Valentine's Day and Loneliness
February the 14th is approaching and for many, being single or bereaved on Valentine ’s Day, makes it a difficult day to get through. Over the last few years it seems that Valentine ’s Day has exploded, year on year it seems to be bigger than ever. From cards, to shop displays, to social media blasts, memes and supermarket deals. For those people who are singletons who don’t want to be or people who are bereaved it can be a potent reminder of what they feel is missing from their lives. Although I am all for spreading more love in the world I guess it’s about recognising that it’s not all love and happiness for everyone. There are plenty of people who find Valentine ’s Day and the preceding weeks leading up to it difficult and it is possibly more people than you may think.
In a world where we are more ‘connected’ than ever and it is easy to catch up with that long lost cousin over social media we are becoming ever lonelier and socially isolated so why is this? Social isolation is linked to higher blood pressure, lower cognitive abilities and increased chances of premature death (The Conversation 2018). It is thought that loneliness is the new bad kid on the block and its negative impact on health are thought to rival that of smoking and obesity.
9 Million people in the UK or to put it another way 1/5th of the UK’s population say that they are always or often lonely according to a survey completed by the British Red Cross and the Co-op in 2016. Feeling lonely can be difficult especially if it coincides with other co-morbidity such as obesity, depression or anxiety. There are steps that can be taken to help make you feel less lonely.
Charles Bukowski once said – “if you have the ability to love, love yourself first” and I think this is true. Love does need to come from within and it feels as though with Valentine ’s Day looming it is the perfect time to remind you how counselling can help you feel less lonely.
1) Counselling gets you out of the house and away from work. By going to see a therapist you are tackling the problem head on by admitting that something in your life is not OK. It gives you somewhere to go that is a neutral and safe space where you can talk about anything that is on your mind, including your loneliness.
2) Your Counsellor will most likely focus on your feelings. By expressing what is going on for you and letting it out you are no longer holding on to the same level of emotional distress. The saying goes; a problem shared is a problem halved and although there are no guarantees that your therapist can cut through your problems like a hot knife through butter they will listen to you with empathy and understanding and help you make sense of your emotions.
3) Your Counsellor is dependable they will be there week in week out at a time and date of your choosing. This helps to make you feel more grounded and in control, plus your week will have structure, centred around human connectivity. You’ll know when the next time that you will be talking to someone will be to directly tackle the issue of your loneliness.
4) Entering into counselling has a likely side effect that your confidence and self-esteem will grow which may lead you to wanting to try new things which seemed daunting in the past. Trying new things is a great way to make new friends and meet new people who if you connect with should stop you from feeling so lonely.
5) The therapeutic, professional relationship between yourself and your Counsellor is genuine and real, not only will your Therapist be supporting, empathetic and helpful it also proves that you are able to make and maintain a genuine relationship with someone else. This connectivity from another person is priceless, as humans we are social animals and need to connect with others to survive and thrive. Which is why feeling lonely can be so detrimental to our health.
Therapy is a great place to start feeling better about yourself and your life so that you can move forward feeling more empowered to make new and lasting connections with other people and to make significant changes.
Loneliness is not to be taken lightly given its mental and physical health impact. If you are feeling lonely perhaps it is time to reach out to a professional counsellor who can help you start feeling less isolated and more in control.
If you’d like to reach out to me feel free.
E: [email protected]
Facebook Page: Edwina Hawkridge Counselling
Twitter : @Ehcounsellinguk
On the 5th February Chinese New Year begins and 2019 is the year of the pig. Pigs are associated with being glutinous, lazy and carrying excess fat. In the story of the Zodiac where the animals have a race to determine who will have years named after them and in which order, the pig was last to the meeting, and stopped halfway through the race to have a feast.
