Health and Wellbeing

Practitioner Insights: Five ways to ease loneliness and disconnection

Practitioner Insights: Five ways to ease loneliness and disconnection

What is the difference between feeling lonely and being alone? When you feel alone – even around other people – you may be feeling disconnected. Perhaps your needs are not being met, you are not connecting with people on a meaningful level, or you are going through hidden challenges or experiences nobody else knows about. This Loneliness Awareness Week, we share insights on the value of actively listening and connecting to ease loneliness. You can use these tips to ease loneliness and disconnection in yourself and others. As an organisation that provides valuable support, you may also find these insights helpful.  

1. Actively listening:  

When going through challenges you may feel like your voice isn’t being heard, which can fuel feelings of loneliness, resentment, stress, anger and tension. Making an effort to listen to others – not just listening to give a reply but really actively listening – can be a great starting point for easing these feelings and building a meaningful connection. Sometimes we want to fix everything and give solutions and advice, but for some people real active listening and feeding back what they have said can be even more powerful. 

Action: Make an effort to listen –not just listening to give a reply but really actively listening. 

2. Meaningfully connecting  

When you feel alone even around other people, you may be feeling disconnected. Try connecting with yourself first and foremost to better understand: Why do you feel like this? Do you crave more meaningful relationships? What is your definition of friendship? Are you working through a challenge or trauma in your life? Recognising your feelings may help you decide what you need to do to feel better. If you believe someone close to you may be feeling like this, try strengthening your own relationship with them by setting meaningful time to just talk and be together with no judgement or expectations.  

Action: Try connecting with yourself to better understand why you are feeling this way. Set meaningful time with yourself and others to strengthen your relationships.  

3. Authentically expressing 

It can be difficult to connect with others when you have your guard up or dismiss your own authentic self. This, coupled with societal factors and expectations, can contribute to feelings of disconnection with others and/or in group settings. Try seeking outlets to express yourself such as connecting with close friends and family and/or doing activities that bring you joy. Expressing yourself authentically in a way that you are comfortable with is valuable for your own mental health and wellbeing. Taking some time out to recharge your social meter is important too.  

Action: Try seeking different ways and outlets to express yourself like connecting with close friends and family and doing activities that bring you joy. Take time out to recharge your batteries too.  

4. Sincerely asking  

Asking questions to yourself and others can help to generate better solutions to problems and uncover different challenges. It can also help you remain open, non-judgemental and sincere in supporting yourself and others. “I care about you. Is there anything I can do to help you work through this?” “May I help you find someone who can support you?” “How would you like things to be different?” Remember to check in regularly with yourself too.  

Action: Ask open-ended, non-judgmental and sincere questions to generate better solutions to problems and uncover different challenges. Check in regularly with yourself too. 

5. Holistically supporting  

When you’re talking to someone, it helps to see that person as a system – in that system is a person, their needs, background, parentage, education, culture, faith etc. You’re not seeing a situation or a person as one-dimensional but seeing them in a holistic frame. At Kineara, our support is holistic and tailored to the needs of the individual and family. This means we look at the bigger picture, addressing different challenges they may be facing in life, including issues with rent or housing insecurity, emotional wellbeing, or household needs and relationship. Although holistic working is a specialism, it helps to recognise this approach, be aware of those other issues, and bring in specialist support as needed. 

Action: Connect with support services that add value and find out more about holistic support. 

Helpful links  

Marmalade Trust – A charity dedicated to recognising loneliness, helping people make new friendships and connections, and hosting Loneliness Awareness Week.  

Apply For Help – WaveLength – Wavelength has really helped our clients who have been isolated and many have lost everything through homelessness. To be able to listen to music or watch a television has really helped their mental health. 

Digital Inclusion Project – Many of us were fortunate enough to get through lockdown with a phone, computer and the internet. But there were many who couldn’t FaceTime or Zoom their friends and family, they had little or no contact with others. Our digital inclusion courses help people gain confidence so that they become digitally independent and connected to the services and networks they need. 

 

Posted by kineara in Community, Health and Wellbeing
A focus group: Life and debt in temporary accommodation

A focus group: Life and debt in temporary accommodation

We hear from people we’ve supported on their experiences of temporary accommodation and what councils and support services can do better.

There are currently over 250,000 people living in temporary accommodation across the UK, a figure which jumped by 6000 in the first three months of the Covid crisis. With a chronic lack of social housing and unaffordable rental prices in the private market, too many people are trapped in temporary accommodation without the means to move on. 

But what is the real experience of living in temporary accommodation? Last month, we were approached by Oak Foundation and Trust for London to take part in research about the lives of people living in temporary accommodation and the kinds of support and advocacy available to them.  

