With technology these days, we can literally transport ourselves into another home on the other side of the world…to laugh and cry with our family and friends.
But the truth is, many of us feel more disconnected than ever.
Why? And what is the solution to overcoming loneliness and isolation?
Where do we start with Overcoming Loneliness and Isolation?
Many of us have left our communities of origin searching for careers, love, adventure, and more. These communities traditionally supplied us with safety, comfort, and support. When we felt lonely or isolated, we could come back to our center and be soothed, understood, or supported.
But this fracture is also being played out in the networks we built around us for the same visceral feeling of connection. We have had to become mobile and flexible to survive. Working from home or remotely, and schooling online. Even exercise has had to become a singular activity to reduce viral transmission.
The supportive networks we have built up around ourselves are being dismantled before our very eyes, and it often feels like we can’t do anything to save them.
Even though technology has given us advances to stay connected, it has also made us more disconnected. We spend hours plugged into our phones and computer. Hours spent sitting down in front of screens, transfixed. Exercising in front of screens. Relaxing in front of screens.
This loneliness isn’t about being physically distanced from someone; it’s also the emotional and psychological distance. We all uniquely experience this.
In the end, we feel left out, poorly understood, devoid of companionship, and lacking compassion towards ourselves and others.
If we are going to be honest, loneliness has been on the rise for years. We have all seen it slowly seeping its way into our lives or those around us. The pandemic has made the bubble burst. We can not deny the physical, mental, and emotional toll uncovered by this public health crisis.
Unfortunately, there is no pill, quick fix, or even green juice to fix loneliness.
We have to understand how it manifests and then what to do to overcome our loneliness.
What is loneliness and isolation?
Loneliness takes many forms. But it is primal. It is our body telling us we need something, like hunger and thirst. It is visceral yet subjective. You know what it feels like, but for everyone, it is different.
For many people, loneliness comes and goes. It is circumstantial, painful, but transitory. For others, it can continue for long periods. It can be an unrelenting feeling of separation and the inability to connect to others on a deeper level. It can also manifest feelings of low self-worth and low self-esteem.
It can be triggered by changes in personal circumstances, loss of a relationship or person, lack of meaningful interactions or connections, and even anxiety and depression.
What are the signs of loneliness and isolation?
Most people will be able to pinpoint the gnawing feeling of emptiness or feelings of lack after a period of self-reflection. But some of the feelings that accompany loneliness are not so obvious. Other less obvious signs include a decreased appetite, weakened immune system, increased restlessness, fatigue, cravings for safety and warmth, sometimes manifesting as ‘needy or dependent behaviors.’
People often act out with behaviors that actively block emotions, such as binge shopping, eating, or Netflix bingeing. If the loneliness becomes chronic, it can manifest into some genuine and dysfunctional coping mechanisms such as addiction.
Although we look at all these signs and associate them with mental health problems, the CDC has found that loneliness puts you at an increased risk of premature death. It also leads to an increased risk of heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and dementia.
How can I overcome loneliness and isolation?
While there is no one way to completely eliminate feelings of loneliness, we can relieve the feeling loneliness and build our resilience to it in the future.
Disconnect to reconnect
The hardest first, right? It is easy to believe that everyone else’s reels and stories are perfect, and they are not struggling. But the truth is, no one wants you to see their vulnerabilities, so they don’t put them on social media. If social media is triggering your feelings of loneliness, set time limits on your apps or completely eliminate your social media apps for a set period.
Exercise is known to increase serotonin levels which is the happiness hormone. You don’t have to go ‘all out.’ Mild to moderate exercise is enough to improve your mood. Doing it in the daylight enhances the effect.
Connect with Nature
Doing exercise is excellent, but doing it in nature is even better. Even if it is a quick walk around the park and noticing the birds and trees. Things we usually take for granted. Reconnecting with nature and getting a good dose of vitamin D does wonders for your serotonin levels as well.
Take some time out to recognize your loneliness triggers and how you feel. Identify the emotions, name them, and accept that they are present. Then start to work on ways, either alone or with someone else, to overcome them healthily.
Talk with someone
It can be challenging to speak up when you are lonely. Everyone feels like they are the only one who is experiencing loneliness. Remember, we are all in this together. You will definitely find someone willing to hear you when you want to share how you are feeling. Sometimes all we need is to voice our feelings to relieve the angst.
Commit to people and relationships
It is very easy to go it alone. But when you put relationships first, the outcomes can be beneficial, no matter what you do. Make plans with friends, so you have something to look forward to. Volunteer with a local charity to make connections with people who have similar interests. Focus on committing to others. This will build your community and help you during tough times.
Take time to connect to yourself
It is time to feel comfortable with yourself and do things that fill you up as a person. Find ways to be accepting of yourself or, dare we say, love yourself. You will develop comfort in being alone because you know that you are OK, just the way you are. Sometimes our loneliness is because we don’t like being around ourselves! Accepting who you are develops more robust relationships all around.
If your loneliness is relentless, you need to seek support from a professional who can help you. When people are lonely and isolated, they don’t feel like putting their hands up. But please remember, you deserve to feel peace and joy. There is no shame in needing help to get there.
You are not alone in this. We all have feelings of loneliness and isolation. The thing is to recognize it and do something about it before it gets troublesome. If you think someone might be struggling with loneliness or isolation, put your hand out and ask if they need some help. I’m sure it would be appreciated.