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Just Loneliness

Everyone has had the experience of feeling alone and isolated at some point in their lives.

Whether you are living by yourself for the first time or even feeling isolated in a crowd of people, the feeling of loneliness can be present.

For over 20 years I have been the empathetic voice on the other end of a distress line; loneliness and isolation have been the reason behind most of the calls.

I have also been that lonely person who has not reached out because I was afraid of being judged for being “just lonely.”

Very few people reach out for support when they are lonely even if that is the root concern for them, because it has not been taken seriously.

Loneliness is real. Loneliness is damaging. And we can do something about it. A recent major research study on loneliness in Britain led to the appointment of a Minister of Loneliness, based on the known serious health impacts of loneliness.

It got me thinking and prompted me to look deeper. The study showed that persistent isolation has a higher impact on both physical and mental health than obesity or excessive drinking.

The effects run across the generations from children to the elderly. Isolation should be taken seriously. How often do we eat alone in front of the TV, with computers or other devices? How many opportunities could we take to reduce our own social isolation and that of others?

What can we do? I do most of my work from home and over the internet. It is easy to be days or weeks before I get together with others in person, which is a different interaction for me than the one I have electronically.

Connecting with others in person, sharing time, food and ideas with people who share similar values, culture, and passions is so important.

As an introvert, I am very aware about how I choose to connect with others so that I don’t feel like an island in a river of people, keeping in mind the gap between the expectation of what I am looking for in interactions with others and what the reality of the experience actually is. Choosing to have connections with others and arranging to be with others who share things in common with me is something that is meaningful.

When I was a child living in rural Dufferin County, we would go to community dinners, quilting sessions and local fairs.

We would check in regularly with our neighbours who lived alone and invite them to join us when we went to town.

I plan to bring many of these practices back into my life, as well as volunteer and to get involved with other local events. Perhaps I’ll invite a new neighbour over to have coffee with me.

What are some things you can do that will help alleviate loneliness for yourself and others?

This article was written by Libby Pease ACC, Certified Life Coach, Listening Tree Studio and Coaching. The “Open Mind” column is sponsored by community partners who are committed to raising awareness about mental health, reducing stigma and providing information about resources that can help. Published in Wellington Advertiser April 12, 2018.

“Unplugging” – Necessary for Self-Care

Have you ever gone away for vacation and ended up doing more work for your job than relaxing for yourself?  Technology is constantly advancing and allowing us to do more on smaller and more accessible devises, consequently we have the ability to connect to the office computer from our computer at home.  This is great during office hours because it allows us to be away from the office but still be “connected”.  The downfall of this convenience is that you are ALWAYS “connected”.  Your coworkers, clients and industry partners become used to relying on you to receive their call or email and come to expect you to respond at any time of day even if you are on vacation.

In my personal life as well as in my career I enjoy staying connected.  My phone has internet access and at one time, both my personal and work email came directly to it.  I always knew what was going on, even when traveling out east on vacation, or as I left civilization for a canoe trip.  But the cost of staying connected can become a burden for your emotional and mental health.

I remember a particular instance where I was due to go on a week-long canoe trip with my teenage daughter.  I was anxious about going out of cell phone range “just in case”.  “What if there is an emergency at the office?” “What if the volunteers don’t show up?”  Of course I had back up people covering all of this, but letting go and trusting that everything will be covered was difficult.

It turned out that there was an emergency, but I had been out of cell phone range for over 24 hours.  Once I was in range my cell phone had bells and whistle go off with emails and voice mails set to high priority.  I instantly went into work mode in the middle of Smoke Lake – Algonquin Park.  My daughter looked at me like I was an alien as I made phone calls and tried to follow up.  I became more and more anxious since I could not reach anyone.  It dawned on me that I was at least an hour paddle from the shore and another 45 minutes from my car then a six hour drive to the office.  We were only half way through our vacation week and just coming out to pick up another member of the trip.  When we got to shore my daughter took my phone removed the battery and locked both in separate cars.

She said, “This is our time. Enjoy your vacation in the bush.  The office will still be there next week”.  And you know what?  She was right.  Now when I am not at work or on-call I avoid checking my work email and when I am on vacation I focus on my friends and family rather than obsessing over what is happening at the office.  It is always “there” when I get back – after I have had a chance to really unwind, relax and take care of myself.

This article was written by Elizabeth Pease, former Volunteer & Community Coordinator for Community Torchlight – Distress Centre for Wellington and Dufferin Counties for the Open Mind column.  She has been a part of the Distress Line movement since 1996. Originally written and published in Wellington Advertiser  January 2012.

The “Open Mind” column is sponsored by individuals and organizations concerned with mental health issues in rural Wellington and Dufferin counties.

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