We hosted a focus group with 6 people we’ve supported over the last year in our housing projects, to hear about the challenges they have faced and their view on what could help them and others who are living in temporary accommodation. 

And before the conversation could start, one of the common problems that we’ve supported families with cropped up: could everyone get online for the Zoom call? For Gary, the only way was to go over to a friends house and get Wifi access from there because he’d been unable to top up electricity that week. But it was important to him to join us and share his experience: “I was homeless, the Refugee Council connected me with Council support, they gave me a hotel room but I never saw the case worker, it was all over the phone. I saw a place that was all one room, I signed the contract.” 

In Gary’s case, an error meant the benefit cap wasn’t taken into consideration when he signed the agreement. Unable to work and with little to live on after the rent is paid, day to day life is a struggle. “Now I’m living on £200 for a month. I didn’t know how I’m going to live, I can’t top up electric, it is very complicated for me and very traumatizing.” 

When you’re suffering from mental health, its difficult – its like trying to put a jigsaw puzzle together in the dark.

Our other participants could relate to the stress caused by the mismatch in benefits and high rent prices, even in TA. When Ajay got his temporary accommodation, he set up a  direct debit to cover the utilities and believed his housing benefit would cover the rent. He explains, “I’m going about doing as I should, then 10 months after I was told I was going to be evicted because I hadn’t paid the rent and I’d got into all this debt. I didn’t even know. If it wasn’t for Kineara I don’t know what would happen.” 

For Rick, it took two years to get his housing benefit and was moved twice in that time. The housing he was moved to didn’t feel safe, and he wasn’t sleeping due to  the stress. It was also hard to get the right information at the right time from council services, saying “They often they tell you ‘I’ll get back to you, I have to check.’ Once I travelled in to the office only to be told to write in.”

Angel, who works part time and whose son is a full time student, had similar frustrations: “They told me ‘Don’t worry, housing benefit will cover it, just make an application’. The arrears kept going up and up. Its frustrating. They need to communicate better – its currently very poor.” Another added, “It seems that different Council offices have different systems to manage who is coming in, one team doesn’t speak to the other.” 

So what did the group think could be improved to better support people through and out of temporary accommodation? Many of them described feeling like they weren’t cared about, even feeling like a burden on society. “Then you fall through the cracks and enter world of desperation due to mental relapses, and then you become more of a burden.” 

They also wanted to see council services be considerate to the multiple barriers and hardships that they experience, because when they don’t, it feels like they’re being set up to fail. “And you need that when you’re suffering from mental health, because its difficult – its like trying to put a jigsaw puzzle together in the dark.” 

For others, the most important thing was also the most simple – to have someone by their side, listening to what they were going through and advocating for them through crisis. “Big thanks for Carly, because I [felt] abandoned but Carly started fighting for my case. She’s been helping me get set up, like with Council Tax which I didn’t know about.”  

As we wrapped up our conversation, it was clear that the opportunity to meet and share stories had been important to everyone. “So much of  my experience has been reflected today… its been useful because you feel alone.”

This focus group was hosted on behalf of Oak Foundation and Trust for London’s ongoing research project exploring advocacy and support in temporary accommodation. To find out more about the project, contact leila@leilabaker.net and ugo@trustforlondon.org.uk.

*Names have been changed for privacy purposes

Posted by kineara in Community, Employment, Health and Wellbeing, Housing, Research
Practitioner Insights: Reflecting on the ‘Stress, Vicarious Trauma and Managing Wellbeing’ training by Homeless Link

Practitioner Insights: Reflecting on the ‘Stress, Vicarious Trauma and Managing Wellbeing’ training by Homeless Link

Being a listening ear for people is a privileged position but it can also be exhausting and can even lead to vicarious trauma. Our practitioner James shares his reflections about the impact of vicarious trauma, the importance of resilience, and other “difficult to hear” realities. Whether you support people with multi-complex needs and/or want to develop strategies to prioritise your own wellbeing, here are some important learnings for you to build upon your own.

This article was originally published on the Homeless Link website.

The impact of vicarious trauma

I recently attended a highly enjoyable training course organised by Homeless Link. ‘Stress, Vicarious Trauma and Managing Wellbeing’ focused on self-care and best practice within support services. The aim was to ensure that the right steps and actions are taken to ensure that as practitioners, we are looking after ourselves and our own wellbeing, as well as others.

Being somewhat new to support work, the course challenged many of my beliefs and practices I had picked up from other customer facing roles. Judging by the comments made by fellow attendees, I was not alone. Much of the training focused on wanting to do as much as possible for our clients and having all the answers to their needs.

“Understandably, emotions can run high in this line of work and become draining. However, it is how we deal with it that will ultimately result in how we do or do not cope, and the ability to make the next appointment or call.”