If you are born in the year of the pig you are supposedly good at socializing and maintaining relationships. I am in several group chats one of which is heavily centred on food. Various different people when discussing what or where to eat will casually throw in a pig emoji to symbolize that they feel like overindulging. Within the obesogenic environment in which we live it feels as though pigs are the animal representative of the overindulgence. For some people the connotation is that overindulgence leads to being overweight, this association is unfair. There is currently a lack of compassion and understanding around why and how people become overweight. The crisis of obesity that we are facing in the UK is not because of one particular reason, but is as a result of several factors; these Include mental health, genetics, physiology, environment, culture, nutrition to name a few. Obesity as a label may be reclassified as a disease in order to stop the stigma and shame that often comes hand in hand to people who are overweight and have poor body image.
A Cautionary Tale
A friend told me about an interesting body image incident that happened in her workplace between two ‘normal weight’ colleagues. My friend works in an office environment which is predominantly female. One colleague was leaving, in preparation a leaving card, which had a picture of many different animals and objects on the front, was being circulated for everyone to sign so that it could be given to the team member who was moving on to pastures new. Someone (in what they thought was good humour) labelled all the animals with colleague’s names. The person whose name was associated with the pig hit the roof; she was really upset, assumed it had been an insensitive man who had done this, went red in the face and became tearful and angry that her name had been chosen as the pig. The person who had labelled the card instantly became defensive, told her not to be so sensitive and that they had assigned names to animals at random.
For the upset colleague the pig held all kinds of negative meanings such as her colleague thought she ate too much, she was overweight and was lazy. What started off as an insensitive joke caused pain and upset. There’s little doubt that the colleague who got upset was working from her own frame of reference and was potentially suffering from poor body image. Had she had a better body image perhaps her reaction would have been slightly different. She would not have seen her name being associated as a pig as a personal attack, not only on her physical appearance but also on her personality. It is remarkable how easy it is to fall into our own body image shaming mantras quickly and detrimentally. The colleague who became upset was not overweight but felt it, which is why she felt defensive at being associated with the pig.
Body image is a tricky thing to remain positive about as we are bombarded by images of the ‘ideal’ body shape from magazines, TV, adverts and social media. This feeds people’s attitudes around how they think of people who are overweight as being glutinous, and lazy. For people who are or feel overweight shame and negative body image are often at the heart of their interactions with other people.
In an ideal world everyone would feel OK within themselves to not react to insensitive jokes where their name is associated to pigs. We are far from living in an ideal world; I work with people who struggle with their body image because their relationship with food has impacted the way they see themselves. They feel overweight in a society that does not understand them or view their body image concerns with empathy or compassion.
Did you know that 79% of adults asked in a yougov survey in 2018 could not name psychological symptoms of eating disorders? Read on to become part of the other 21%.
Anorexia Nervosa and Bulimia Nervosa are well documented, with more awareness growing about Orthorexia, Binge Eating Disorders and others. People don’t always connect the dots that they have an eating disorder which may be driving their weight issues as they are treated for a bad back, achy knee, depression or weight related symptoms instead of the underlying cause EATING DISORDERS!
1) Preoccupation with weight loss & dieting
2) Frequent Checking
At the other end of the scale lack of food means that your body is fasting, by not breaking the fast by eating cortisol and other stress hormone levels remain high which make you irritable. Your mother really wasn’t lying when she said breakfast is the most important meal of the day and it is for this very reason.
5) Critical Voice
If you think that I may be able to help you as a counsellor working with disordered eating, overweight and obesity issues as well as eating disorders feel free to get in touch by email: [email protected] I have trained with The National Centre for Eating Disorders, the primary organisation in the UK who work with people who struggle with these issues, to use an evidence based approach to help you tackle these issues.
Your GP is also a good port of call; they should be able to point you in the direction of an eating disorders service.
The Counselling Directory Website will help you identify counsellors trained to deal with this specialist area of therapy.
Beat is a charity that offers information and support around eating disorders. Beat Website.
Christopher Fairburn – Overcoming Binge Eating