It is incredible how loneliness can impact on health and wellbeing. It is important though to be mindful that there are some that prefer to be alone, with equal necessity for health and wellbeing. These are two very different things yet can be interconnected. If someone is lonely, it is often because they are missing contact due to circumstances beyond their control. Loneliness is much more common than we think. You can be around people and be lonely - it is about the interaction. Some people say that their pet is company, that they talk to them, stroke them, feed them and there is that interaction, even without speech. Those who like to be alone, may be quite content in the company of others but do not wish to engage with the interaction.
There are conditions that can contribute to either of these, but there is also something about the nature of others too that requires that deeper knowledge and understanding, that they are not imposed upon but being communicated with. This is a fine balance and requires an empathic sensibility.
So how do we tackle loneliness and the need to be alone, maybe talk to the person in the queue next to you or on the bus ride into town. Invite one of the parents at the gate for a coffee. Ask a close friend if they are getting enough time to themselves to rebalance in a world of noise. We are better connected than ever, but there remains something about the solidarity of a look, or a smile or a touch on the arm that can bring that special something that is, being connected. Just being, when someone wants to be alone in your company, shows true understanding.
Loneliness and being alone, different yet connected through the ability to understand one another at a truly human level.
It always strikes me the difference of the worker perspective on work given the style they experience. You can have two individuals with similar issues, but one can have a whole different perspective due to that supportive and trusting relationship provided by an effective and responsive line manager. It is about the manager having the tenacity to understand that life happens, but at the same time if it is time to move on in order to facilitate growth of the individual, that this is done in a coaching manner with the person at the centre.
It is a position that people can find themselves in and there is an expectation often that this should come naturally, or there should be a persona of authoritarian or paternal approach. Management is not for everyone yet managers find themselves there, lacking confidence, that, given the opportunity to develop competence, could be encountered in a very alternative way that is of benefit to all. This demonstrates how, through the chain of escalation, that the variables could be reduced by the development of shared values and the effective provision of an active appraisal and professional development system. This does not need to be hierarchical but in a coaching and mentoring manner that allows for growth and development whilst nurturing talent in an inclusive and equal way.
So reflect on what kind of manager you are, how you would like to be managed, what are the traits of a good manager in your experience. If you think it doesn’t matter, it really does and this is observed every day in the make or break of whether workers are able to be resilient through the diversity of life and work or struggle.
I have been reflecting on a speech that was given at the most recent Florence Nightingale Commemoration Service back in the Summer asking directly to recall the rationale for taking the path of nursing. As revalidation comes around again I have been looking over the past three years to collate all the various elements that I have put together, and this was one of them that was impactful on considering my relationship with nursing.
As with many careers in healthcare, the paths are not always straight and many other avenues can be explored. For me though, my nursing background has provided a framework of a person-centric approach that is a fundamental in any role within healthcare. Why? - because healthcare is about relationships, whether with patients, families, colleagues, other sectors and providers, the list goes on. I have always been fascinated by people and my training gave me the opportunity to explore humanity in so many varied states, having the headspace for enquiry into the many aspect of the human self both looking inward and outward alike. I came out of my nurse training a very rounded person, far more ready for the world and life than I imagined possible. The most incredible aspect for me was the trust that existed within relationships with patients and most colleagues too. However over time I have recognised and observed that this alters between stakeholders due to the competitive nature of business. I do believe that this will be recognised further in the pursuit for change. Coming back to the centre of nursing you see the person, a sum of many parts, intertwined, needing to have needs met and independence promoted, individuality respected and uniqueness lauded. So when looking at collaboration, put the person at the centre and you have your focal point for vision and implementation - seek their engagement and you will progress with precision.
So nursing, for me, is a template that has shaped my self both personally and professionally. The demands and expectations have changed within nursing since Florence Nightingale’s time, however the words within the declaration of passing on from generation to generation holds the essence of sharing of knowledge and skills from colleague to colleague, nursing and multidisciplinary alike. For me this also includes the patient as the expert on themselves, and by doing this, we are facilitating self management and empowerment through a trusting relationship.
I have been reflecting very much on systems and aspects that we have as well as the part we all believe we have to play within it. Everyone has a varying viewpoint and may not realise, positively or negatively, the impact that they have. Is the bit that we do needed anymore, or is it time to evolve? Have we evolved and we hadn’t seen this until we are reviewed at some point?
