Do not attempt to run from your loneliness by zoning out for hours on end with Netflix or video games, consuming too much alcohol or other substances, or over-eating. Trying to escape loneliness that way might give you some reprieve in the short-term, but those strategies will suck the life out of you in the long-term.
Trying to avoid or suppress feelings actually has a rebound effect in that they become stronger and more invasive in our lives. Avoidance is not a benign strategy and can have catastrophic results.
Pay attention on purpose. Slow down, notice and name it. For example, “I am feeling lonely. It feels heavy and sluggish in my heart.”
Can you let this feeling be there just as it is, without judging or evaluating it? Without reacting to it? Can you just slow down and let your body feel what it is feeling? Can you let go of the urge to do anything at all with this feeling of loneliness? This is a normal response to an abnormal situation and your body is wise to this, so let it be.
Make an intention. Ask yourself, “What will I do with this feeling of loneliness now? My mind sees this as something that makes me weaker, unlovable and sad. But I choose not to buy into this. I accept that this loneliness is mine. What will I do with it now that it is here?”
The way out of this suffering is to behave your way out of it.Changing your behaviour will change the way people interact with you and will also change the way you interact with yourself. Make an intention to change your behaviour while holding the loneliness lightly, as you might hold a butterfly on your hand.
Expand your experience. You’re not going to shrink away from your experience of loneliness, but rather learn from it. We hurt where we care. Loneliness tells us that we care deeply about relationships. If we didn’t, we wouldn’t feel anything at all.
You will learn that your experience cannot bring you to your knees or ruin your life. You will learn that you can go through hell on earth and still treat yourself in a non-judgmental, non-reactive way. You will learn to wrap yourself in the warmth of self-kindness – even in moments of loneliness – and expand out into life to be part of this world.
If you are reading this, you already have at least one technology that you will use to move forward with a new meaning. How you take control over what you do have control over – your behaviour – will be up to you, so choose something that you value.
People all over this planet are getting creative with ways to connect with each other. Stay connected to those you love. Use your phone or software such as Skype or Zoom. Use whatever floats your boat, just remain consistently connected.
There’s a virtual world out there for everyone. You can access therapy, support groups, entertainment of all kinds, exercise of all kinds, and even stream from your local library. How about taking that online course right now that you’ve been putting off? The great thing is that you can connect with a resource anywhere in the world.
The take-away message is this: Feel what you feel and make an intention to change your behaviour. Expand your world even if has to be online right now. Talk with people, laugh with people and cry with people.
The point is to emotionally connect during these especially lonely times. Texting, emailing, speaking, video-conferencing – the sky's the limit. Change your behaviour and change your life. Self-isolation need never mean emotional isolation.
Ann Marie Gaudon is a registered social worker and psychotherapist in the Waterloo region of Ontario, Canada with a specialty in chronic pain management. She has been a chronic pain patient for over 30 years and works part-time as her health allows. For more information about Ann Marie's counseling services, visither website.