What To Do When You Are Lonely
Sometimes people can feel lonely in a crowded room and others can feel totally comfortable home alone all day. Being alone is not inherently an issue. Many ancient sages or meditation masters can be alone and content. But this might be after they have gone beyond individual ego, and no longer feel separation from Oneness of the universe.
But for most of us humans, biologically and emotionally, we are social beings. We live in a communities because we need to. We can't do everything alone. We need help. Collaboration is our biggest survival skill. Our species would die off without it. It's natural to feel loneliness when you feel apart from your community (Loneliness and What To Do About Loneliness).
You Can Feel Lonely and Be Independent
We have contradictory ideas in this culture, that we are weak if we can't do things independently. But nobody, least of all successful people, do everything alone. Think of the top executives- they don't do things alone. Same for life saving doctors- they don't do surgery alone. Think of world leaders-they don't do things alone. Independence is overrated.
Also, co-dependence has gotten a bad rap from substance abuse recovery terminology. Think of the word literally outside of recovery's negative connotation. It quite accurately describes life in my family. We all need each other and are there for each other.
I don't know anyone who does everything alone. Then why do we hold ourself to this standard? I'll tell you why. It is usually a question of worth. It is usually a sign that some has a low sense of self worth, when they feel like they should be doing things alone. It's a judgment against themselves.
Feeling Lonely Includes Feeling Upset
On the other hand, lonely is totally different. Lonely is usually upsetting. It brings a melancholy, or worse, depression. Lonely is isolation, it breeds negative self identity, increasing sadness and anxiety. When we feel lonely, we feel like nobody loves us. We remember all of the evidence that points to this fact. (And for some reason, our mind gets empty of all the evidence against it.)
Loneliness makes us think:
I ruin everybody else's life.
I can't call anyone because I will be bothering them.
Nobody wants to hear from me.
I make bad decisions, I just shouldn't make anymore.
I don't know how to act in social situations.
I am awkward.
I have nothing to offer.
I'm a dork.
I mess up everything.
I can't do anything right.
I can't trust anyone.
I hurt people.
Everyone hurts me.
I am worthless.
I am unlovable.
Nobody wants me there.
Everybody leaves me.
Any of these sound familiar?
Even if none of these are true (which I can assure you they aren't!), when we are alone, sad and anxious, each of these thoughts can take on a life of their own, twisting through our memories to find even more evidence of why they are true. Pushing us further into our sadness and firming our commitment to even more isolation.
How to Deal With Feeling Lonely
If you feel this way, get to another person as fast as you can. Go against everything you are thinking about yourself and reach out to someone. You think you might feel worse, but it will make you feel better. You don't have to tell them how you are feeling, just talk about anything. Even if it is the weather. You just have to get out of your head. You know this works because it probably has worked in the past. Don't delay this time.
How about you? What do you do when you are lonely?
Lobozzo, J. (2013, March 27). What To Do When You Are Lonely, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2020, January 25 from https://www.healthyplace.com/blogs/anxiety-schmanxiety/2013/03/what-to-do-when-you-are-lonely
Author: Jodi Lobozzo Aman, LCSW-R
You sound so very much like myself. I force myself to go get groceries but typically only after I’m at a point of great urgency with that and other thibgs. (Appts which I cancel a LOT). Scripts that I have to drive less than a mile to a drive through to pick up, but I agaonixe over that. So many times I’ve left and just thrown on whatever because I’d just be sitting in my car at a drive through pharmacy so who would know I was feeling so desperate and lonely? They don’t care. They don’t ask. I’ve cried while speaking to the techs/cashiers. You’d think someone would have SOME compassion somewhere? I DO! I take my dog when I can if I don’t have to make several stops, as she takes my mind off my pain and anguish and I always hope to turn any attention on her. She’s been my person. My friend. My 24/7 when i cry so hard I’m afraid my neighbor will hear me on the other side of me. It’s embarrassing to say the least.
