Having been a military wife for over 20 years I know first-hand how lonely it can be but it’s not just military spouses that feel lonely- I have a lot of friends that have their own battles with loneliness through loss, family splits or work situations that can make them feel isolated too. Even the use of social media can play a part in the feeling of isolation we have when we move to a new area.
‘We all feel lonely from time to time. Feelings of loneliness are personal, so everyone’s experience of loneliness will be different.’
Other than being emotionally difficult, loneliness can affect people in many ways:
- Physical Pain: Research shows that the areas of the brain that deal with social exclusion are the same areas that process physical pain- so the ‘broken heart’ feeling is real.
- Depression: Loneliness is not a mental health problem but the two are strongly linked. Lonely people are likely to show more depressive symptoms.
- Physical Health: Emotional stress is often linked with depressed immunity. And some research links loneliness and depression with poorer health and wellbeing.
MIND describes loneliness as ‘the feeling we get when our need for rewarding social contact and relationships is not met. But loneliness is not always the same as being alone.’
My husband is away a lot for work, his hours are long and I am often left to manage the house, childcare and everything else on top of my own job. This was the life we chose, we both accepted the responsibility of this choice, and I am more than willing to see it through as I knew that this is what ‘forces life’ would be like- but that doesn’t make it any easier. Being apart from my husband, my friends, and from my family is met with a very hefty set of challenges – childcare issues being one I personally struggle with. Sometimes I do feel like a very lonely wife.
One thing I’ve learnt is the difference between feeling alone and feeling lonely – and how I can feel lonely in a crowd full of people, but quite peaceful and content when alone? This is something that I have been thinking about a lot since my last move, and coming to terms with my new life.
I don’t have all the answers. But one thing that helps me the most is being honest about how I feel, and to accept that there is nothing that I can do about the situation I find myself in, so I have learnt to embrace that ‘this is just the way it is’. I am honest that life gets tough sometimes, and honest that life feels lonely sometimes too. But I have learnt to try to make life easier for myself.
How to help yourself: My tips
Make some new connections: Social networks are key, so try and join groups to suit your needs or hobbies and attend coffee mornings, this can be a big step for some but connection to other people is really important. Volunteering is a good way of meeting people and helping others can also really help improve your mental health.
Encourage visitors and go on visits: Ask family or friends to visit, or be a ‘tourist’ in your new area. I love doing this, it’s a great way to get out and explore, and feel connected to the place you now live.
Be honest with others:If you are truly struggling or are feeling down it’s okay to be honest and tell it like it is. Sharing your struggles is incredibly brave, courageous, and most importantly, honest. Be true to yourself and share with people you trust. Reach out to someone, it doesn’t have to be face-to-face; you could share a post on social media. Remember we are all in the same boat.
Look after yourself: Self-care is really important. My self-care blog has lots of tips but the key is to make sure that you put some time aside in your day to do something that makes you happy!
Focus on the positive as much as possible:Find something that you can look forward to, even if it is just a phone call with a loved one, meeting a friend for a coffee or watching a box set on the TV. Positive thinking releases endorphins and that will make us feel happy.
My final thought…
Look out for those around you, the chances are there are others in your community that feel just like you do, and if you’re not feeling lonely and are just reading this blog for information consider those that have just moved to your area and reach out. We must stick together and a small act of kindness to a neighbour or someone in your community may just make the difference. Kindness is Key.