Life in a bustling metropolis such as Dubai offers plentiful opportunities to meet new people, explore different cultures and enjoy new experiences yet, for many people, living and working in a big city can also be incredibly isolating – and surprisingly lonely.
As communities have expanded from the small, neighbourhood model into geographical areas that span greater distances, traditional ties have also become stretched, whether it’s not having loved ones within easy reach for a social gathering or something as mundane as shopping for groceries in a soulless hypermarket rather than at your local family-run store.
This disconnect with people around us can cause anxiety and stress, which can lead to a sense of loneliness or isolation and can impact both our physical and mental health.
According to a recent news story in The National, more than 50% of people hide their feelings during the festive season in order to keep others happy, while a 2017 media report saw a local mental health expert suggest that around 15% of the UAE population is affected by mild depression, exacerbated by our fast-paced lives where work and achievement are a key focus and it’s easy to become overwhelmed by the demands of everyday life.
If you’ve ever felt this way, it’s reassuring to know that you are not alone.
Here, at Emirates Home Nursing, January is a time where we turn our attention to the issue of emotional self-care. We’ve all been there, so here are some of our suggestions on how to make 2019 the year of positive emotional wellbeing.
Set a daily intention (‘Today, I will make time for myself to do something I enjoy’) and work up to include some bigger long-term goals (‘By July 31st I will climb Jebel Hafeet’) to give you something to aim for and to create a ‘success moment’ to celebrate. Ramp up your positive achievements and boost your emotional health.
Tip: Keep a journal or jot down your intentions/goals in a notebook to keep you on track and as a way to review your achievements.
It may sound clichéd, but the practice of gratitude is an instant mood booster. Pick a quiet moment in the day, such as over your morning coffee or last thing at night and reflect on the good things going on in your life – past, present and future – and the positive emotions that come with them.
Tip: Make the most of the fantastic Dubai weather, go for a walk on the beach or in your favourite park and use this time to find things you are grateful for.
We all know it, but a good night’s sleep is essential for good physical and emotional health. Switch off all those devices that dominate your daily life at least one hour before bed; dim the lights, cool the room and snuggle down. Sleep is the time when our bodies release hormones that fight infection, repair cells and boost our immune system.
Tip: If you struggle to get to sleep, try a meditation/relaxation app or drift off to the sound of a favourite podcast.
Get social and expand your network outside of your work colleagues and friends by exploring other opportunities such as finding fellow enthusiasts or a new hobby through meetup.com, meeting other local people at an InterNations event (internations.org) or, if you are a solo entrepreneur or microbusiness owner, join a co-working community like impacthub.ae to meet like-minded individuals.
Tip: Joining a group to meet new people can be a little daunting and it doesn’t always click first time. Don’t make a judgment call after your first event; go back a second time, be a little more interactive and give people a chance to get to know you and vice versa.
Don’t bottle it up. If you are feeling lonely, anxious, stressed or depressed, talk it out. Friends and family are the obvious go-to, and we all have someone in our circle who is a great listener or shoulder to lean on, but the UAE is also home to a growing community of support networks staffed by caring and well-respected professionals and, in 2018, Dubai Health Authority launched its ‘Happy Lives, Healthy Communities’ strategy to focus on addressing emotional wellbeing. For professional support, we recommend checking out the wonderful teams at The Lighthouse (lighthousearabia.com), Priory Wellbeing Centre (priorygroup.ae)
Tip: If you’re not ready to go the professional route and don’t really want to chat with a family member or friend but would like to talk to someone who’s in the same boat, try Facebook or meetup.com where you can find local support groups
For those of you who are primary carers looking after small children or a sick relative this takes its toll, and shouldering the burden alone is an acknowledged contributor to emotional and physical health issues. Consider calling on expert resources such as Emirates Home Nursing for added support to lighten the load. Even if it’s just for a couple of hours a day, this gives you a much-needed break and time to recharge.
Tip: A change of scenery is a breath of fresh air for mind and body, so leave the experts in charge at home while you grab a coffee with friends, go for a head-clearing walk, sweat out your stress at an exercise class or just curl up somewhere quiet with a good book.