Welcome to Day 6 of #12DaysOfBlogmas, today’s post is something which is really personal and something I want to advocate for so please be respectful when reading and commenting and lets have a real and respectful conversation down below. If you have missed the other #12DaysOfBlogmas posts then you can read them here, here, here, here and here
It is well known that winter time, especially the holiday season, is the loneliest time for so many groups of people. The most talked about demographic is the elderly, and very rightly so, AGE UK stated that about 0.5 million older people will go at least 5-6 days without seeing or speaking to anybody at all which is just heartbreaking. Whilst I am so happy to see big brands such as Cadbury’s raising awareness for AGE UK and loneliness in the elderly, I think something that is stigmatised and under represented is loneliness in young people.
Psychologists insist that “loneliness must be seen as an interior, subjective emotion and NOT an external, objective condition”, and that loneliness “is not synonymous with being alone, nor does being with others guarantee protection from feelings of loneliness” says John Cacioppo. This means that loneliness can reach any person and it also breaks down some prejudices of loneliness, something which can isolate lonely people is the notion that you cannot be lonely if you have friends/family/partner because that can make them feel like their feelings aren’t valid at all; this is something I’ve personally felt. I wanted to discuss this defining of loneliness because it can try to give you a mindset to be set in to truly read and understand what I am talking about.
In October 2019, the independent released an article saying that “a survey conducted by YouGov of more than 2,000 UK adults found that 31% of 18-24 year olds said they felt lonely often or all the time” this percentage was higher than the one by over 51 year olds which is something that could shock people. After seeing this statistic I realised how important it is for me to talk about this and start this conversation for my community to continue. So in this post I will talk about my own personal struggles, reasons why loneliness in young people has risen, why it is important to talk about it during the Christmas period and ways to help tackle the problem.
Young people in this day and age are faced with bigger and much more complex struggles than the generations before, for example in previous years the housing market was much more stable than it is now and it was much easier for young people to become home owners. These struggles can in turn cause young people to make decisions and sacrifices in order to reach their goals, if we’re running with the example of owning a home a person could decide they will take on an extra job on the side of their full time 40 hour a week job to be able to save enough to put a deposit on a house. This will have a knock on effect on that young persons mental health because they will be working 60+ hours a week, have much less down time and significantly less social time. This extra pressure and stress onto that persons mind and body will start to isolate them, and potentially over time it will leave that person burnt out and exhausted. So exhausted that they just want to be alone and the loneliness can grow. This is just one way in which loneliness can effect young people due to the extra struggles they have in this current climate. Another issue which could impact young people and loneliness is the pressures put onto them by other people. This is something which I am massively effected by and something that I struggle with everyday. We are in a culture which pushes the ideas of being a boss, hustling 24/7 and working your life away which adds so much pressure onto young people. We are hit with “work hard now so you won’t have to when you’re 30” which is something appealing but it entails working 60+ hours a week, putting your health second to money and also being a destination chaser. We are sold a dream of happiness but after a while it teaches us that once we reach our dream the grass is greener further down the street. People will end up saying “ill be happy when I get x amount of money” and then when they reach that amount they will say “I will be happy when I buy this size house” until they either burn out or get to a point where they realise they’re not happy. This process can end up in loneliness because it makes people think that their bank account in the definition of success and happiness, and they become so lost in all of it that they’ve lost themselves. On the other end of the stick there are people who just want to work to earn money so they can live their lives and their lives definitely don’t revolve around their job. These people are the ones who end up feeling low or isolated by the hustle culture because that is just not what they want out of their life, and they can be left feeling lazy, unproductive and less worthy of happiness.
Something which I feel like brings so much loneliness to young people is the stigma on them and their mental health issues. Some older people have become accustomed to referring to young people who suffer with mental health issues or who speak out against issues in society as snowflakes, this is to belittle young people and their voices by insinuating that they’re fragile, stupid and weak because they don’t want to put up with bullshit or have developed a mental illness. This stigma can cause so much loneliness in young people as it can prevent people from wanting to reach out and talk about what they are struggling with because of the prejudice within society. Incidentally this can lead to people falling deeper into their mental illness and could lead to death by suicide as the mental illness will take over the entire person. Mental illness can be such a lonely place without the prejudice and stigma of others weighing them down.