I have been fascinated also about the thought of systems being circles within circles, all interconnected and having a shared goal, however responding in a unique way. This unique response is indeed a pebble in a pond and the ripples, even those subtle ones are felt. There are many theorists who interlink systems, sociology and psychology, which is to be expected as we are holistic beings. With this is mind we need to consider our actions carefully, and plan for what may be an improvement in one area, but detrimental to another. This is why organisations need to recognise that targets are sometimes misleading in identifying progress. Thinking big, looking outward, finding your links in the system, allow for a collaboration in a shared understanding, where change is inevitable and actions fluid.
There is also something about how we are viewing this system - is it viewed as the earth once was, as a flat disc? Or is it more of a global view that we understand now, rounded and deep, equality all round? Take the first scenario here, if we are working horizontally then we are only seeing one level, this is not inclusive, and may involve a group of people that could potentially be a far cry from the interface of provider and user interaction. All could be excellent work but not connected at all levels. The global concept provides depth, equality, an understanding that if something happens underneath the surface there is a reaction at the top - like a volcano. Because of observations and communications globally we are able to understand, plan and make provision with a better shared knowledge and ability to respond. Also, as with the natural world, the fluidity of change can at times be predictable, but this is invariably abundant in unpredictability also.
So whichever part of a system you are in, consider who is in the global circle around you and keep moving outwards, communicating, identifying, building, trusting...
I have spent some time networking locally to get to know the people behind the SME’s in the area. It has been a really positive learning experience to reflect on, through listening to all the issues that were raised and the solutions people had found. The diversity of interests as well as the essential nature of our trades.
There were three main things that struck me, and that was a sense of belonging that these forums provided, trusting relationships that were built or developing and the engaging nature of person to person contact.
Loneliness, statistically is high, and with this mentioned it is our older people that may be first brought to mind. However, there is a phenomena around loneliness in the workplace. This may equate with the evidence base as being those within the bigger organisations, however there is a real capacity for isolation when working in a smaller enterprise. The self-employed may be simply the “self” with no colleagues, or heading-up a business and not have someone to share the unique experiences of this with another, therefore shouldering all the burdens of the day to day as well as the bigger decisions to be made. So observing what I have, within very different networking forums, this has given a genuine opportunity for acquiring support from others and indeed facilitated it well.
There was a clear message from one of the forums that it was not about rocking up and networking complete, it was about building that trust over time. One could be cynical and say that they were trying to get visitors to sign up for membership, but this was echoed by members in all the groups, that networking and referrals build over time hand-in-hand with trust. This is obviously facilitated by the face to face nature of networking forums, which provides that engagement that only direct contact can provide.
So love it or hate it, networking appeared to be a good thing. I was observing primarily from a Health & Wellbeing aspect, but actually it appeared to be effective from a business perspective too. There was a sense though that this was not achieved without consistency of contact and a genuine driver of supporting others in similar positions locally.
Three key elements were: Engagement Consistency & Trust
According to Care UK (2018), 1 in 8 adults (around 6.5 million people) are carers
Work can be a welcome change from caring requirements and be a source of maintaining contact with the world and create a sense of normality. There are times when things will not run smoothly, i.e. a fall, but this does not mean it is not possible to support this through having open discussions to ensure that there is openness in pro-actively managing the situation for all.
Is there a link that could be made in the workplace to voluntary organisations? Could you link carers with other carers in your workplace so that there is active support and sharing of learning and experiences which could be of real benefit to all concerned. Just some things to think of to support carers maintaining some stability in work whilst managing the demands of caring.
Carers contribute hugely to society and by supporting them we are too, so what can you do to help a carer today?
Do we always see what we need to about ourselves, or are we looking around the edges of what we need to be focussing on? It is really easy to avoid looking introspectively by keeping busy, turning away, keeping our thoughts quieted and the feedback of others at bay. I read an interesting passage by Henri Nouwen and it led to the consideration that, actually looking at the self with such focus can be extremely challenging, and temptingly avoidable. Perhaps in the practice of taking-up this challenge the avoidance behaviours can subside. With these indicators being quieted, we could be on the path to peace and stillness inside and out. It is helpful to have a way to achieve this, but of course this will be very individual, however there are routes to take that can support unearthing some of this. Coaching can be really useful; being able to explore in a safe way, it allows discomfort as a passage to change, yet can be facilitated with the right fit.
