My loneliness is killing me…

Solitude Man

Loneliness and social isolation are harmful to our health. Research shows that a lack of social connections is as damaging to our health as smoking 15 cigarettes a day (Holt- Lunstad, 2015). Social networks and friendships not only have an impact on reducing the risk of mortality or developing certain diseases, but they also help individuals to recover when they do fall ill (Marmot, 2010)

An intimate and complex connection exists between our emotional and physical health. When we feel low or depressed we are more likely to make less positive choices about our diet and exercise. This is why as practitioners of TCM it is important that we are able to treat the spirit or Shen of our patient as well dealing with the presenting condition. Treating in this way will only help our patients prognosis: A recent article by the BMJ suggests that patients with a more positive outlook will often have better treatment outcomes. 

Huge numbers of our patients have been negatively affected by the extensive period of Covid-19 lockdown and this will have impacted on both their physical and mental health. This issue will certainly have been exacerbated by the enforced closures of our clinics which offer a lifeline to so many people. 

Our need for social connection is at the heart of what it is to be human. It is as essential to our health and wellbeing as it is to the vitality of our communities and places of work. Prolonged disconnection from social connections gives rise to increased incidences of anxiety, depression and trauma, changes in brain function as well as increased mortality rates. To paraphrase Britney, our loneliness does indeed kill us.

Elderly people, many of whom live alone with fewer social connections, may well have been disproportionately affected by the lockdown. Time and the relaxing of isolation measures will tell what the true toll has been on our elderly patients. They may have been protected from the Covid-19 virus, but at what detriment to other aspects of their health?

Academic research is clear that preventing and alleviating loneliness is vital to enabling older people to remain as independent as possible. Lonely individuals are more likely to visit their GP, have higher use of medication, higher incidence of falls and increased risk factors for long term care (Cohen 2006), undergo early entry into residential or nursing care (Russell et al, 1997) and use accident and emergency services independent of chronic illness (Geller, Janson, McGovern and Valdini, 1999).

When our patients return to our clinics many will require additional support with issues such as anxiety and trauma in addition to their usual presenting conditions. As practitioners of TCM it is essential that in addition to ensuring our practices meet new and potentially more stringent post-lockdown safety standards, that we equip ourselves with the skills necessary to deal with the side effects of loneliness.

Learn how to support emotional well being in your clinic and from afar:

These two courses are offered with a discount for the month of June.

  • Deepen your understanding of Shen acupuncture points and the way to use them clinically.
  • Discover the deep alchemy underlying the meridians.
  • Treat Shen disorders such as insomnia and depression with greater confidence and through deeper understanding.

Emotional Healing in the Way of Wang Fengyi by Laurie Regan, ND, PhD

  • Describe the historical development of the Wang Fengyi emotional healing system in China and the West.
  • Define the twelve characters forming the foundation of the Wang Fengyi system.
  • Discuss the central role of Xiao and Ti in healing chronic disease.
  • Describe the development and release of disease patterns according to the 5-element system of Wang Fengyi.
  • Recount case studies of individuals undertaking “true nature” group work.

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