Something which can be seen to have an effect on the rise of loneliness in young people is social media. There are many many articles and reports on the affect that social media has on young peoples mental health and how it can cause loneliness in young people. Now I won’t be going on about this for too long as many of us are aware of some of the negative effects social media can have on us but hopefully I can give some new insights on it. Over the past few years the frequent use of social media has become much more apparent in our lives, something I love about it is that I have made so many friends on social media and found a passion that I love. However it can also cause people to compare themselves to others, feel low sense of self esteem and also feel socially anxious. Social media has become a crutch for so many people, it can be something to kill time, to wind down to or use if you don’t have anything else to do. It can lead people to becoming addicted to it and leave people spending more time online and less time living their life. It is very clear that social media has become more young peoples job than ever before and so they are spending more time working hard from home than in traditional social work spaces. The only issue I can find with that is the isolation factor that could come with it. I mean if you are home alone all day everyday you will find it much easier to be less productive, stuck in your own head and much more susceptible to becoming lonely.
Loneliness has been an issue which has been a part of my life for about 5 years now, it was originally caused by social isolation due to a toxic relationship. This relationship I was in caused me to become much more isolated from my friends and family, then when it ended I had such a lack of confidence and self esteem that I kept feeling lonely even when a built friendships again. Feeling so alone in my issues and struggles has lead me to struggle alone and so it makes it harder to change that thought process and the way I deal with issues. Then when I had left school and was working three jobs I had found myself even lonelier because I was prioritising grafting and money over looking after my mental health. I found myself feeling really low due to family issues and the fact that I felt so alone in these issues. Then when all of my friends went to university I felt even more lonely, I had isolated myself when my friends were here which lead to them not wanting to be around me and then they all left and I didn’t have a choice on my isolation. I started college and found new friends, however it took me much longer to make them friends due to my low mental health and my lack of confidence within myself. During this time my Dad was getting more ill and I was more alone in that scary journey, my mental health was draining me so much that it was causing me to stay in bed or the flat for much longer periods of free time. Meaning my social time came from college and work. Since then I have had multiple jobs where I have made some really good friends and I have reached out to my local mental service to get help with my problems. However I do still get lonely feelings regularly, when I am sad I think that I am alone and in turn don’t reach out for health. My loneliness has grown stronger on the nights where my grief is effecting me the most, and grief is something which makes loneliness more apparent in your life because of the fact you’ve lost someone who is close to you. In my case it has caused me to lose someone who knows me best and someone who I would turn to when I needed help, this almost triggered my loneliness to another level.
Loneliness for many young people can especially be triggered during the Christmas/ Holiday period, and I want to share some ways in which I have found help me to combat that.
Make sure you have one person who you can reach out to and confide in when you are feeling low, even having one person who can help you with your mindset or distract you when you feel the most alone helps so much
Have at least one social plan a week that isn’t work or study related so you can have some social and leisure time in that week to quench our social thirst and help recharge your batteries
Don’t feel guilty that you feel lonely if surrounded by family, do not beat yourself up by feeling alone in a room full of people. You are allowed to feel your emotions even at Christmas and during family time. Mental help does not discriminate and therefore will not stop when you’re surrounded by family or when it is meant to be the happy holidays.
Put yourself and your well being first, if you know that being around a certain family member or group of friends will makes you feel more isolated or lower your self esteem then stay away. Make an excuse that you’re not feeling well or if you’re able to just tell them that you don’t feel that being around them is good for your emotional wellbeing. You owe nobody anything, especially not your time, energy or health. Put yourself first and work on what you need to.
That is my rather lengthy post on loneliness in young people and I hope it was insightful, informative and helpful for you whether you yourself are effected by loneliness, know somebody who gets effected by it or want to know how to help people you suspect deals with loneliness. Please leave your thoughts and feedback down below in the comments and lets start a healthy conversation in the comments on this taboo topic.
Thank you so much for reading today and I hope to see you around these parts again soon! If you’re enjoying my content then do leave me a comment, like and follow so I can get all of your feedback. Don’t forget to check out my Instagram, Twitter and Pinterest too which will is down below!