Loneliness is definitely something that has come to the forefront during this global COVID pandemic.
It’s likely that most of us have experienced some degree of loneliness in the past couple of years. Loneliness can have a negative impact on our physical and mental health, especially if this feeling has lasted a long time.
Recent studies have indicated that loneliness is associated with an increased risk of certain mental health disorders, such as depression, anxiety, low self-esteem, sleep issues and increased stress.
Some of the life events that may contribute towards the feeling of loneliness are as follows:
• The death of a loved one.
• The ending of an important relationship.
• Retirement and losing your social contacts from work.
• Changing jobs and feeling isolated from your co-workers.
• Starting at a new school or university.
• Moving home to a new area or country.
• Holidays or special occasions.
· Receiving a new medical diagnosis.
• Social isolation for safety reasons.
Evidence from recent research suggests that people who live in certain circumstances, or those who belong to particular demographic groups may be more vulnerable to experiencing loneliness. Some examples of these groups are as follows:
• Those who live alone.
• Those who have no friends or family nearby.
• Those who are estranged from their family members.
• Single parents.
• Minority groups living in areas without others from a similar background.
• Poverty and lack of access to care.
• Transportation issues.
• Those with disabilities or those who live with mental health disorders.
• Those who have experienced past traumas.
If you are living with loneliness, here are some strategies that you might like to try to help alleviate some of the loneliness:
• When possible, take things at a comfortable pace in a way that makes you feel safe.
• Try joining a new class or group, online or in person.
• Safely volunteer in your community.
• Find a community of like-minded individuals that you can connect with.
• Locate a therapist that provides services you can access, such as telehealth.
• Comparison is the thief of joy, avoid it as much as possible and focus on what you can control.
• Take great care of yourself: Sleep, diet, exercise, spend time outside or with animals, practice gratitude and do something fun every day.
If you or someone you know is experiencing a mental health emergency, visit Valeo’s Crisis Center, 400 S.W. Oakley Ave. Valeo’s Crisis Center is a walk-in emergency clinic. Its 24-hour crisis line is 785-234-3300.
Michaela Butterworth is a health promotions specialist at Valeo.
This article originally appeared on Topeka Capital-Journal: Loneliness can negatively affect physical and mental health