COVID has given us a whole new normal. Some emotional effects of this pandemic may take a little while to kick in… but maybe we are well past lonely by now.
Loneliness can be destructive to mental health. Ways to combat this state of mind are: understanding the causes and challenging your ideas, being smart with social media use, staying busy, getting creative, and knowing your triggers.
First, let’s look at why you are lonely. No, I don’t mean the COVID-19 pandemic. I am talking about why you are having this feeling of loneliness inside of yourself. Loneliness is a feeling and not a certain set of circumstances that have been thrown at you. Circumstances may be a trigger, and we will talk about that too.
What Causes Loneliness?
So why does loneliness crawl into our hearts? You probably remember feeling lonely as early as you have memories for. You saw kids on the playground having fun without you. You felt isolated, stuck, homebound all day Saturday while your mom cleaned the bathroom.
In both of these scenarios, you felt very hopeless. You felt you couldn’t change the situation and you accepted your fate was just to live a lonely existence. Luckily, now that you are no longer six you can have more control over your circumstances and even more control over your state of mind.
We feel lonely when our social and emotional needs are not being met. Social loneliness is when there is not enough support from peers, friends, and family. You don’t have a confidante to share your funny stories with.
Emotional loneliness is when there is a lack of intimacy with close and exclusive relationships. However loneliness is not a fact, it is a feeling. A feeling can be influenced by a connection missing from our life, but understanding the emotional need gives you the ability to take care of yourself. This also gives you more control over your state of mind when you understand what got you there.
Sometimes the feeling of loneliness comes from triggers of lonely feelings from the past, or even fears for the future. It is important to keep your mind in the present where you have the most control.
Be Smart with Social Media Use
Social media is a great way to make meaningful connections. It is also a way to light a fear fire in your heart. Social media can feed feelings of loneliness when we have a fear of missing out or a fear of falling behind.
Seeing what other people are doing when they are not connecting with you will give you those feelings from the playground again. Seeing other people getting married or reaching goals you may also have, may trigger feelings of falling behind.
Limiting your time on social media is a good idea if you are struggling with these feelings. That way you get on and connect with the meaningful relationships, but get off before the endless scrolling begins.
Boredom is something that feeds that lonely state. Remember those long homebound Saturdays? The best way to combat boredom is to find a project where you have creative control and includes a sense of achievement.
Online classes can give you these two things as well as a little social connection. Many exercise classes you can join live and get feedback from the instructor. There may be a skill or hobby you have always thought about picking up. Online photography, poetry, and other art classes will give you a creative outlet you might not realize you need.
Even doing any of these things on your own will be very powerful for combating these helpless feelings of loneliness. Almost every hobby has an online forum of people who connect and grow with each other. You can always be a fly on the wall in any of those forums if you aren’t ready to reach out to people.
Get Creative with Relationships
If you are working from home and missing office life. You are not alone. Everybody from your office is doing the same thing. You aren’t the only one who is missing the jokes told while standing around waiting for the copy machine to work.
Phone calls, FaceTime, Marco Polo, and Zoom get-togethers are all ways that you can connect with colleagues in a way that brings office life back. No, it’s not the same, but it is something you can do and it will definitely make a difference.
One of the biggest mistakes you can make in this area is assuming that people are not interested in you. This is a story that you tell yourself to avoid being vulnerable or rejected. You are not as different as you let yourself think. People are hoping for connections the same way that you are.
Research has shown that a sense of purpose combats loneliness. Take your loneliness and use it as fuel to help others. Small gestures to connect with people who you think need it can go a long way with treating your own loneliness.
Drop a package off for someone, or offer to grocery shop for your neighbor. Serving other people fills you up with purpose and leaves less room for loneliness.
Know your Triggers
Identifying triggers for loneliness is best done when you are in high spirits. That way you can act to avoid them before you are completely bogged down. Do any of these next pieces of advice ring a bell for you?
Put the old photos of past relationships away. Take them off your phone.
Stop listening to that sad song in the car.
Don’t reminisce on past holidays and gatherings.
Limit your time talking to that friend who can’t say anything positive.
You need to add to your life what brings your focus to the present and the future. Try out some new music. Plan social connections for right now. Find something you are excited to do now. Focus on meaningful relationships that bring you positivity.
Have go-to activities when you are triggered. It will happen. Give yourself some grace. Your favorite TV show, movie, or book will help you get out of your head. Find a working strategy to shift the gears in your mind.
If a circumstance in your life feels overwhelming, get to know yourself. Try something out that feels foreign and you will discover your best ways to cope with the circumstances. You have control over your state of mind. When you don’t know what to do, don’t decide to do nothing. You are not a victim. You are a victor on the way to discovering your best self.