Coping with isolation, and helping others cope too

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Health Assured team

11 December 2020

While the ‘second lockdown’ has lifted, it's beginning to have an effect. Many people are unable to visit friends and family or see other people, and ‘work from home’ is, once again, the UK government's message.

For a lot of people, this will be a disappointment. It has been a difficult year, and in the grip of a cold, dark winter, the lifting of restrictions was something to look forward to, a bit of light. While many employees have adjusted to remote and distanced working—plenty of others have struggled. Some people need the spark and noise of others around them to work at their best.

Some people will be feeling low about the lack of social contact, too. It’s a little easier right now to see people in a social context, but it’s still restricted and unfamiliar ...

The effects of isolation can be quite dramatic, particularly as we age[1]. Stress, depression and anxiety are commonly reported by isolated people—depression, especially, gets worse with loneliness. It can be difficult to coast through the days when it feels like no-one is there.

There are ways, though, to combat this. In yourself, and in your colleagues and employees. After all, as we’ve been saying all year—we’re in this together. Let’s help each other out.

Reach out online

Social media doesn’t just mean Facebook. There are countless sites and apps out there which are great for finding, talking to, and making friends with people who share interests and hobbies, and are facing the same isolation as you are.

Look for local sites, groups and forums with a quick search. Try apps like Nextdoor—often, this is a good way to get chatting with neighbours you didn’t even know you had!

The internet is a wonderful tool for combating loneliness. It’s no replacement for the human touch—but maybe, some of the connections you make will form lasting real-life friendships once this pandemic is in our rear-view mirrors.

Stay active  

Even if it’s just pacing around your flat, or pottering around in the garden, keeping moving will keep your brain active and happy. Or get outside, feel the sun on your face, see the other people walking around (at a safe distance!), and explore the quiet world around you.  

There are plenty of online resources to help you stay fit during this lockdown, too—there has been a veritable explosion in videos showing you how to warm up, stretch, work out and cool down in an hour. Or find a yoga tutorial, and get yourself limber. Lots of gyms have introduced online exercise classes broadcast live—often for free.

Stay in touch, and watch people’s moods

Depression isn’t like a switch—people aren’t cheery their whole lives, then suddenly depressed one rainy Tuesday. It comes on gradually, we often don’t notice it happening to ourselves.

Often, it’s a friend, family or colleague who notices mental health issues beginning to take hold. But right now, not everyone has people around them who can notice.

Reach out, talk, offer to listen. To everyone you know. Lots of people will be stoic and insist they’re fine, even when you can tell they’re not. Be gentle, be kind, and be there. It takes time and trust for someone to talk about a mental health issue they’re experiencing.

If you’re worried, take these steps:

  • Encourage a person you're worried about to see their doctor
  • Encourage them to talk, and listen to what they say
  • Let them know you care about them
  • Remind them they can't help being affected by depression
  • Encourage them to help themselves, for example by doing regular exercise, eating a balanced diet and taking part in activities they enjoy
  • Get information about the services available to them, such as an Employee Assistance Programme (EAP) and psychological therapy services and support groups in their area
  • Stay in contact with them by sending a card, phoning or visiting them (restrictions permitting.)

Virtual workplace get-togethers

Lots of people have been isolated for months. Even if they’re still working from home—and a large proportion of the workforce are, perhaps long-term—social interaction will be sorely missed with the friends and colleagues they took for granted back in the far-off days of February. 

Virtual parties, while nothing quite like a replacement for the real thing, can really help—for both remote workers and those who have come back. After all, they won’t have seen each other for a long time! 

Organise a time, figure out which app everyone should use, and blow off some steam. You could even play some online games—these are fantastic for loosening up a little and catching up with people you may have only emailed in the past six months...

 

[1] https://blogs.bmj.com/bmj/2020/04/09/the-effects-of-isolation-on-the-physical-and-mental-health-of-older-adults/

 

 

 

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