Connecting with others on a physical and emotional level can improve our health and overall well-being.

In the UK it’s #MentalHealthAwarenessWeek from 9 to 15 May 2022 and this year’s focus is on tackling the impact of #loneliness Did you know that there is a connection between being isolated from others and poor mental health? Loneliness can lead to anxiety and depression. It can also be connected to issues such as low self-esteem, low self-confidence, stress and social anxiety.

Loneliness is when you feel the quality of your relationships and social contact is not as good as you’d like it to be. You don’t have to be alone to feel lonely – people with lots of friends and family and active social lives can still feel lonely if they don’t have strong connections with the people around them. Other causes of loneliness can include grieving a loved one, dealing with a relationship break-up, retirement, changing jobs, moving to a new area or starting a university. In all these situations, you’ve lost a relationship or connection with people who make a difference in your life.

During the pandemic and lockdown, loneliness and isolation undermined our confidence in daily routines. We suddenly had to adapt to not going out, and not seeing other people important to us. Gone were those equally important 15 minutes conversing with fellow parents at the school gate to share our worries or celebrate little ones’ achievements. Grabbing lunch with a friend or going to the gym just stopped. Businesses quickly adopted working from home meaning the opportunities to connect in the office were limited to the computer screen or telephone. A quick cuppa and catching up on the gossip with a co-worker seemed to evaporate overnight. Who would have thought going to the big supermarket would become a highlight for some and others an anxiety-filled risk to be avoided at all costs?

Each of our experiences and feelings will be unique. For some beloved family members became out of reach, separated by glass and brickwork. Others enjoyed the break. I remember the moment I became aware of the enormity of what was happening. The ‘what if’ thoughts tapping at the edge of my mind, will I ever get to hug people who mattered to me again? A strange sort of sadness and longing for what I once took for granted, seeped in around me like a cold mist.

In a world surrounded by noise, the gradual absence of pedestrians, traffic and aircraft engulfed us in an eerie silence. As humans, we seem to find silence uncomfortable, even unsafe and do just anything to just fill it. On the positive side, those quiet moments meant being able to sit and hear birds singing. When the world outside us ceases to be as it once was and when there’s time jobs are completed along with the 3rd 1000-piece Jigsaw. Out of things to do, we are left alone with our internal world and ourselves. For some that can be a very lonely, cold and judgemental place to be. Listening to what comes up for us in those moments can give a clue to our unexpressed feelings. It can seem much easier to connect with others rather than with ourselves. Counselling can help us connect with our feelings and

As humans, we need human connection. Connecting with others on a physical and emotional level can improve our health and overall well-being. As part of #MentalHealthAwarenessWeek we are encouraged to rebuild meaningful connections with friends, family, colleagues and communities.