The Silent Epidemic

As a small business owner, you are typically responsible for its overall operation and its staff, but running a small business may also be a lonely experience. David Casey DeCare’s Head of Head Promotion and Doctorate Candidate of Trinity College Dublin describes what loneliness is, how to cope with it, and where to obtain additional support. During COVID-19, loneliness has become a major public health concern not just for society but within our workplaces. Much work needs to be done to understand the deeply personal nature of loneliness and how to address its underlying causes. This is a silent epidemic that poses a great threat to our social species as we navigate this time of hybrid working and reconnection. 

It is crucial to consider workplace connections as key to underpinning everything from overall productivity to innovation. Good creative people need to know one another. Workplace wellness programs generally focus on non-communicable diseases, unhealthy behaviours, sleep, exercise, diet, and smoking and mental wellbeing. Although loneliness is not a mental health condition in and of itself, it can have a detrimental impact on mental health, especially over extended periods of time. It may result in psychological problems like sadness, anxiety, stress, and low self-worth. Contrarily, there is fear that persistent loneliness can impair one’s capacity to form meaningful relationships with others. This can led to creating a social mask or armour of invisibility for an employee. It is crucial for workplaces to highlight social support within teams and help build leaders with increased empathy, compassion, caring, and concern expressed toward employees who are lonely and socially isolated, and to help put policies and procedures in place that address the underlying reasons and encourage healthy choices and supports. 

Loneliness is sometimes defined as the feeling of isolation brought on by unfulfilled cravings for social interaction and connection. Even when employees participate in numerous social activities, some people nevertheless claim to feel lonely, and this is regarded to be a result of feelings of isolation. Evidence from the CSO during the pandemic suggests that young people suffered from loneliness at considerably higher rates than older people. For instance, in November 2020, one in four people ages 18 to 34 and one in twenty people ages 70 and older reported feeling lonely most of the time (CSO 2020). This tells us we need to be mindful of our younger workers our millennials and Gen Z groups. Being alone and being lonely are two distinct things. While some people may not be comfortable with little to no social connection, others might. Always keep in mind that every person is unique and that different things will work for various people at various times. The following concepts might not appeal to everyone, so it’s vital to go slowly, try new things gradually, and refrain from putting oneself under undue strain. Placing social support at the forefront as a manager or leader is key. 

  1. Identify

Recognise the unpleasant emotions, the situations in which they arise, and the effects they have on your welfare.

 

  1. Take care of yourself.

Take care of your own health, which may entail: maintaining a healthy diet, getting adequate sleep, and abstaining from drugs and alcohol, engaging in physical activities (ideally outdoors) and taking part in satisfying pursuits such as sports or hobbies.

 

  1. Connect with others

Find ways to make more friends with people who share your interests by enrolling in a class, looking for a volunteer position, or going to an network event.

 

  1. Give something back

Helping others can give social contact as well as boost self-esteem and give a sense of purpose.

 

  1. Avoid comparing with others

Social media can be very misleading and contribute to our feelings of loneliness or inadequacy. It’s important to recognise this and if affected, consider taking a break.

 

  1. Talk

Finding someone you trust to talk to can help to keep things in perspective and receive encouragement. Talking therapies from professionals such as a structured course of counselling or CBT may help you address negative thoughts and feelings and develop coping skills in a confidential supportive environment.

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