The world has changed a lot in the past couple of years and it’s still changing even now. One of the biggest impacts of the pandemic and its lasting effects is without a doubt an increased sense of loneliness. This Mental Health Awareness Week, we’re going to be talking about how loneliness can affect all of us and how you can not only help others but also help yourself.
With so much of our world now going virtual, it seems that connections, though faster and all in the palm of your hand, somehow seem harder to make in the first place and it’s easy to feel isolated. We’ve all had to muddle through the transition to working from home or studying virtually or even Covid-19 induced isolation and we know how tough it can be. So, we want to remind you that you’re not alone and that we have a range of resources available to help you or help you to help others.
How to Help Others Struggling with Loneliness
Now that we’re seeing less of our friends, family and colleagues face-to-face, it can be easy to forget to check in. So much of the conversation that would have happened naturally just by being in the same room as someone else now falls to the wayside as we become more aware of our own worlds and less so of everyone else’s. But, checking in on and helping those who may be struggling with feelings of isolation and loneliness can be as simple as a text. We’ve put together a few suggestions you can add to your daily routine to help others struggling with loneliness.
Even if it’s a simple ‘how are you’ message once a week, something as small as checking in regularly can make the world of difference. Or, perhaps you see a video you know they’ll like, a TikTok that reminds you of a shared memory or a picture that you know will make them smile and you share it with them. Knowing someone is thinking about you, even if the conversation is short, goes a long way to helping someone overcome feelings of isolation.
Arrange a FaceTime or phone call
You don’t need a reason to arrange a phone call or FaceTime, it can simply be to chat for a few minutes. Or, you even could arrange a family quiz using something like Kahoot! Get your friends together once a month to watch a film using systems like Teleparty, Zoom or Watch Party. It might only be an hour or two, or a few minutes, out of your day but to someone struggling with loneliness, it can make all the difference.
Set Up A Study Group
Worried someone at College is struggling? Why not set up a virtual (or in person if it’s safe to do so) study group! You can check in on others on your course without singling anyone in particular out. If you do have any concerns about those on your course at The College, remember help is always available through our Safeguarding team. You can contact the Safeguarding team at email@example.com or on 01480 422070 and you can find out further information
Become a Buddy
The CAW Buddy Scheme is another way to help your fellow students who may be struggling with feelings of loneliness. You can sign up to become a Buddy where you will then be assigned another student who has requested a Buddy and can share your knowledge and provide support for your Buddy throughout their time at The College. You can find more information, and the application form, here.
A Few Ways to Help Yourself
Loneliness can have a massive toll on our own mental and emotional wellbeing. One way we can combat this is by staying active and going outside regularly. Exercise can be really helpful in boosting your mood and fresh air and nature can often improve your overall wellbeing. Plus, spending time in a different environment can be just the chance of pace you need to overcome feelings of isolation. Perhaps make a pact with yourself to go for a walk every day, even if it’s just for five minutes or sign up for that new exercise class you’ve been eyeing up! Keeping active and improving your overall wellbeing will allow you to take positive steps towards tackling your feelings of loneliness.
We all know that one way to combat loneliness is to connect with people but we now have so many ways to stay connected that even if you’re not a fan of picking up the phone and talking to someone, you still have options. It could be joining a new group or finding a class based on an interest or hobby or connecting safely online with friends through messaging services or social media. There are loads of ways we can stay connected; we even have services here at The College of Animal Welfare to help you combat feelings of loneliness through connection. Why not sign up for Togetherall? It’s a safe, anonymous global community that can be accessed 24/7. Or, if needed, you can talk to a counsellor in confidence. All students can access free, confidential counselling services through CAW. More information can be found here. We also have our CAW Buddy Scheme; all students have the opportunity to get a Buddy via the scheme who will be able to support you through your time at The College. You can find out more information, and apply for a Buddy here.
Expressing your feelings is so important when it comes to taking steps towards improving your own mental health and wellbeing, even more so when you’re feeling lonely. When you feel isolated and lonely, the temptation to withdraw into yourself and bottle up everything you’re feeling is very much apparent but this only draws us into a cycle of negative decisions. Staying open and recognising and expressing your own feelings and thoughts is one of the building blocks of helping yourself in a difficult time. Expressing yourself doesn’t just have to be talking to someone about your feelings, it could be writing your thoughts and feelings down in a diary or a journal or perhaps using another creative medium such as dance or art to get your feelings out in the open rather than keeping them bottled up.
Bonus: Pet a Puppy, Cuddle a Cat or even Talk with a Tortoise
We would be amiss not to talk about the incredible positive impact our furry friends can have on our wellbeing, both mental and physical! Even if they can’t talk back in the same way another person can, having an animal around, especially when you’re feeling isolated or lonely, can do a world of good. So, go give your nearest pet a cuddle! Plus, you can Stay Open and talk to your pets to express your feelings and Stay Active by playing with them or taking them out for a walk. If you don’t have a pet, perhaps try volunteering at an animal shelter, offering to take a neighbour’s dog for a walk or even set up a bird feeder or hedgehog hotel in your garden so you can still enjoy the presence of our furry and feathery friends.
These are all just a few ways you can help yourself and others struggling with loneliness and isolation. There are so many resources available and ways you can help. We’ve included some more of our favourite resources below for you to have a look through. We’ll be continuing to look at Mental Health and Loneliness throughout the rest of Mental Health Awareness Week so make sure to check back in and see what else we have in store!