When being lonely moves to suffering in silence..
Hello Beautiful people! Today's blog is a heavy one for me; however, I am hoping that someone out there will benefit from this...
Yesterday I got a lengthy text from a friend of mine who is working from home; to protect her identity, I will refer to her as Cyn. Cyn is a sweet, intelligent, beautiful woman in her 40's who works in manage care. She has very few friends, no children nor a significant other; she is estranged from her siblings who live outside of New York. When we spoke, she conveyed to me the difficulties she is having working from home; then she said something that resonated- "I am so lonely it hurts"
Reading those words from her prompted me to reflect; I remember one of my earlier blogs discussed ignorance as a result of this current climate, but I did not think about the impact of loneliness for many who do not have strong social or family networks. I went in a little deeper. I believe as humans we do crave social connection; it begins the moment we first seek reassurance as infants from our parents, to want to "belong" in a crew or clique during our adolescent years, to cultivating adult relationships be it by friendship or intimacy; I refuse to believe that someone "wants" to be lonely.
When we crave company and don't have it, there is a propensity of feeling lost; there is a sense of wholeness when we are among those we care about. Research/science does not lie; loneliness not only negatively impacts the soul, but there is also influences our physical well-being; it has been connected to cardiovascular disease, poor immune system, and early mortality.
The fact that we are living this "abnormal new normal" doesn't help. Like Cyn, there are so many others who are experiencing loneliness; Cyn had the courage to admit her feelings of being lonely, many won't. With awareness and action, loneliness can be managed. Here are some of the strategies I shared with Cyn:
Keeping a schedule. Even if you are self-quarantined, try to keep a regular schedule as best as you can. Loneliness can feel like it is neverending; trying to make a day feel normal (as best as you can) will help you get through. Start off each day with a number of things that you will do; adopt the use of a journal to track how you're feeling and what you're doing.
Limit media consumption. One of the things that kept feeding Cyn's state of mind was watching the news whether it was local or national (CNN), all that is covered is everything related to coronavirus/COVID-19. Consuming too much news content can be overwhelming. It is ok to check the news say twice a day (I normally do 5 pm and 11 pm -but that's just me) let's keep it to a minimum.
Stay active. I continually stress the power of movement. If you spend time alone and not move, this can have a detrimental effect on your ability to maintain optimal mental health. Yoga or any at-home low impact workouts are beneficial. Walks around the block (practice social distancing or head out early morning) outside air and the sun are powerfully therapeutic.
Chat groups. Whether it is a Facebook group or QuarantineChat (a service specifically set up to help individuals connect during this pandemic) is a cool way to meet other people with shared interests or concerns.
Human connection. I saved this for last; we are social beings; Human connection is essential for us to overcome this pandemic. Instead of texting, call; hearing the voice of a friend or loved one is far more effective than looking on a phone screen and typing. If you are into technology and can't seem to give it a break, conduct a video call via Whatsapp, Zoom, FaceTime. Cyn and I are going to have dinner and wine this Friday through Zoom.
Being lonely is different from depression; if you or someone you know is depressed, experiencing anxiety or any mental health crisis, it is of the utmost importance to seek help. There are a number of mental health services available:
Crisis Text Line- text CRISIS to 741741
NYC Well- text WELL to 65173 or call 1.888.692.9355
The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline- 1.800.273.8255
"At the end of the day, tell yourself gently: I love you, you did the best you could today, and even if you didn't accomplish all you had planned, I love you anyway"