Loneliness and isolation, yuck! We all know these are not good feelings. Yet they are feelings we will all most likely experience at some time or another in our lives, especially during or after a pandemic!
The feelings of loneliness and isolation can leave us feeling paralyzed, depressed, alone, disconnected, hopeless. Sometimes, they can even lower our immune system function. Because of all this, it’s crucial to have effective tools to work with these emotions and overcome them.
Many times, in my life, I have felt the harsh slap of loneliness and bone-crushing feeling of isolation. And yet today, although these feelings may arise from time to time, I no longer feel overwhelmed by them.
How did I get from the place of being overwhelmed by these feelings to more freedom?
Simple. I used strategies that work!
Here are the 5 Effective Tips and Strategies that I’ve used for Coping with Loneliness and Isolation. I hope they help you too!
- Realize you are not your feelings and you are not alone
- Meet your feelings with openness and curiosity
- Reframing changes your perspective to a more empowered one
- Self-care acknowledges your value and enriches others
- Expressive writing conjures up feelings of connection
Realize you are not your feelings and you are not alone
The realization that you havefeelings, and that you are notyour feelings, can be a massive step in creating more spaciousness around what you are feeling.
Why is this important?
Once you have created that spaciousness around what you are feeling, it is much easier to let the feelings be there without being consumed or overwhelmed by them. You can notice even the feelings of isolation or loneliness for what they are, emotions, and not you!
Think of it like this. It’s as if you were the train station, and you’re feeling the trains coming and going out of the station. With this new shift of awareness, if you decide you would like to get on the train, you can, but you can also choose to let the trains go by without jumping on.
Creating spaciousness around what we are feeling is empowering and gives rise to a new awareness that will enrich your life.
Also, we gain a sense of connection to others when we realize we are not alone in our feelings of isolation and loneliness. We can find comfort in our shared human condition. It’s worthwhile to recognize that it is an integral part of our individual and collective growth.
This connection to others gives meaning to our feelings and allows us to be motivated by them instead of debilitated by them. When I know others are struggling in similar ways, I feel moved to help! It gives me greater motivation beyond myself.
Meet your feelings with openness and curiosity
Most of us are pretty selective about which types of emotions we prefer. There are some feelings we welcome with open arms, while other emotions we reject because they don’t make us feel good.
In every feeling, though, there is a revelation waiting to be discovered about what we are yearning to express in our lives.
This reminds me of a moment just this last Thursday when I started to notice some feelings of loneliness creeping into my thoughts. I was by myself packing up my computer after a day’s work. I just sat there at my desk, squeezing my laptop satchel against my chest, wondering whether I was about to choke back some unexpected tears. I stayed in the moment instead of dashing away, so I could allow myself to sit with these feelings openly and be curious about what they were trying to show me. As I paused in the stillness of that experience, I began to see how this feeling of loneliness merely revealed my own desire to express myself more. I had been wanting to feel more connected and intimate with my own life.
For each person, of course, this exploration can lead to very different realizations.
Only through this openness and curiosity with what we are feeling can we begin to mine the gifts of what our emotions are trying to share with us about our deeper desires. Being curious is the key.
James Cameron said it perfectly when he said,
“Curiosity is the most powerful thing you own,”
as it can lead you to profound discoveries about yourself, your inner world, and the world at large.
Reframing changes your perspective to a more empowered one
Our feelings are products of our thoughts, and the two are intimately married.
Therefore, our emotions can help point us back to our ideas and help us recognize if they are empowering or disempowering.
If we find that we are having disempowering thoughts, we can reframe those thoughts to help give us a different, more confident, and empowering perspective on the same situation.
A great example of this comes from an experience that happened less than a few weeks ago:
I was feeling sad that I could not go to see my mom, as she has some pre-existing health conditions that put her at greater risk for infection from the Covid-19 threat. As many wise people have done in her shoes, she was self-quarantined.
I noticed that my predominant thought was that I couldn’t see my mother.
Once I made the effort to reframe that emotion with another thought:
I, too, am choosing not to see my mother at this time so she can remain as healthy and safe as possible,
I noticed a massive positive change in how I was feeling.
Even though the situation had not changed, my feelings about it had. All this stemmed from that simple reframe. Suddenly, I felt empowered and happy. This was because of my new viewpoint — my own new awareness that I was choosing to do something that helped my mother.
Another example for those struggling in the case of feeling isolated is to change from the following thought:
“I am forced to be by myself at this time, and I can’t do the things I want”
to this other perspective:
“I am choosing more solitude for myself and getting an opportunity to explore new hobbies and interests while I keep myself and others healthy.”
Reframing is a very transformative tool that you can use at any time to quickly change your perspective and create more optimism, freedom, and resourcefulness in even the most challenging of situations.
The following article from Psychology today highlights reframing’s transformative powers in the face of some of life’s most challenging problems. https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/stronger-the-broken-places/201712/reframing
Self-care acknowledges your value and enriches others
When we are feeling lonely and isolated, we often find that we are either missing the feeling being cared for or the feeling of caring for others. In these unprecedented times, learning how to provide ourselves with self-care can be a gamechanger, both now and for the rest of our lives.
You may be asking what self-care has to do with overcoming feelings of loneliness and isolation? It has everything to do with it. Because self-care is an act of nurturing one’s self through small daily acts and helps one recognize and appreciate their value, and the acts themselves are a contribution to society.
A great example of this is when I take the time to do my breathwork practice each day; I can be more present. This makes for more pleasant experiences for me, my family, coworkers, and people I encounter throughout my day.
Another great example is when I take the time to nourish myself with good, healthy foods. I feel good, and others feel nourished being around me. Plus, our healthcare system has a reduced burden of one less person to care for.
There are a multitude of ways that one can practice self-care to help overcome feelings of loneliness and isolation. You will find the practice of self-care enables you to overcome much more!
Expressive writing conjures up feelings of connection
Expressing ourselves is something we often do when we are talking with someone else. Through this exchange, we get a chance to share our thoughts, opinions, and feelings, and hopefully feel heard and acknowledged.
However, if talking is the only way we express ourselves, we may be very limited. And if, in the talking, we don’t find people who recognize our feelings and opinions, then we can be left feeling even more lonely and isolated.
Having a way to express oneself that does not need to be acknowledged by anyone else is freeing and empowering.
I’ve found that writing out my thoughts and feelings gives me a chance to freely express what I would not choose to share with others. Sometimes when writing, I might even encounter things that are hard to admit to myself. I find this process transformative, liberating, and healing!
Anne Frank described the power of expressive writing perfectly when she wrote:
“I can shake off everything as I write, my sorrows disappear, my courage is reborn.”
Also, Carl Jung says
Loneliness does not come from having no people around you, but from being unable to communicate the things that seem important to you.”
Writing is a powerful avenue that allows us to communicate the things that are important to us, whether we are alone or with others.
The Harvard health article linked here below shares the ways expressive writing can be a powerful antidote for overcoming feelings of loneliness and isolation. This act of writing gives us the ability to connect both through memories and with current direct felt experience. My own experience leads me to side with the latter as being the most powerful!
Expressive writing is a doorway to connection and freedom. Once you enter, you won’t want to shut it!
Life is full of adversity, challenges, and uncertainty. The good news is — this is the fertile ground for our growth. The feelings of loneliness and isolation themselves are also part of that fertile ground.
The key to cultivating any fertile ground is practice. These strategies will lay the foundation for powerful methods that will bear tremendous fruits far beyond overcoming feelings of loneliness and isolation. All you have to do is be open and curious enough to try them!