A Conversation About Loneliness & How To Tackle It

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A few years ago I would have been embarrassed to admit that I ever felt lonely. Nowadays, with a few more years of my twenties under my belt, I’m not fussed. Loneliness is a subject which affects us all at some point. 

Perhaps you’ve moved to a new place, recently had a baby, or are feeling ‘lost’ (even despite having a hectic social life).

Feeling lonely at times is SO normal.

Although I must prefix this post by mentioning that if you sense that your feelings of loneliness could be part of a wider health concern, then please do consult your doctor. Again – there’s no shame in doing this!

For this post, I’m talking about the day to day pangs of loneliness we will all – most likely – feel at some point.

With the advent of social media, it can feel like everyone is connected, when in fact how ‘connected’ you really feel is something only you can know. 

Today I’m sharing a little about my own experiences of loneliness, and what I’ve learnt about combatting feelings of isolation. 

I hope that in doing so, it’ll help to ease off some of the power loneliness can hold, and help you to feel less alone if and when you go through it.

“how ‘connected’ you really feel is something only you can know.”

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What Is Loneliness? 

First up, let’s look at what loneliness actually is. 

When I look up ‘loneliness’ in the Dictionary, it’s described as a sense of friendless-ness, or isolation. It can also mean a remote-ness of location.

While this is helpful, the Dictionary definition doesn’t necessarily sum up how it  feels to be lonely. Or the at-times-confusing juxtaposition of circumstances. You can have a busy social life, be in a relationship, and interact well at work, and still feel lonely.

This article on The Chalkboard Mag by Katie Horwitch is so beautiful, and this quote really rings true:

“The opposite of loneliness isn’t just togetherness, it’s connection.”

For me loneliness takes the form of a ‘disconnection’ from my life.

It’s when I feel alone, even when in company. And it’s when I feel most adrift. Often I’ll feel insecure, and lean towards introversion. 

Loneliness will look different for everyone, and I encourage you to get to know what it looks like for you so that you can recognise it when it hits. 

Here are a few times when it’s hit me full pelt . . .

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3 Times I’ve Felt Lonely 

Living in London (For Some Of The Time)

A few years ago I shared my experience of leaving London to move to the countryside. 

To date it’s my most-read blog post. I think a large part of that is because I acknowledged how lonely I felt for some of my time in London.

Just because you’re surrounded by people doesn’t mean that you feel like you’re a part of something.

For me, during that season in my life, my aloneness derived from a huge pressure to ‘figure my life out’. I’d just graduated and I felt disconnected from my path, myself and the people closest to me. 

Ultimately my biggest takeaway from that period of isolation, was to prioritise my own wellbeing and to lead, as much as I can, a values-based life. Oh – and to celebrate the little wins more! Since doing that, and consistently prioritising my health, I’ve felt SO much more connected to my path. And therefore, to myself and the people around me. 

Scrolling Through Social Media

Being a blogger, you’d think that I’d know the pitfalls of social media, comparison and isolation, and yet I still fall prey to it!

I know, perhaps more than most, that social media presents a curated representation of someone’s life, but when I’m already in a funk, it’s hard not to feel those pangs of comparison creep in. 

I’ve felt lonely scrolling through social media for sure. You see other people’s achievements, experiences and ‘squads’ and measure your own life against what you see. 

What I’ve come to realise is that I tend to come up against those uncomfortable feelings when I’m already in a funk. So now I try to avoid social media altogether when I’m not on top form. 

I like to remember during these times to: “disconnect to reconnect”. 

Disconnect from the digital world, and reconnect with YOU. 

When you’re back online, hopefully you’ll have a healthier outlook and can scroll away with aplomb! 

“Disconnect from the digital world, and reconnect with YOU.”

Working From Home 

One of the most common times I’ve felt lonely in recent years is when I’ve been working from home with little-to-no respite. 

