Being surrounded by friends and family is always enjoyable, but there is unique enjoyment found in some quality alone time. Whether it’s binge-watching a Netflix show or going out to do some shopping, the occasional me and only me time almost feels like a must, especially after a stressful week. So while there can be a negative predisposition when it comes to distancing ourselves from others, being by ourselves doesn’t necessarily mean we’re lonely.
According to Sarah Adler, PsyD, "Being alone is actually just a state; it means that you are not with other people. Loneliness is an emotion, which describes a feeling of sadness attributed to not having connection." It’s true that the desire to be alone and having moments of loneliness only make us human, but sometimes being lonely can take its toll. On this year’s mental health awareness month, The Mental Health Foundation seeks to incite discussions on the impact of loneliness to people and how it drives the decline of their mental state.
What’s unfortunate is loneliness cannot magically disappear by spending time with others. It can strike both when we’re alone and with company. When it gets worse, it can decrease our comfort and confidence being around others, so much so that we start to disconnect from the world. What makes it all the more frustrating is that sometimes, we feel empty and alone for a reason that isn’t apparent to us. Along with the stigma that we could simply stop being lonely if we just “put ourselves out there”, it can be quite a burden to our mental health.
What can you do when you’re going through a long period of loneliness?
Admit you’re lonely.
The first step is always acceptance. Many try to deny their feelings or charge it to other factors that are beyond their control. The silver lining of loneliness is that there is something you can do about it. Despite discouraging stereotypes, there is braveness found in acknowledging that you’re not exactly in the best mental state.
Healing is never linear nor is it quick. Take one step at a time and celebrate even the smallest of wins! There are things that may ease your loneliness, and others that surprisingly make it worse. As cliche as it sounds, keep going!
Face your fears.
Though it may be uncomfortable and challenging to put yourself in a situation that requires some social battery, do it! Join a class or a club and find yourself meeting people with common interests who, like you, may also be in need of company and meaningful connection.
Schedule your days and try to stick to it!
Being lonely can sometimes feel incapacitating and inescapable. Injecting a routine in your daily life can not only keep you positively distracted, but it can also add structure to and a sense of control over your life. But be wary of overscheduling and overplanning to push aside your own feelings! It may work for a while, but you’ll find ignoring your emotions will only make them worse.
Talk to a professional.
A psychologist or a psychiatrist will guide you through your loneliness. Talking to a professional will help you understand your feelings, find the root of your loneliness, and eventually find some healing.
One of the greatest ironies is that feeling lonely is a universal thing. The truth is, it’s not easy to rid ourselves of feelings of loneliness. But the fact that you reached the end of this article is already a good sign: you’re already looking for ways to help yourself! That makes all the difference in the world already.