It is important to see this in others, and with a positive working relationship the feedback can be invaluable in supporting colleagues to move on, rather than be held in a situation that is potentially unhelpful. With a greater awareness of mental health too, it really helps to get to know colleagues and how to get the right assistance, if needed and how to tell the difference.
Know your avoidance tactics and that of others and you will achieve movement and growth. Don't forget, there is no growth in the comfort zone and no comfort in the growth zone...
“The positive thinker sees the invisible, feels the intangible and achieves the impossible” Winston Churchill
This quote demonstrates to me the positivity of a visionary with leadership excellence. That is what we need from a leader, the ability to horizon scan, know the team and how they are best deployed with the overarching sense that pulling together will realise the dream.
This takes a co-ordinator who has integrity, is humble and values the contribution of others. Who does not believe that they are in a higher place but elevates all those around them. This requires honed communication skills, an ability to listen intently whilst demonstrating emotional intelligence and huge self-awareness.
So how do you learn this? Know yourself, know yourself well in adversity. Appreciate others and make space to hear them. Never stop learning and absorbing information, even from the unlikeliest of sources.
Most of all be passionate, kind and honest in all your do and the positivity will flow making a great leader.
“Be an encourager. The world has enough critics already” Dave Willis
It is so easy to get bogged down in the day to day that some we can forget to see the good right in front of us. Perhaps that’s what Dave Willis means when he refers to the critics. We moan and gripe to the extent that when someone presents us with something, we can respond with the one thing that might have been an insignificant flaw, far outweighed by all the positives. In doing that it breaks down relationships and challenges resilience in those around you. Even if there is a flaw a response delivered in an encouraging manner can open up opportunities for learning and a strengthening of a respectful relationship.
This does not have to apply to one area of life, it can be far reaching. Encouraging those we interact with does need to be honest though. Speak the truth and understand that ultimately the person you are interacting with will make their own choice, but you have provided them with a view that they can work on.
On a project our resilience can sometimes start to flag, so offer encouragement offer a stock-take with the person on their journey. Summarise where they have been, where they are now and ultimately a timely reminder of the goal or vision they are aiming for. This can really make a difference to someone, as change doesn't happen overnight and, like an athlete there can be a “wall” moment that just needs that extra push to see it through. With any journey, you take people with you on the way, if you are one of those people, then some feedback that the vision is still shining bright can really support that feeling of being in it together.
So why not try changing your inner critic, to an outward encourager and see the difference - enjoy.
Simply put - we need to get wiser, younger. If we don’t, then an issue that could have been avoided, could end up being in our lives, challenging us and straining our resilience. Whilst it is important to live in the now it is also a positive to think about the effects of today on tomorrow. No time is too late to make a difference and we do have so much available to us, through getting physical, creative, meeting new people, volunteering - whatever keeps you healthy.
So where’s the motivation - being healthy in ageing, that’s where it is. Of course, some pre-disposition and factors that are beyond our control can occur, but the evidence is so strong around keeping active, engaged, connected to control what we all deem inevitable. Well inevitability is not our excuse anymore, telling ourselves that we may as well do whatever because it is going to happen anyway has been disproved, even for conditions such as Dementia.
There is something about perception too - let’s look at what people can do instead of what they can’t, regardless of age or circumstance. Some things make it difficult, of course, but rarely impossible. Prof Martin Vernon prompts us to ask the question “what matters to you” because this is so personal and if that one, or set of things, can be facilitated - that is independence and joy.
So healthy ageing doesn’t start at retirement age, it is much sooner than that. Think about what you would like to do with your future, what are your dreams, activities that would mean a lot to you to continue if life became more challenging at any time along the journey but you could make the most of now. It might be that these reflections would bring about change earlier, that may never have been thought about or aired otherwise, but had really been bringing you down or getting you stuck.
We are all ageing from birth, so as a society we need to rethink our habit of waiting for tomorrow to change. Perhaps you have an interest that you may not have thought about for a while, or keep putting off going for a walk or meeting up with that friend you haven’t seen in ages. Make a change today by doing something now, break the routine and find yourself again.
What’s it going to be?...