I’ve tasted loneliness, and like a hungry jackal in the night, it has tasted me too.
A certain amount of loneliness is normal. After all, if you are alone then it’s understandable to feel alone. You might be missing a person or a place (lonesome) or just feeling disconnected from life in general (lonely). Brief episodes of loneliness happen to all of us from time to time, but if the feeling persists day after day and dominates your waking moments then it’s time to take some action to get your train back on a track to somewhere better.
1 – COUNSELING – Paying $85 an hour to share your feelings with a professional counselor is not a sign of weakness, it’s part of taking care of yourself. I speak from experience when I say that truly, you will feel instantly better when the counselor tells you that many people struggle with loneliness and you are not alone in it.
2 – VOLUNTEER WORK – There is something about focusing on the needs of others that makes you forget about the crummy feelings that are bothering you. Try giving your time helping at a food bank, serving at a church dinner for the homeless or visiting old folks at a retirement home near you.
3 – FILLING YOUR CALENDAR – Create things to do, note them on a calendar and put it up where you can see it often. Regularly going for a walk, visiting the library, movies, an evening class, coffee break or a new Thai restaurant … the act itself isn’t as important as doing it regularly. Looking at that calendar every day will whisper to you that you are an organized, in-charge person with things to do and places to go. Soon you will feel (and be) more connected and not so alone.
4 – EXERCISE – The fact that exercise, any exercise, can positively affect your mood is well understood, so whether it’s a 20 mile bike ride or just a walk to the 7-11 to get a Banana Slurpee, get out there and move around in the world.
5 – EMERGENCY PLAN – Have a person in place to fall back on when #1 thru #4 above don’t seem to work. It could be calling for an emergency counseling session, coffee with a trusted friend or a phone call to a caring brother or sister … doesn’t matter as long as it’s someone that you know will help you. When loneliness engulfs you and you can’t shake it off, put your “emergency plan” into action to help you take charge of your feelings.
Knowing that “loneliness only happens to all of us” offers little consolation, but recognizing this dark feeling and taking charge of handling it will make you feel better and lead you to a more hopeful, bright clearing in the emotional jungle we all sometimes find ourselves lost in.