lot of the time.
There are reasons to bear it in mind, however. For starters, it helps you understand other people better, and earn their trust. These qualities, among others, can improve your relationships beyond measure.
- Make eye contact
- Notice non-verbal behaviours
- Don’t interrupt
- Be patient
- Ask questions
4. Share passions and projects
If you’re at a loose end or wondering how to engage with someone, sharing passion projects, hobbies or even discussing interests could open up some interesting avenues.
It may be as simple as creating a list of films, programmes, music or books, and checking in with your friend to see how they are getting on with that same list. You can discuss likes and dislikes along the way.
Alternatively, a new, shared hobby could be just what you and your friends need. That could be baking bread and sharing your results. Or starting an exercise regime and tracking each other’s progress. Whatever inspires you, remember to keep in touch with your friend and share the experience.
5. Practice patience
Active listening is a big part of being patient, because by really noticing how someone is communicating, both verbally and non-verbally, you can understand how they are feeling. That said, it’s not always easy to remain patient when everyone is under pressure.
Remaining patient with your friends and family is vital if we are to build on your relationships during this time. Similarly, if you’re the one struggling with your mental health, you may jump to negative conclusions when speaking with friends.
If you need a quick reset, there are tools to help you rebalance and put things in perspective.
6. Recognise when professional help is needed
This is a tough and unique time. Understandably, so many of us feel an array of emotions, from anger to loneliness, stress to sadness. It’s little wonder that surveys looking at the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on mental health have discovered that more people seek professional help for new and pre-existing mental health conditions.
Seeking professional help can be a positive and crucial first step for anyone struggling during this time. Most of us are not mental health professionals ourselves, and although we can reach out and care for our loved ones, we just may not be able to give them the kind of support they need.
Helping friends struggling with lockdown
If you or a friend is struggling with their mental health, there are ways to get help. No one should feel alone in this, regardless of the isolation we are facing each day. To see what services are available, visit the government website.