Meet the social worker using Instagram to spread kindness in lockdown
- Credit: Danielle Booden
When the first Covid lockdown struck back in March, social worker Stephanie Stanhope admits lost connections with family and colleagues took a big toll on her own wellbeing.
Working from home and feeling increasingly isolated, the 30-year-old, from Debenham, decided to take some time out from her busy role to concentrate on herself.
The break inspired her to re-evaluate her own connections with people and how to maintain them - and that is when her lockdown project Creating Caring Connections was born.
"I've always valued the importance of connections and relationships in my work as a social worker, but I've never really applied it to myself," she explains.
"So last year, with all the lockdowns, our job was one we could do from home so I stopped seeing the team every day, I stopped being able to see the people I was working with. It got quite isolating and lonely, not being able to see family and friends, and that had an impact on my wellbeing and my motivation, I found it quite hard.
"It made me take a fresh look at how to maintain connections with people.
"Now, each week, I try and post on Instagram about some sort of idea relating to connections, wellbeing, and loneliness."
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Stephanie's Instagram account for the project is growing, with 300 followers amassed so far.
Her current topic, called Love and Kindness letters, encourages people to connect with themselves through daily prompts, urging them to 'spend time thinking about what makes you feel good', and to 'do something nice for yourself'.
The 30-year-old is also encouraging people to pen letters to themselves, to shine the spotlight on their own self-worth for a change, and taking the time to acknowledge personal strengths.
"I'm also encouraging people to write letters to friends and family - I have found it really lovely to get things in the post," she said.
"I started to send my nan letters, she was living in a care home at the beginning of lockdown.
"We couldn't visit, and she struggled to hear over the phone, so we started writing to each other. It also gets me out of the house, to go to the postbox."
Stephanie says it is the feeling of having your efforts reciprocated and appreciated that drives her to keep going.
"It's nice to get something back - you don't know if they are going to write back, or when that's going to come," she added.
"It's important for relationships to be reciprocal and you get that feeling back.
"I've also been trying to encourage people to reach out to others in the community who might be lonely or isolated, for instance contacting care homes to see if any residents would like a card, a picture or a letter, even a neighbour, just popping something nice through the door.
"It's just to try and make people feel appreciated, that someone has taken the time to do something thoughtful. It's not necessarily what you write, so long as it's nice it doesn't matter, it's the gesture that's important."
With interest in her new venture growing, Stephanie aims to continue exploring inventive ideas for her Instagram account, having noticed that most of her engagement comes through the social media app.
Get involved via @creatingcaringconnections