Isolation and solitude, is defined as being separate from other people and their environment. You may recognise the times when you’ve wanted to be alone and therefore you feel comfortable with it, but that is very different from feeling lonely. There is nothing wrong with socially isolating when being alone is a choice, and when it’s about finding rest through solitude, but it’s a dangerous condition when a person has little or no contact with others and become unable to find ways to reconnect. Spending too much time alone can have harmful consequences if people aren’t careful to understand the importance and necessity to reach out and reconnect with others.
For families who are coping with living on top of one another can too be suffering the effects of loneliness, because loneliness is not necessarily about being alone. It is possible to feel lonely even when you are surrounded by people and even if you have a full active life. Carl Jung says that ‘Loneliness does not come from having no people around you, it comes from being unable to communicate the things that seem important to you’. Loneliness is the painful yearning to be more connected to others and when you’re unable to find ways to reach out.
Whether you live alone or are surrounded by family, if you feel alone, then loneliness is about your mental state of mind. Studies show that feeling lonely or being socially disconnected can increase the risk to our physical health, such as developing high blood pressure and stress, and to our mental health such as depression, sadness, distress and even aggression.
Loneliness is painful, full stop. If you are feeling alienated from people and the environment and you experience the somatic feelings of sorrow and the painful feelings of emptiness, then you are suffering from loneliness. Chronic loneliness makes people believe they are unwanted and unloved by others and that their emotional needs are unworthy of being met. It’s an attack on ones self-esteem and that can lead to the outward expression of social anxiety and chronic shyness or depression.
As humans, we are sentient beings and we evolve emotionally and physically by feeling connected to one another. Whatever your set-up is during this lock-down, remember, you are not alone at coping with the magnitude of the current climate of the Covid-19 pandemic. If it brings you any comfort, we are all in this together! It’s normal to feel lonely from time to time, but have faith, you’ll make it out stronger than you think!
Here are some ways to cope with loneliness:
- Observe the feeling: Notice that you are feeling lonely and where you experience it in your body
- Sit with the feeling: Don’t try to judge or change the feeling but feel and listen to it. Perhaps journal how it feels to you as it can help you determine the source of your loneliness
- Honour the loneliness: Notice that you value connection with others and yourself. Connection is an emotional need for all of us to feel
- Understand your loneliness: respect that it means something in your situation needs to change
- Seek healthy connections: Spend time connecting with others who feel good and safe to you. Focus on developing quality relationships with people who share similar interests as you. Online connections offer great opportunities to meet
- Begin to expect the best: Lonely people often expect rejection so focus on positive thoughts and attitudes in your social relationships
- Nurture ‘me’ time: Perhaps the person you are missing and need to re-connect to is yourself. Give yourself your own time, care and attention