A Festive Prescription

The Christmas holiday period is traditionally recognised as the time for meeting up with friends and loved ones. Last Christmas due to covid many were shielding and denied their annual get-together. 2021 has been tough with restrictions affecting all of us, some more than others. Overall, I have witnessed a fantastic community spirit with people helping those in need. The one issue that keeps coming to the fore is how this pandemic has adversely affected the mental health and wellbeing of the population across all age groups. Feeling lonely and isolated has traditionally been thought of as something affecting the older population that live alone. That has not been my experience through this pandemic. Patients have contacted me voicing concerns for their mental wellbeing or that of their children and other loved ones. Highlighting how being alone is different to being lonely.

The NHS website offers the following 7 step prescription to help alleviate loneliness.

  1. Explore ways to spend time together : Via phone, video-calls, social media, Joining a club and attending events virtually, invite your friends and family to take part too.
  2. Be more social and check in regularly : My granddaughter calls me once a week which has proved helpful to both of us. Catch-up with friends regularly and renew old friendships.
  3. Share your feelings – but do not compare: Telling someone you trust that you’re feeling lonely can help. Many people only share the good things happening to them on social media, so avoid comparing yourself to anyone, as this can make you feel lonelier.
  4. Do more things you enjoy : Boost your mood by spending time outdoors in your garden or a green space, community gardening or joining a walking group or exercise class can help you to make and build connections with others too. Listen to audiobooks, and join a book club to talk about them with others. Join in group relaxation or mindfulness sessions.
  5. Stay busy by learning something new : Pursue a hobby or something you have always wanted to be able to do, arts and crafts, cookery, DIY or gardening, learn a language, up-date your skills with professional on-line courses.
  6. Volunteer to help others: Stay busy by helping others, volunteering in your community. Become a phone buddy to someone. Some charities run groups, like Age UK’s Call in Time, that put volunteers in touch with people to call for a chat and see how they’re doing.
  7. Join an online community: Or peer-support group so you can talk to others about how you feel. Groups like Side by Side and SANE Support Forum are available 24 hours a day. Helplines and support groups offer expert advice and cover a range of mental health issues. If you cannot wait to see a doctor and feel unable to cope or keep yourself safe, there is urgent support available visit NHS website for further information.

There are many private providers such as counsellors that are skilled listeners, qualified to offer support and advice and self-help techniques. To end this year with a positive note, why not slip a letter into this years’ Christmas cards you post to old friends instead of a quick email, you might be pleasantly surprised at what comes back. Some of the old traditions remain the best !