Other times I make myself get dressed and ready like I used to do. I used to be a very girly girl type. (I still am under all this) I can talk to most anyone anywhere about most anything and nobody wiuld ever believe I suffer like I do. Then there’s the returning home. The knowing it’s empty and lonely and I’ve never in 5 + years made this place into a home other than its where my dog is. That’s what my door mat says. And it’s the absolute truth. I fear that when she’s gone I’ll not be able to go on. She’s a Golden Retriever, 8 yrs old. Large dogs don’t live nearly long enough. None do. The two before her died at 9 and 10. I do fear I’ll find a way out then. There would be no reason to get up at all. Nobody knows just how bad it is but when I tell them honestly, I get the cold shoulder. The ignoring that comes along with being uncomfortable with something. I’ve been told so often how strong I am I’m so sick of hearing the word. Im not strong. I’m here because it’s HARD to take your life and complete the act. I won’t fail if it comes to that. My family and those friends would look at it as a ploy or an act. That’s what I could never live with. I don’t want it to come to that but each passing month and year only comes and goes faster and with nothing to ever look forward to. It’s the most devastating thing I can think of that can happen to a person. A person who was vibrant although always not very confident. I gained confidence through work and people who saw me as a person who was liked by everyone.
That wasn’t the case growing up nor in this last awful marriage I lost everything in. My self respect. My self worth. My financial stability is gone. My health suffers. And most of all my daughter and granddaughters who I miss more than life itself. I do feel they were stolen from me by my ex. And I’m not strong enough to fight to gain her back
Bill, Thank you! You’ve made me feel heard and validated which is something I don’t get any longer. If there’s a way we can connect,, I’d very much welcome that!!!
What a pleasant surprise to see you’d commented and shared your own pain. (I hate that anyone feels the way we do), but if it helps any one of us then it’s worth it to me.
Like you, I’ve all but given up on all family and most all friends. Social media i left years ago when separating from my now ex husband. It was constant grief. Constant pain, and as you said I️ felt like I was a ghost peering in through a very small window. Too many people known in my past with my ex. My family decided to disown me, and so I decided was much better off being that ghost. Nobody calls, nor did my family believe in my depression, anxiety, and the C-PTSD diagnosed with due to so much unimaginable trauma during and after my divorce, goes unknown. I truly doubt they know or care that I’m even alive. Isn’t it just easier for some to sweep you under the rug than face you, or dare try to help you? I never imagined this life for myself and like you, doubt that medications, counseling have really helped me at all for the most part. It’s exhausting thinking about it all let alone living/existing day to day.. I can’t say I’ve felt like I’ve lived in years. The isolation gets worse. Yet I know it’s me that’s making it worse. You can’t just go out and make friends easily because forcing myself out anywhere is so brutally hard.
Thank you, for your reply and your words. You’ve made a difference for me that doesn’t happen often. I wish you all the best. I do wish there were a way for some of us to contact each other, if you’d be interested in having a friend who cares. i know I sure would.
I too, have crippling anxiety, have done all the "reaching out" to the few close friends I still have only to be made to feel I just need to force myself to do something to help myself. If I were able I'd have done it, I assure you. I'm disabled due to major depression, anxiety, since 2006, as of a cruel brutal divorce from a narcissistic spouse in 2013, I was diagnosed with complex ptsd. I've lost the only family I loved to the lord of this man to my adult daughter from a first marriage out of high school. She's 37. I'm 56. My only child. We were closer than close. I prided myself on our relationship because my own mother was never a mother. She's still alive but I stopped contact with her over 6 years ago when telling her my marriage was falling apart and I was losing my home of 24 years to foreclosure. I made that call from my then counselors office because I knew the backlash I'd receive. I did. My also narcissistic mother told me what a failure I was and an embarrassment and shamed her again. She never liked my now ex from the day they met over 20 years ago but she suddenly tells me I couldn't keep a man either. That was the last straw with her. She's now 93 and still tries to contact me. I don't listen to her VM's. I've heard enough. I no longer open her cards that she'd enclosed nasty letters inside accusing me of elder abuse. I owe her now in these years she's in assisted living fir raising me, feeding and providing shelter. I've heard all of that. Yet I still feel guilt if she dies without me having tried to talk with her one last time. My other family members have disowned me since my