Is Covid the only pandemic?

Loneliness hangs like a cloud of thick smog over our culture,

By Richard Andrews

I was talking to a manager a while ago who was obviously suffering from anxiety and enduring a role where stress was a given constant. Chasing difficult targets and working long hours to achieve what he and his team thought was impossible was a depressing reality. Covid added an extra layer of uncertainty and fear. The atmosphere at work was fraught. His relationship at home, which had always been supportive and caring, was not at risk but was showing signs of strain.

Sadly while the details may vary this is not an unusual scenario. The current pandemic is having an uncomfortable and dangerous impact on the emotional health of most of the population. Loneliness hangs over our culture like a cloud of thick smog, with many people saying they feel more lonely than ever before.

“Do you have a close emotional bond with anybody at work”, I asked. “Absolutely not”’ came the reply. “Haven’t got time”. Like many of us, they were lonely both at home and work. 

Professor Paul Gilbert who wrote “The Compassionate Mind” identified three areas of emotional regulation that we all have and he believes should be kept in balance. Drive, Threat, and Soothe. In this case and no doubt in many others ‘drive’ and ‘threat’ are ever-present with little room left for soothing.

Loneliness is a worry but not a reserve of the elderly. Sadly it is becoming a feature of our culture for all ages and feeling lonely may cause our cortisol levels to soar, often by as much as some of the most disturbing things that can ever happen to us. Worryingly it is often the precursor of depression.

Humans are a social species. In the early days of our evolution separation from our tribe would put us in danger from predators. Hunting for food would become far more difficult and risky. Isolated from our group there would be nobody to care for us when in need. Perhaps humans need tribes as much as bees need hives.

Sounds obvious. To end loneliness, you need other people. People with whom you feel secure and comfortable. People you trust sufficiently to expose your vulnerabilities too. Plus something else. You also need, to feel you are sharing something with the other person, or the group, that is meaningful to you both. You have to be in it together—and “it” can be anything that you both think has meaning and value. 

These can be shared objectives at work in a functional and trusting team. Yoga or similar class, support of the same football team, probably chess, and of course, countless alternatives. Zoom/Teams though they may have to be for the time being.

2020 was testing for most of us and while 2021 provides hope there is still a way to go. Are you able to listen to, without judgment or criticism, and share feelings with somebody to address their possible sense of loneliness? You may even be affected yourself and feel the need for somebody with whom you can talk to. We can help each other a lot by making ourselves available or sharing our own feelings.

At the head of this article is a photo of a lonely tree in the lake at Wanaka, a small town in New Zealand. When I took this shot I was one of probably 50 people with cameras at the ready. Comradely, story sharing, and great to be with even when we didn’t speak the same language but had a common interest in photography. We can find companions in the oddest of places if we look and enjoy the tribe we are part of.

While I do operate as a business I am conscious that money alone should not be the reason why people cannot seek help. If I can help you or someone you know either losing their role or suffering from anxiety please message me on LinkedIn, call me on 07525 857389 or, email me at

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