Being a listening ear for people is a privileged position to be in, but it can also be exhausting and can even lead to vicarious trauma. This can affect your ability to continue to work and how you treat others in and out of work. Ultimately, we are human beings with our own relationships and connections that must be maintained. The conflicting emotions and heightened challenges associated with the pandemic on top of an intense workload, can result in shutting-off people who are an important source of support. Having suffered with elements of yet another lockdown this was a much-needed wakeup call. I will be the first to admit my lockdown self-care protocols have been far from perfect this time around. Following the training I began taking walks every morning and some evenings (depending on the weather).

The importance of resilience

Another key learning was the importance of resilience: the ability to ‘bounce-back.’ I learnt that this was a contentious topic given that it was initially seen as a ‘bad term’ which suggests a lack of processing regarding what may have occurred and dealing with the subsequent stress. However, once unpicked it was clear that the terminology was not the issue, rather how ‘bouncing-back’ can instead result in poor self-care as mentioned above. For me, bouncing back was a completely normal phrase, but not one I have ever used. Coming from previous people-facing roles, I am comfortable analysing what may have gone right or wrong and how to improve upon this the next time. Understandably, emotions can run high in this line of work and become draining. However, it is how we deal with it that will ultimately result in how we do or do not cope, and the ability to make the next appointment or call.

To move on, we must first understand what has happened, what was said, how the client is feeling and what we can do to assist. It’s important to understand that clients are not always blaming you, rather venting their frustrations is essential in staying present and building that resilience. The course convenor stressed the importance of processing the emotions and responses in understanding how to move forward and provide areas to be improved upon next time.

“To move on, we must first understand what has happened, what was said, how the client is feeling and what we can do to assist. It’s important to understand that clients are not always blaming you, rather venting their frustrations is essential in staying present and building that resilience.”

A coffee break has become my chosen habit in taking a moment to slow down, take stock what has occurred so far and prioritise what needs completing before the end of the day. At the end of the day, I move all signs of work out of sight and abstain from technology, sitting with a book until dinnertime.

Supporting emotional wellbeing and complex needs

Sometimes it can feel difficult knowing that clients who are struggling emotionally are often leaning heavily on you. As mentioned earlier, the practitioner-client relationship is vital and also rewarding but the caveat is that it can often be emotionally draining. Working with individuals that have mental health diagnoses, or undiagnosed conditions, moving houses and financially unstable can be difficult. Many of these clients have lived experiences that are beyond that of our own and so it can feel that providing an outlet is the best we can do. As someone who prides themselves on their ability to strengthen and build connections with others, this was a particularly challenging topic. However, as the convenor of the day said, all of our clients have already gotten through their worst days. We can only do so much to help our clients and sometimes we must weigh up how much we can do and the emotional toll it can take on us. It is an understandable point, but one that I continue to think over. Knowing a client is facing tough times, I have definitely picked up the phone, knowing there is a little I can offer, simply providing them an opportunity to offload.

“Looking after ourselves and responding to our own needs is vital in these trying times. As counterintuitive or difficult that may seem, ensuring we are looking after our own needs first will result in our best practice as we contend with the new normal”

A key learning for me was: By looking after ourselves and responding to our own needs as a priority is vital in these trying times. As counterintuitive or difficult that may seem, ensuring we are looking after our own needs first will result in our best practice as we contend with the ‘new normal’. Whether you work in people-facing roles and/or want to develop strategies to prioritise your own wellbeing, I would certainly recommend you attend the ‘Stress, Vicarious Trauma and Managing Wellbeing’ workshop by Homeless Link.

We’re grateful to be part of the Homeless Link network which offers us training and opportunities to connect with others in the sector. Visit Homeless Link for more training opportunities.

Kineara is an award-winning community interest company that supports people facing challenging times in housing, education and employment. You can find out more about their tailormade support services or contact info@kineara.co.uk

Posted by kineara in Community, Health and Wellbeing
Practitioner Insights: Stress Awareness Month

Practitioner Insights: Stress Awareness Month

To support others effectively you must take action each day for your own physical, mental and emotional health and wellbeing. We started #StressAwarenessMonth with our Wellbeing Team Meeting, sharing small and meaningful things that we can do everyday to help us during this uncertain time. We decided our word of the month is PEACE – see our thoughts below.

Last updated 12.04.21

Team Wellbeing Meeting - April 2021

Useful links

  • Download our infographic for top tips on managing your health and wellbeing.
  • Read our last Practitioner Insights blog on how complex cases can impact our mental health and wellbeing, and how to work through this.
  • Read our case studies for practical insights on supporting children, individuals and families who are stressed.
Posted by kineara in Community, Health and Wellbeing, Impact