Loneliness is a mental condition; let’s tackle it together
You are not alone in feeling lonely.
Loneliness affects many of us at one time or another. Regrettably, there is no single cause and there is no single solution. After all, we are all different! Some people are at a higher risk of feeling lonely than others.
Loneliness is the difference between your actual level of social connection and the level of connection you desire. Feelings of loneliness are subjective and can only truly be defined by the person feeling them. You can actually be lonely and not be alone. For example, you can have a lot of social activities but you are with people you do not really connect with or who you feel do not understand you.
If loneliness goes unchecked for too long, it becomes ingrained in daily experience, and the more we are at risk of mental health problems. We know loneliness can be both the driver and a product of poor mental health. Feeling lonely can be caused by a number of things that prevent us from feeling connected.
Some top causes include increased mobility, every time we move, we leave behind communities and personal face-to-face connections. Feeling misunderstood or invisible or lack of belonging may also make you feel you are not welcomed and can lead to feeling lonely. In addition, grieving an unhealed trauma from losing a loved one, getting divorced or experiencing some form of abuse or rejection cause loneliness.
Regardless of the cause, grieving an unhealed trauma for too long is a recipe for loneliness. Struggling with mental illness such as anxiety, depression and other mental concerns create even more challenges for creating and sustaining positive relationships.
May is Mental Health Awareness month. This year’s theme is loneliness, which is a significant public health issue and remains one of the key indicators of poor mental health. Dealing with loneliness can be difficult. Solving it is crucial for mental fitness, health and general well-being. There is so much we can do to deal with loneliness.
First, connect to yourself. Have a conversation with the person in the mirror. Self-acceptance, self-esteem and self-compassion can help you feel confident about yourself. This can make you more open to connecting with others. Accept yourself, love who you are and feel comfortable in your own skin as well as practice self-care. Nothing is further from the truth; if you are feeling disconnected and isolated, do not beat yourself up. Please.
Similarly, check in on your people. What have they been doing? What’s been on their mind lately? Take the chance to get in touch with a friend or a neighbour you have not spoken with in a while. Raise awareness to help people understand the links between mental health and loneliness.
Also be part of a welcoming environment. It is important to feel a sense of belonging and inclusion with your peers and feel valued. Whether it is messaging each other, cracking jokes or solving a pressing issue together it is important to feel like you do share a sense of purpose. Build meaningful connections with your friends, family, colleagues and communities.
Finally, if you are having a hard time managing loneliness, it is time to seek support and interventions that can help you overcome it. Some red flags to watch out for include suicidal thoughts, difficulty sleeping, lack of well-being or feeling anxious. There is nothing wrong with getting help—your life might depend on it.
Bottom line: do not carry loneliness by yourself. You are not alone. We can only make progress on loneliness together.
— The writer is a Communication Officer at Nacada