The theme for Mental Health Awareness Week 2022 (9th-15th May) is loneliness. Loneliness is affecting more and more of us in the UK, and loneliness has increased during the Covid-19 pandemic.
There are various factors which can increase our chances of feeling lonely, including having a long-term health condition or disability.
Read on as we discuss what loneliness is, and what you can do to tackle loneliness, with advice if you are visually impaired.
What is loneliness?
Imagine being on your own. Imagine having no one to talk to, and no one to listen to. Imagine talking to yourself out loud or in your head. Imagine checking the phone is working and wishing it would ring.
Then imagine not being able to see so well as you used to on top of all this. A darker, cloudier, more isolated place than you ever imagined. That might sound scary and not something any of us would want to experience. This is a reality for some visually impaired people.
Even if they do have people they can talk to, some visually impaired people may feel lonely if they are not understood as a result of their sight loss, for example people may not understand how their visual impairment affects them, or the visually impaired person may feel like a burden for asking for support.
Loneliness and being alone are not the same thing. Loneliness is feeling alone, even with other people sometimes. It’s feeling different and isolated, odd and scared, like you ‘just don’t fit in’, that no one gets it and you are a burden.
As the Mental Health Foundation puts it, loneliness is “the feeling we experience when there is a mismatch between the social connections we have, and those we need or want.”
Loneliness can affect our feelings about the way we view ourselves and knock us down so that we feel down on ourselves.
How can I tackle or improve feelings of loneliness?
Below we outline our top five tips for improving feelings of loneliness.
Tip 1: Set one task per day
One way to manage loneliness is to do one task per day – this could be something small and simple, it doesn’t matter!
Setting yourself some activities to do can give you energy and positive feelings, and give you routine. Ensure whatever task you set is fun and fulfilling. You could learn a new skill, or engage in an activity such as carrying out a household chore.
Tip 2: Accept offers of help
It can be hard to connect with others when you’re feeling lonely, and you may initially find it difficult or overwhelming to accept help, however accepting offers of help will give you social connections and somebody to talk to, who wants to help you. You never know: by accepting help from another person, you may give them a positive lift too.
Tip 3: Accept invitations if you get them
Similarly to Tip 2, accepting invitations may feel difficult when you feel lonely. However, if you receive an invitation, try to accept it as this will give you the opportunity to connect with others, and you may even meet new people and make new friends as well, or regain contact with somebody you haven’t been in touch with for a while.
Also, if you are invited to something, this indicates the person inviting you values your company and wants you to be a part of whatever it is they are organising.
Tip 4: Reach out, make the call
It can be hard to talk to others when you’re feeling lonely, however sometimes the best thing you can do is reach out and make the call to somebody.
This could be messaging someone you haven’t connected with in a while, arranging to meet somebody face-to-face, or engaging with the people you see as you go about your daily life, such as a shop assistant or the postman or postwoman.
Loneliness can make us feel down about ourselves, so this can make us less likely to reach out and the cycle continues and deepens. Reach out – it may feel daunting at first, but it could be the start of a change and you might feel better!
Reaching out to somebody could equally boost their well-being as well as yours, and you never know the positive impact reaching out could have on the other person.
Tip 5: Find people who ‘get’ you
There are great benefits to interacting with people with similar experiences to you. This can be that you feel a greater sense of belonging, and it can help you to realise that other people are going through, or have gone through, the same, or similar, experiences as you.
At Henshaws, we offer many groups and courses to enable people across Greater Manchester living with sight loss to connect and share experiences. These range from our Living Well with Sight Loss courses to our social groups and coffee mornings. There are also groups which can help you to learn a new skill, or explore something new, including our Braille group and Art Galleries and Museums group.
Social media can also be a great way to network with like-minded people – while social media can have negative impacts on mental health, if used in the right way, it can enable you to network with others who share your interests and passions, and ultimately people who get you.
Find out more about our groups and courses.
How can Henshaws support me if I’m struggling?
Henshaws offers a counselling service for people in Greater Manchester living with sight loss. We understand that coming to terms with a sight loss diagnosis can be difficult; our counselling service can help you to talk through and process any emotions you may be feeling as a result of your sight loss diagnosis.