We move towards the end of the academic term and the emergence of a new season. The sun has well and truly got his hat on. Yet, we can find ourselves feeling more than a little gloomy.
Over two years ago now, we entered lockdown and day to day life as we knew it changed. We stayed indoors, re-invented our exercise regimes and moved our social lives online. We struggled at first, then adapted.
The move to ‘normality’ is welcome, and inevitable. We want to see family and friends again. We want to return to work, study, social lives. But there is a niggle at the back of our heads – I am surrounded by others again, yet, why do I feel so lonely?
So, getting a little more specific, the feelings of loneliness, stress and fatigue many of us are feeling right now may subtly mimic those of anxiety and depression, and many psychologists are likening our ‘symptoms’ to that of adjustment disorder.
‘Adjustment disorder is a short-term condition that occurs when a person has great difficulty coping with, or adjusting to, a particular source of stress, such as a major life change, loss, or event’.
Feeling lonely isn't in itself a mental health problem, but the two can be interlinked.
Feelings of anxiety are often associated with fear and tend to generate and burn lots of mental (and physical) energy. You may identify yourself with feeling on edge, insecure, irritable, disconnected, restless — the list goes on.
On the other hand, feelings of low mood are commonly associated with lethargy, apathy or flatness. You may notice a lack of motivation, heaviness, cloudiness or feeling nothing at all.
Feeling lonely in this way can be exhausting to break out from. Loneliness itself is often described as social pain, an unpleasant emotion in response to feeling isolated.
If you can relate to this - remember - feelings are not facts; they are however, situational, temporary. This too shall pass.
The solution is not always to thrust ourselves into fearful situations – parties, social gatherings, even intimate relationships. Leaning in to loneliness is a skill and one which can take years to master.
Many find short term solutions to help whilst we process what is going on under the surface.
How about starting with some podcasts; relating to others without the intensity of the social pressure.
Podcasts can be a well needed diversion from the noise both inside your head and the vicious outside world. Sometimes we need to connect with others on our own terms.
To help you out, here are my current top podcasts which I find contribute to positive wellbeing, in various ways. Tried and tested so you don’t have to.
Level One. For escapism and connection: Desert Island Discs
First broadcast in 1942, this castaway classic is still going strong. You know the setup; an influential character shares the soundtrack to their life with 8 musical tracks, a book and a luxury item. I challenge you not to be moved by the honest and defining stories and anecdotes from even the most unsuspecting names.
Level Two. For normalising and pertinent discussion: Happy Place
Interview style; this podcast doubles down into relevant and taboo topics (social media, addiction, relationships, parenthood) alongside inspiring individuals who share their own experiences. Great for perspective or just general interest in the world around us and those we share it with.
Level Three. For touching on discomfort and owning it: How To Fail With Elizabeth Day
A really uplifting and inspirational listen, drawing upon how moments of perceived failure can actually lead to growth and great success. A simple premise which results in a plethora of richness and feel-good. If you enjoy unpicking your own experiences and questioning social ideals, this podcast can be transformative in challenging perceptions.
We will continue to wrestle with the world around us and our ever-changing mood and mental health. If you wake finding yourself in an unshakable headspace, perhaps try one of these soothing sound bites. You may just find you are invigorated and revitalised, ready to take on the rest of the day.