Feeling lonely sucks!
And I know all about this. I have struggled with the feeling of lonely for a very long time. For people who know me this might come as a surprise as I have a large social network around me. But despite having a large social network I go through phases when I feel extremely lonely.
You might relate to this or recognise yourself in what I want to share in this post.
My coping mechanism is to run away. Not literally running, but as in moving myself away from the situation. Distracting myself, hiding myself and pretending I am okay. I sometimes use travel as a way to distract myself, as a way to focus on something different but I also use sleeping to not having to feel the pain.
Loneliness became my comfort partner. And even though it was a struggle every day it was also a safe place. I knew what to expect. It wasn’t till I started doing deep healing work on myself that I realised I had been feeling lonely for a very long time.
Growing up I got bullied at school and it made me feel left out and alone. It made me feel different from the rest and not belonging.
Later in life, I experienced what it is like to feel lonely in a relationship. (I will write a seperate blog post about this in the near future)
In the late 2000’s I immigrated to Australia, the country of my dreams. I started a new life and I LOVED it but there were also times where I missed the Dutch culture, the Dutch openess, my Dutch friends. And so I ended up again, feeling alone and depressed.
When I was in my early 40’s I closed a big chapter of my life. I ended my career, sold pretty much everything I owned and changed direction. This all felt great and exactly what I needed and wanted but it also drag me down again in this negative, downward spiral of loneliness. Welcome midlife crisis…
It was like loneliness became an addiction. It was holding me in its claws and it felt it was impossible to escape.
Fast forward, I have proved myself and those claws wrong. It’s been a hard fight but I now have a deeper understanding of what triggers my feeling of loneliness. I know what I have to do to change my state, my mindset and redirect my focus. It has not been easy, over time loneliness has become such an engrained (unconscious) pattern that it doesn’t take much to get triggered again.
The more I talked to other people the more I realised how many people suffer from the feeling of loneliness. To be honest I was quite shocked to see that women in all different phases in their lives are struggling with this. I became so passionated about everything that has to do with loneliness, that it is now the main focus in The Wander with Purpose project. Helping other women to overcome the feeling of loneliness and find their spark again.
There are a few things you can start doing yourself right now and I’ll share those tips later in this blog.
We all feel lonely from time to time.
Feelings of loneliness are personal and everyone will experience loneliness in a different way.
Have you ever wondered that even though you have friends and family you still feel very lonely?
Do you feel guilty you feel lonely despite having a social network around you?
There’s evidence that suggests loneliness naturally rises and falls throughout our lifetimes. We all go through phases where we feel stuck or lost. When we don’t know what we want to do with our lives. And it might feel like no one understands you which will leave you feeling very alone and lonely.
But when does loneliness become a state of distress or discomfort?
The pain of loneliness is a reminder that we need to be around people. Loneliness is the feeling of being alone, regardless of the amount of social contact.
It does not effect certain people but it can overcome anyone. It is as tied to the quality of one’s relationship as it is to the number of connections one has. A lack of authenticity in relationships can result in feelings of loneliness.
Why not extend your social network one might ask?
There’s evidence that lonely individuals can pick up on signals of potential rejection more quickly than others. Perhaps to better avoid it and protect themselves. Therefor the step to create new connections is much more difficult.
Ones you’re aware of this it will be easier to form new relationships.
A person feeling lonely will try many different ways to cope with this destructive emotion. It might result is trouble sleeping, or sleeping too much, using sleeping as a way to block out the emotion. It might result in depression, serious threats to well-being as well as long term physical health.
Symptoms of loneliness.
Loneliness can show up in many different ways for different people. And that is okay.
A few of those symptoms are:
- Overwhelming feeling of isolation regardless of where you are and who’s around.
- Negative feelings of self-doubt and self-worth.
- Depressive feelings.
- Lack of interest in things, other people and life.
- Increased levels of stress.
- Puts your life on hold.
- Feelings of anxiety and depression.
- Stops you from moving forward in life.
- Difficult to set goals for yourself.
- Feeling ashamed and worried what others will think.
- Not knowing what to do with your life.
Loneliness can also mainfest itself in physical symptoms such as:
- Weight gain or loss
- Sleep deprivation
- Weakened immune system
- Sensation of deep saddness
Personally, I also struggle with the fear of rejection which makes it even harder for me to make new connections. And by not making new connections I keep myself stuck in the loop of feeling lonely.
Tips how to overcome loneliness:
1) Talk to people.
Loneliness is a topic that’s rather being avoided. But you’ll be surprised how many people struggle with loneliness and what a relief it is to find out that you are not the only one.
For me it has been very helpful to be able to talk to other people who also felt lonely or stuck in life.
2) What lights up your spark?
What gets you out of bed in the morning? What lights up your spark?
It is very important to work out what you’re passionate about. This will help you to set goals and have something to look forwards to. It helps you to have something to do and gets you out of that negative spiral.
I am not saying it is going to be easy and you might need some help to discover what it is you’re truly passionate about.
3) Awareness, Acceptance, Action
When you want to change an unwanted pattern or thought pattern, firstly you have to become aware of what is happening. Awareness of what triggers you, what your response is, what feelings it might bring up for you.
Secondly you want to accept that that is what is happening at the moment. This doeesn’t mean that you’ll keep doing this!
Instead of beating yourself up that, again, a situation or thought has triggered you into the feeling of loneliness, accept that this has happened and that you have the power to change this.
Thirdly, take ACTION! You have the power to change your mind and therefor your actions.
For example; How would you rather react/respond when your friend doesn’t have time for a catch up?
Would you rather do something positive for yourself instead of feeling alone?
Create a list for yourself with positive actions you can take!!
4) Professional support.
Instead of fighting your thoughts, states, patterns and emotions on willpower, realising this is not working and sinking deeper and deeper in a negative spiral, ask for professional help and support.
There are many different mental health professionals out there who can support and help you navigate through this.