For Mental Health Awareness Week this year, we’re raising awareness of the impact of loneliness on our mental wellbeing and the practical steps we can take to address it. As part of this, we spoke with eXPD8’s Human Resources Business Partner, Kelly Duncan, about the impact of the pandemic on her own sense of loneliness and the interventions she puts in place to counteract its effects. In this final part of the series, Kelly talks about the concept of mindfulness, and how it can provide a practical way to improve one’s mental health generally, which in turn can have a positive impact on one’s sense of loneliness.
Mindfulness as a Tool
Mindfulness is a term that is often used, yet often misunderstood. At its heart, ‘mindfulness’ is a tool that you can use to be mindful of you and your surroundings. In a world where everything’s going at 120%, sometimes your brain can struggle to switch off – with the pace of the modern world, it can also be possible to lose your sense of self, and this can contribute to feelings of loneliness; that everything is overwhelming and there’s no-one out there who understands or can support you. Mindfulness can help and is simply about taking a step back.
It could be a minute. It could be 10 minutes. And it’s not about switching off completely, more thinking about something very specific and focusing for a short while. One technique is finding a quiet space, lying on the floor if you are able, and asking yourself “how does my shoulder feel? How does my arm feel?”. You might feel strange doing it for the first time, but stick with it – really, you’re looking for anything that is a distraction for your mind, without requiring large amounts of stimulus like television or even a podcast. The idea is to just ‘be’…
Challenge Your Thinking
By taking these moments to reflect and focus, it helps us to enjoy life more and understand ourselves better, because we’ve taken the time to step back and gain some perspective. If you’re feeling lonely, those few moments can be just the thing to gain some perspective; “actually, I do have friends, family and colleagues who I can speak to, if I want”. Of course, these things are often easier said than done, and switching to a quiet moment of reflection can be difficult. It can be hard to stop thoughts popping back into your head, and if you don’t succeed in finding that quiet place the first time, it can also be slightly disheartening.
In summer, one of the things I love to do the most is just sit there and listen to the birdsong; that’s all I focus on, I really concentrate on it. No thinking, just listening. Then before I know it, my five-minute timer goes off and I think to myself, “now I know what I need to do”. It really provides clarity. Of course, like anything, it requires practice, but you will get there! It’s taken me years, but by started small – even just 10 seconds and working your way to more – you really start to see the difference. Negative thoughts are challenged, and you can almost feel the tension leaving your body. I highly recommend for anyone suffering with stress.
Using the Range of Sites and Apps
There are some good websites and apps out there which you can use to structure your sessions. Headspace is a great one, where you receive step-by-step guidance; the tutor will ask you to focus on different parts of your body, or on your breathing, and the sessions are ideal of beginners. Or, just some nature noises on Spotify; some running water or crickets chirping could be more your style, where you’re more in control of how your mind wanders, rather than being guided. Why not try a few options and see what works for you?
Another tip is to use alarms, so you know when to step away from what you’re doing – many will have heard of the Pomodoro Technique, which is a great way to structure when you have your short mindfulness sessions. Every 25 minutes, the idea is you stop your work and take some time to reflect and regroup. Just give yourself 5 minutes, and then start again. 10 minutes out of every hour sounds like a lot, but the quality of your work will be better, and you’ll feel far less stressed as a result – and less stress equals less worry and anxiety in general.
If you’re an eXPD8 colleague and enjoyed this content or are affected by any of the issues contained here, please reach out to email@example.com and let us know. You can also access a range of resources at Mental Health Foundation and GroceryAid, our industry charity which assists retail colleagues with a wide range of issues, including aspects of loneliness and mental health – just call their free and confidential helpline to speak with an advisor 24/7, 365 days a year on 08088 021 122.