Loneliness is something most people try to avoid. But being alone is an inevitable part of life, especially now if you’re coping with isolation due to the current global situation.
It happens to everyone at some time or another. It is important to be able to separate solitude from loneliness and to understand what is behind your feelings so you feel less lonely.
Even if you’re living along right now and can’t go out and socialize, there are things you can to do help feel less lonely!
Figure out why you feel lonely
This might seem obvious- especially if you’re reading this during the time where social distancing has become part of our new, semi-temporary ‘normal’. Coping with isolation that isn’t by choice can be very difficult and you should be gentle with yourself.
Some scientists believe loneliness is a basic emotion on a par with fear and anger. For millions of years, survival relied on being part of a group; being alone was risky. But now, a fear of loneliness can keep us in toxic relationships, unfulfilling jobs, and bad marriages. Identify what’s behind your fear of loneliness, and you can start to work on it.
Learn to understand your loneliness
Loneliness comes in many different guises. It can be temporary situational loneliness where you find yourself without company or help.
Or you can be going through a life crisis that results in more extended social isolation. A relationship breakdown, losing your job, or being seriously ill can all make you feel completely cut off from love and support.
Take some time to be alone with your thoughts and check in with yourself. See how you are coping with isolation, what specific needs are not being met and how you might be able to find a healthy substitute for the time being.
Learn to appreciate solitude
Solitude is quite a different state from loneliness. Artists, philosophers, and writers over the centuries have sought out solitude to think deeply and widely and to create their best work. Solitude can be a comfort in an overcrowded life. When you are by yourself, you can expand into being your true self.
If you are trying to cope with isolation, try to appreciate the alone time and put it to good use if at all possible. This doesn’t necessarily mean being regimented and productive, but even things like making time for creative outlets or other things that bring you joy.
Confront your deepest fears
Loneliness can be a product of the fundamental fear of separation that goes back to infancy. Separation means being vulnerable, having no one to rely on except yourself. This is the loneliness that realizes that in the end, there is nothing between you and the stars, no one to rescue you. That sort of existential fear can be scary. What are your deepest fears about being lonely? Identify them, acknowledge them, and take away some of their power over you.
Doing this while also coping with isolation can be tricky. If you feel overwhelmed, please reach out to a mental health professional.
Use self-actualizing practices to feel less lonely
Techniques like yoga, tai chi, and meditation can help you reconnect with your deepest self. Sitting alone in meditation separates you from the negative thought spirals and feelings that can make you feel so miserable. Use these tools to help you stay focused and in touch with your true self and remain connected to all life.
If life is crazy busy, check out this post on some self care exercises you can do in ten minutes or less.
Think of ways you can interact with others virtually to help feel less lonely
If coping with isolation has got you feeling super lonely, there’s always ways to reach out to others. Whether that’s through forums or shared interest groups on Facebook, or some of the more positive sub-Reddits (stay away from the darker stuff on the net if you’re feeling depressed/anxious).
Video games can be a great way to connect with folks who have a shared interest. My husband is still friends with a guy he met playing World of Warcraft more than a decade ago. In fact, he was a groomsman in our wedding!
Start a video group chat with your friends, look for silly games to play online like Skribbl.io or Words with Friends where you can connect with folks all over the world for a little bit of fun.
You can even start an online virtual book club or fan club.
The world is getting really creative with ways to have fun while isolating! Think of some of the neat things you’ve seen and figure out a way to get that social interaction you crave.
The most important thing you need to remember while coping with isolation:
You are never really alone. Even if you think you don’t matter, you do! I care about you and I don’t even know you, because we connected over this shared experience of isolation, and you’re here reading this post.
If you need someone to talk to and it’s not a crisis, check out 7 Cups of Tea. This site helped me immensely when I was going through a really dark time a few years back.
If you need help NOW, please reach out the crisis hotline at 1-800-273-8255.