April is Stress Awareness Month and this year’s theme is community. 

Group of friends painting and creating art as a community for their wellbeing and to prevent stress

Isolation and loneliness are risk factors for mental health and can affect your health in other ways too. Not only can loneliness add to stress and cause physical stress that undermines our health, but it can prevent us finding ways of getting through stressful times effectively too. 

That’s because a sense of community – and having people you can turn to about problems and worries – reduces stress levels. 

Loneliness is not necessarily the same as being alone. You can feel lonely in a relationship, in a family or surrounded by many people. This is especially true if you don’t feel that the people around you understand you or care about you.  

And people can also be peaceful and content with being alone. They may have one or two people they can turn to if they need and when they want to, or they may be part of a wider external community. 

As the Stress Management Society, which runs Stress Awareness Month, notes, ‘A community is more than just a group of people.  It’s about having a sense of belonging and connection to others and feeling supported and accepted by them.’  

Group of friends chatting in the pub for their wellbeing and to cope with stress

Avoiding loneliness is easier when you have strong connections who you feel safe opening up to about your thoughts and any problems you may be having – as well as sharing in the good times of course. These might be family, or friends, or they also might be a group that you meet up with over a shared interest or hobby, or neighbours.  

The Stress Management Society adds, ‘Having the opportunity to laugh and chat with others in social situations serves to temporarily distract us from our worries by turning our focus outwards instead of inwards.’   

If you don’t have a community yet, there are lots of different ways you can meet people these days. Or why not reach out to an old friend or acquaintance who you’ve not spoken to in years? 

With periods of enforced isolation in the last couple of years because of the pandemic, it may feel difficult or daunting for many of us to return to the level of socialising we were used to previously – or to even socialise at all. But keeping connections going, and socialising even just a little, or volunteering, will help us to feel part of our own unique communities – whatever they may be – as well as being part of the wider human community we all belong to.  

 

Find out more 

Coping with loneliness

Stress: managing stress and regaining control

Staying safe in stressful times

How to fight daily stress to stay safe at work

For managers: Managing fear, stress and anxiety in the workplace (with webinar)

Stress Management Society: Stress Awareness Month