Individuals of all ages, in various phases of life, experience loneliness at some point in their lives. Whether you’re going through a breakup, grieving the loss of a loved one, or experiencing physical isolation from others, it can be easy to feel alone. There are also cases in which, despite being surrounded by others and having access to regular social events, you may not feel as though you belong, increasing a sensation of isolation. Professionals like those at Arcara Psychiatry know how to approach these emotions with intentional strategies and help you feel more connected with others.
Often, in moments of loneliness, we take to social media platforms to fill the void of human interaction. However, studies show that this strategy can negatively affect our feeling of support and stability. There are other strategies to cope with loneliness that can provide more reliable sources of interaction and emotional support during times of need.
What is loneliness?
Loneliness has less to do with your access to human interaction and more to do with feeling isolated from others around you. Even if you’re in a crowd of people, it is possible to feel alone still if you get the sense that you don’t belong.
There are several signs that you may be feeling lonely:
- Are you getting enough sleep?
- You may start to notice that you are feeling tired throughout the day or cannot fall asleep at night.
- Are you gaining weight?
- You may be unknowingly compensating for feelings of loneliness by consuming comfort foods, eating more frequently, or snacking out of boredom. Additionally, loneliness can impact your level of motivation, which may influence your decision to stay on the couch instead of going outside or hitting the gym.
- Do you feel under the weather?
- Being lonely can impact your body’s ability to cope with stress, raising hormone levels, and making it more difficult to recover from stressful situations. This also means that our body’s immune system may be weaker than usual, making you more susceptible to illnesses.
- Are you taking more showers than normal?
- Our bodies are good about knowing what we need, often before we consciously recognize it. Physical warmth is a common substitute for social proximity. Steamy baths and warm drinks offer comfort during periods of loneliness, which is why you may find yourself craving a hot shower more frequently than usual.
- Are you having an atypical attachment to material items?
- If you are physically distant from other people, you might find yourself spending more time with your computer, phone, or TV. You may also discover a newfound attraction to your car, collector’s items, or recent online purchases. With prolonged lack of social interaction, material objects and personal belongings begin to take precedence over social relationships.
- Are you spending increased time on social media?
- Social networking often feels like an efficient way to connect with distant friends and family. It helps us stay in the know despite not being there in person to catch up or talk about recent events. However, it is merely a temporary way to relieve feelings of isolation. Social media can increase loneliness as others may be posting about their exciting activities with friends and loved ones, leaving you feeling inadequate or left out.
- Are you experiencing disproportionate emotional reactions?
- When stress levels rise due to hormonal imbalances, it can be challenging to maintain control over your emotions. Loneliness tends to exacerbate pessimism, stress, sadness, and anger.
- Are others around you expressing feelings of loneliness?
- If those closest to you are experiencing loneliness, it can influence your feelings of isolation and lack of connection. When both parties feel the distance, it can be more difficult to interact meaningfully.
How is loneliness associated with depression and chronic illness?
Feeling lonely can negatively impact your ability to cope with emotions. Additionally, loneliness can be a result of previously existing challenges such as depression and chronic illness. Individuals with chronic diseases tend to feel isolated from others because they cannot participate in activities due to physical or mental limitations. Pain, fatigue, anxiety, and depression can exacerbate loneliness because it makes it more difficult to be ourselves and connect with others.
Tools for coping with loneliness
Coping with loneliness can feel incredibly difficult if you are regularly physically distanced from others. Living or working alone can significantly impact feelings of loneliness and may require more strategy for integrating human interaction in your daily life. The first tool for coping with loneliness is recognizing and acknowledging its influence over your emotional state.
Some recommendations for overcoming loneliness are:
- Limit time on social media, especially if it leaves you feeling worse than before you logged on.
- Volunteer or get involved with local groups to meet new people and contribute to your community.
- Seek out local meetups where you can enjoy new spots in your area while meeting other people who are looking to combat loneliness.
- Practice self-care by exercising, prioritizing sleep, eating nourishing foods, and getting outside as frequently as you can.
- Join a support group.
- Spend quality time with pets.
- Plan a regularly occurring activity with friends or as part of a community group.
Loneliness can feel like a burden to carry alone. Seeking professional guidance will offer additional stability when it may feel challenging to care for your needs. The professionals at Arcara Psychiatry can provide coping mechanisms and a personalized approach to finding more meaningful social interaction. Merely talking to someone who understands how you’re feeling will help relieve the weight of loneliness.