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More than 9 million people in the UK say they often or always feel lonely. Although it might not seem like it from the outside, loneliness can be an extremely isolating experience. So it’s important that we protect ourselves and the people around us by learning about the signs of loneliness and how to combat it.
Loneliness Awareness Week aims to address the issues around loneliness and highlight how it can affect our mental health.
Feeling lonely can mean different things to different people, some people will feel that their need for social interactions are not being met while for others it is that feeling of emptiness and being disconnected from the rest of the world.
Being on your own can be a positive experience if it is under your control. But feeling like you have little or no support around you can have a serious impact on your mental health. Some of the effects of loneliness can lead to anxiety, depression, poor self-esteem, and phobias.
Loneliness signs and symptoms can differ depending on the person and their situation, but the main signs are:
Sleep: when people feel lonely, they tend to experience a change in their sleeping patterns, feeling more or less tired than usual.
Spending money: people who are feeling lonely may spend money on ‘unnecessary’ things to fill the void.
Eating habits: over-eating or under-eating are closely linked to depression. Some people would console themselves by eating too much, while others would lose their appetite and find other ways to make themselves feel better.
Communication: inconsistency in communication patterns such as phoning and messaging more or less frequently.
Physical health: aside from sleep deprivation, loneliness can also lead to poor heart health and weakened immune system.
It is possible to overcome loneliness, but it does require effort on your part for changes to happen. In the long run, taking that first step will help you feel happier and healthier.
Speak to someone: talk to friends, family or a healthcare professional. Loneliness is not limited to feelings of isolation. It is often linked to ongoing and deeply rooted negative thoughts about yourself that can eventually lead to more serious emotional and medical problems.
Practice self-care: when you are feeling lonely, make sure you are doing what you can to look after yourself. Pamper yourself with a long bath, meditate and exercise.
Distract yourself: find healthy distractions like reading, listening to music or even watching your favourite series on TV. You can even start a project like decorating your home.
Join a support group: a support group online or in-person is a good way to meet new people, especially those who are experiencing the same feeling of loneliness as you. Getting to know new people may not be easy, but it can be really comforting to know that you are not alone.
For this year’s Loneliness Awareness Week, take a moment to do something that makes you feel good about yourself. And if you know someone who is experiencing loneliness, then reach out to them whether it’s over the phone or in person. Sometimes just a few minutes of your time can mean a lot to someone that really needs it.
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