I’ve recently recovered from a serious illness. Going through this meant I had to focus all of my strength on getting better. Now that I am physically well again, I was expecting to feel on top of the world. But I feel just the opposite, down and lacking in the confidence to face the world. I have friends and family, but I am a widow and this makes me feel very alone. Could you suggest ways forward for me?

I’m glad to hear you have overcome your serious health issue. Sometimes, having to face these difficult times, when life hangs in the balance, can alter life quite dramatically. It sounds to me like you have had to pour so much of yourself into dealing with your physical health that this has depleted your mental reserves and sense of well-being.

Now, you can afford to devote some time to nurturing your sense of well-being. You mention feeling lonely and this certainly is one of the biggest obstacles to feeling optimistic about the future.

I wonder if your illness has knocked your confidence? Sometimes the scars that result from overcoming a serious illness are of the unseen emotional type, but it is just as important to deal with them. This is worth taking the time to think about. If you discover this is the case, then it’s a good idea to start to reconnect and maybe even reach out for professional help.

You mention you’re a widow and I wonder if you had time to deal with the grief this caused before you faced your health issues. I feel talking therapy might give you the time and space to explore this and come to terms with it.

Having the sense of purpose and pleasure that a good social network gives you can also work wonders. Identify one or two people amongst your friends and family who have supported you along the way and confide in them. I’m sure they will understand and will pave the way to help you get involved again. Take things one step at a time and don’t overwhelm yourself. This is about building your confidence and resilience, but do remember, it is going to take time, so be kind to yourself.

You’ll benefit from making new social connections. This might give you the opportunity for a new beginning with people who don’t know anything about you. One of the best ways I know to do this without placing too much social pressure on yourself is to volunteer in some way. Choose something that means a lot to you and get involved. That sense of well-being from giving to others has enormous health benefits as well as social ones and it’s not too daunting as it comes with a purpose to focus on.

You’ve had to face some really tough times and you’ve come through them – that is a testament to the fact you are a strong person. Hold on to that fact, take the time to examine your feelings along with your hopes for the future, and then start to get involved again.