Be alone, but not lonely
Elizabeth Rimmer offers her tips to combat loneliness during the pandemic
For many lawyers, last year was challenging, isolating and often lonely.
It’s normal to occasionally feel lonely, especially when our contact with friends, family and colleagues has been curtailed.
But long-term loneliness is associated with a greater risk of certain mental health problems, including depression, anxiety and increased stress.
According to the Mental Health Foundation longitudinal study early last year, young people aged 18 to 24 were most likely to experience loneliness since lockdown began.
Before the first lockdown, 16 per cent said they felt lonely.
Since then, young people are almost three times more likely to have experienced loneliness, with almost half (44 per cent) feeling this way.
Other risk factors for loneliness include living alone, having a mental health condition and having a low income or being unemployed.
Many lawyers who contacted LawCare during the pandemic are experiencing emotional distress and boredom, particularly those living on their own.
Managing staff remotely can be difficult; and many have contacted us feeling disconnected from work, their teams and their manager.
We’ve all lost the opportunity to grab someone and ask a quick question; we can’t pop in to someone’s office to see how they are doing or pick up on those non-verbal cues that let us know how someone is.
For most of us, our everyday lives provide many opportunities to connect and be around people.
Humans are tribal and social – emotional support and the role of individuals, families and communities in delivering this are vital to managing wellbeing.
There now seems to be light at the end of the tunnel. But we still have challenging winter months ahead when our reserves are likely to be low, so here are some tips on how to keep well:
- Check in regularly – Managers should check in regularly. Little and often works best; and informal chats are as important as work conversations. Ask how people are and how they are managing their workload. Make sure employees are looking after themselves.
- Use technology – Some people might find it useful to recreate the office environment on Zoom, with everyone typing away in the background and occasionally asking each other a question. Shared silence can provide camaraderie. Some may find a WhatsApp group or chat function for quick check ins work better than email or calls.
- Look after juniors – They will often need more support and are less likely to have a comfortable home working setup, with those in flat shares or living with their parents often having to work from their bedroom. They are also missing out socially.
- Keep up the social side of work (for those that want it) – Team morale can be kept up by organising quizzes, drop-in coffee mornings and other events over video calls.
- Peer support and mentoring – This is even more important at the moment when we lack human contact. If you notice someone is struggling, help them to find a mentor or peer support network.
- Stay in touch – It’s great to stay in touch with loved ones via technology, but not everyone enjoys video calls, especially after spending most of the day at work on them. Phone calls, texts and even writing letters are lovely ways to show someone that you’re thinking of them and connecting with someone who knows you outside of work will improve your wellbeing.
- Have outside interests – It’s important to have interests outside work to prevent stress. Now is a great time to try a new hobby at home or join an online group focusing on something you enjoy – whether that’s a book club, Pilates or wine tasting.
- Value all social interactions – Every social interaction can help boost your mood. Even going for a walk and saying ‘hello’ to people walking past, having a quick chat with a neighbour or the postman, or asking the person behind the till how they are, will make a difference to their day and yours.
- Go outside – If we could give just one tip for winter it would be – go outside in daylight, no matter what. It will always improve your mood and make you feel happier and calmer. If you have to reorganise your working day to do this, we strongly recommend you do so. If you can meet someone for a daily walk – even better!
- Seek help – If you are feeling lonely, LawCare can help. We provide emotional support to all legal professionals, support staff and concerned family members.
You can call our confidential helpline on 0800 279 6888, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org or access webchat and our covid-19 hub of resources at www.lawcare.org.uk
We also have a network of peer supporters.
Elizabeth Rimmer is Chief Executive at LawCare lawcare.org.uk