Sometimes I’ll get into the swing of a working week, and literally forget to go outside. 

Not good. 

Inevitably those weeks lead to cabin fever, and I feel pretty lonely. Even with Oli’s lovely face popping into my office to say “hello!”. 

During heavy work weeks, I’ve now learnt to organise evening things with friends. It’s so important to get outside, and have a conversation outside of your working world. 

Similarly, Oli and I will take the opportunity to go for a walk at lunchtime if we’re both in and it’s a nice day. 

It also helps hugely to have a work wife (thanks for the terminology Anna!), and Ella and I often check in throughout our days which goes a long way in combatting those feelings of loneliness. 

If I find myself mulling over a work problem, I do my best to share it.

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How Can You Combat Loneliness? 

1 – Acknowledge It

Loneliness is not a dirty word!

Acknowledge your loneliness, and lean into it. 

I love the term ‘epic empathy’ – something I learnt from Jess Lively. Allow yourself epic empathy for exactly how you are feeling.

I’ve found that the moment you identify loneliness, and allow yourself to feel exactly how you feel without judgement, the loneliness loosens its grip and you can begin to put a path in place to alleviate it.

2 – Tell Someone

I know all too well how nerve-wracking it can be to admit to someone else that you’re feeling lonely.

But loneliness is often not about ‘being alone’, it’s a feeling of disconnect. By sharing with people, you’re immediately creating connection. Thus taking one big step towards feeling less lonely. If you feel awkward using the word “lonely” explain the situation in broader terms. Loneliness is often a symptom of a bigger struggle anyway.

Tell someone. Tell a friend, even if you haven’t seen them in months. Starting to build your intimate relationships again, has been proven to help ease off loneliness. 

I remember when I told my first few friends how much I’d been struggling when I was living in London. They opened up about how they’d gone through EXACTLY the same feelings themselves!

Knowing that you can open up to people, and being vulnerable with them, is one of the most powerful ways to create connection.

3 – Work On Your Self-Confidence

Loneliness can impact your self-confidence. If you’re already feeling introverted, being alone can feel like a security blanket, but in my experience isolating yourself only leads to more feelings of loneliness.  

Try writing down all of your achievements (big and small), re-acquainting yourself with your core values, and getting outside more. 

Start working on yourself.

Then, even the smallest of interactions can begin to build your confidence again. It may sound silly, but even consciously making eye contact with people, being confident when you order your coffee, smiling at people when they catch your eye . . . it all helps!

I also recommend joining creative classes (Hero has a fantastic offering), a gym, and any other type of social group you can. Especially if you’ve moved to a new area, it can feel like your ‘tribe’ is far away, so start putting the foundations in place for new connections.

Remember, you absolutely have something unique and valuable to add. I like to remind myself of this when I’m in need of a boost.

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A Note On Friendship

I know when people hear the term ‘lonely’, they may associate it with a lack of friendship, or close relationships. I sympathise with this so much, and know how difficult it can be if you find yourself moving to a new place, or losing touch with friends. 

I’m working on another piece about making friends after a big move, but in the mean time you may like to listen to this recent Let’s Discuss Podcast episode – Making Friends In Your 20s.

OVERALL 

I’ve learnt that loneliness, for me, is a feeling of disconnection. It’s not based on how successful I am, how many friends I have, or if I’m in a loving relationship, it’s all about how intimately connected I am to every facet of my life. 

When I feel present, I never feel lonely. Even if I am literally alone. 

What I’ve learnt from this is that prioritising the things which help me to feel my most ‘present’, is the best defence I have for staving off bouts of loneliness.

Note: a regular G&T date with your bestie can go a long way in helping too!

What’s Your Take?

I’d love to know if you empathise with this? Have you ever felt lonely, despite everything seemingly being ‘ok’? And how did you go about helping yourself?

Love, Monica x

** Photography by Brandon Hill (top image), all other photos by Charlotte Bryer-Ash **

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