As The Fire Fighters Charity Communities Lead, Clare Hannaford knows the importance of talking to each other. Here she explains why picking up the phone and calling someone who makes you happy could be the best thing you will do for yourself all day
They say it’s good to talk. During these days of lockdown where an unknown number of days stretch out ahead of us while we worry about loved ones and what the world is going to be like at the other side, it is never been better to talk.
For our key workers continuing to work in different circumstances, those adapting to home working (with or without the extra pressure of home schooling) or those who are currently unable to work, one thing we all have in common is that our social interactions are not what they once were.
Whatever the circumstances, lack of contact with friends, family, colleagues and the loss of simple, normal human interactions that we used to take for granted means that we can feel disconnected from the world.
There has been a lot of discussion about the technology available to keep us all connected: FaceTime, Hangups, Houseparty and Zoom are just some of the video calling apps that are available to us. These are great but not everyone has access to the internet (or sufficient internet oomph to support these types of apps) or feels confident downloading apps and setting up accounts to use them. This is why we should not forget about the benefits of the humble phone call.
Just a few weeks ago phone calls were viewed as an old fashioned means of communication, taking up too much time and encroaching on our busy lives; it was all about the text, Snapchat, Tik Tok and group messaging; maximum reach for minimum input. Now phone calls have become an important lifeline for many people, and one not to be scoffed at.
In these weeks of social distancing, time may no longer be the scarce resource it once was. Not sure what to do with all that time you have been given? Well, why not give someone a ring? Now is the time to phone your family and friends, to make the call that you have been too busy to make, to catch up with those that you have been meaning to ring but have not quite made the time to. Relatives in another country? School friend you have not spoken to despite your best intentions to remain in contact? A retired colleague that you were due to meet up with? No problem, give them a call.
This small action can make your day as well as that of the person at the end of the phone. It could give you some respite from the barrage of bad news and uncertainty, reduce anxiety, remind you of the value of your friendships and give you both a real lift.
Here at The Fire Fighters Charity, we have always thought checking in with people over the phone is important, but especially so at the moment. Staying socially connected – however you choose to do it – has a proven positive effect on our health and wellbeing. Studies show that having good social networks and a sense of belonging can be as effective as being physically active. Yes, you read that right, giving someone a ring on the phone can have the same positive feelings as going for a run or a session in the gym.
Why is this the case? Why does positive social interaction have such a profound effect on us? Well, we have to look to our ancestors for the answer. Humans are social creatures; we evolved living in small groups, reliant on each other’s skills and cooperation for our survival. In short, we are hardwired to seek social connections.
In the absence of face-to-face contact, a phone call is a great option to maintain our social and family networks. It does not have to be a serious conversation for hours at a time. By simply asking someone how they are and genuinely listening to their response can help to lighten the load.
If you have not spoken to someone for a while, we have no doubt you will have plenty to catch up. But if you find yourself running out of topics, it is time to get creative (because let us face it, when someone asks what we have been up to, pretty much all of us have the same answer: “Not much. Stayed home.” And bravo for doing so!) Reminisce about old times, do a crossword together, create a list of your top ten places to visit, exchange music playlists or book recommendations, or maybe even share your favourite recipes or general hints and tips for keeping sane in these uncertain times.
Because we think that it is so important to stay connected, we have been ringing round some of our beneficiaries to check in on them, especially those who may be feeling under pressure, living alone or who are shielding at the moment. We can talk about our services, but we have also been ringing people just to chat, to talk about the weather, ask what they have been watching on TV, how their garden’s coming on.
If you are struggling, feeling lonely or isolated or just bit discombobulated, get in touch and we will call you. Like we said, it’s good to talk. So talk to us. Contact us on 0800 389 8820 or make an enquiry online: www.firefighterscharity.org.uk