Counselor's Corner

Is Loneliness an Epidemic?

by Catherine Findley

The good news is we’re living longer. The bad news is we’re more likely to experience loneliness and isolation as we get older – and that can seriously affect our emotional, mental and physical health. Last month, Britain appointed its first “minister for loneliness,” who is charged with tackling what Prime Minister Theresa May called the “sad reality of modern life.”

As we age, we grow more susceptible to loneliness. According to the UK’s Campaign to End Loneliness, loneliness can be precipitated by retirement, loss of a loved one, health issues and decreased mobility. Whether you’re six or 96, everyone can feel lonely at some point – and it’s only a serious concern when it becomes chronic. Here are strategies anyone can use to avoid feeling lonely:

  1. Think about yourself. Think about what YOU would like more of – maybe time with friends or family. If so, invite them to visit. If you are lonely you may think people do not want to visit. This is understandable, but trust that people will respond to an invitation and will come and spend quality time with you.
  2. Take good care of yourself. Eat nutritionally balanced meals, go for regular walks to keep your body moving and schedule medical check-ups when necessary. When you feel physically healthy, you are less likely to isolate yourself and succumb to the factors that lead to feeling lonely.
  3. Share your skills and time with others by volunteering. Call an organization you are passionate about and ask how you can help. If you’re in the Birmingham area, you can visit handsonbirmingham.org or call (205) 251-5849. Volunteering is a social activity that can help improve brain function and reduce the risk of depression and anxiety. Of course, CJFS has many volunteer opportunities as well, you can contact Jennifer Nemet, CJFS Volunteer Coordinator at jennifer@cjfsbham.org to learn more.
  4. Seek professional help. It may be hard to figure out why you feel lonely and how to move past those feelings. Feeling lonely may indicate that you are depressed or that you have another underlying mental health condition. A licensed mental health professional can help you understand and work through your loneliness.
  5. Seek out community resources. Find out what activities are offered in your area. Sign up a guided walk, a singing group, a book club, a concert or a class. Visit birmingham365.org for a listing of activities in the Birmingham area.
  6. Get Positive. Feeling lonely can begin with a feeling of helplessness and lack of control. This negative mindset will position every thought in terms of what is not possible rather than what is. Do your best to take control of your thinking and appreciate what’s positive in your world.

 Everyone feels lonely occasionally. But, when loneliness is an everyday occurrence, it’s best to take steps right away to turn the situation around.

 If you know someone who is experiencing chronic loneliness, a CJFS Licensed Clinical Social Worker may be able to help them find solutions. To arrange a consultation, email Stu Jaffe at stu@cjfsbham.org or call (205) 879-3438. CJFS proudly serves people of all ages, religions, races and income levels.

 


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