decision to stop contact. Nobody likes or can stand being around her but once I stopped doing everything for her years ago, they had to pick up when I dropped the ball. After all, I was on disability. A paid vacation I'd chosen according to my mother above being a loving caring daughter she believed I was obligated to be. My now ex emotionally, psychologically, financially, etc., abused me for years before I realized it was NOT me nor my fault as he'd engrained in me for years. I've spent every day and night alone with just my dog who I credit for my being here at all. I think about suicide daily, but do not have the courage it takes to go through the motions to complete it. It can't be an attempt. I can't fail at that knowing my family would think it was some cry for help. The only family I can't let go of is my daughter. She's been fed lies for years and I can't blame her completely for believing the same pathological liar j was married to. I have three gorgeous granddaughters I've not seen in 5 years now. Im only a few miles from them and I she's never answered my calls, texts or letters. I won't be like my mother and make her feel guilty. I can't. I love her and still respect her but I'm running out of time. She has no idea if I'm dead or alive and I'm imagining she doesn't care. It's harder and harder to get through each day each season each new year which will be here again before we know it. I've spent the last six years of holidays birthdays everything alone. It's getting harder to get out of bed for anything other than to let my dog out and in. I'm failing her too, because I've stopped walking her and I because of other fears.
If anyone reads this comment who would like to correspond with someone like me, because I know there are many of us, please comment, I'd love to have a new friend and maybe we can help lift each other up or listen and hear each other or anything other than this silence and horrible loneliness. I wish everyone the very best who feels much like I do.
I was at a horrible point when my marriage was crumbling at a high rate of speed. I hated him. He was psychologically, emotionally, verbally, abusive for years before I realized I was being deconstructed into what he thought or wanted me to be. That’s not even mentioning the alienating, the belittling. The gaslighting., the accusations of me cheating when it was him all along and I never had a clue! It devastated me it crushed what little confidence I did have. I was always said to be pretty and funny and liked by everyone. But nobody knows the turmoil you go through behind your own closed doors but who’s living behind them.
Your friends who think you’re lucky may be so unhappy themselves that your situation may sound ok to them. Walking on eggshells around someone or groups of people when you’re trying to make things look ok to others is EXHAUSTING too! I don’t know if you’ve had to do that or not but I sure have. I didn’t want anyone to know my marriage that people still believe he adored me had been failing for many reasons. Many I blamed on myself as that’s how he made it all look. I learned otherwise. Thank god for good counselors and Dr’s then because they believed in me. Our health system is failing me miserably now as it is with so many of us with mental illnesses. That’s something I’m nearly giving up on because I’ve been through everyone who was good. Who left. Who just are not the same caring individuals as I was so grateful and lucky to have found those years ago. Now I’m lucky if they know my name when I get there. Sad. Then you start your stories and your issues all over again and I just keep thinking “WHY” and what good is this doing me any longer?
I hope you’re doing ok. The holidays are here again and this will be my 7th year of my soon to be 57 birthday alone along with every holiday these last 7 years and the birthdays of those I love who no longer know I’m alive or care for all I know.
I’m grateful for you, and wish the best for you and like I mentioned to Bill above, I’d love to correspond with people who understand like we do. I’m hoping there’s a way the Healthy Place will allow us to do so.
Thank you and my prayers are with you.
I am in (almost) the same situation. Leaving in a foreign land with no friends. The friends that I have are at home. Where do you live? Do you to talk with me more?
One of the horrible things about any mental illness, trauma, etc. is that these creep inside of a person and take over, affecting thoughts (like "I am worthless," -- a very common belief), emotions, and behaviors (such as zapping motivation). The good news is that you don't have to wait for these things to go away before you can do something or find happiness. Often, motivation and happiness come after we start to do something rather than before. You're right in that it can be very hard to get started on a path you want. Support groups, community centers, etc. are indeed excellent sources of connection, but you don't have to start there. You don't even have to start with socializing at all. What is one little thing that you would like to add to your life? What little things can you do right away to work toward that thing? Don't impose a timeline. Just step by little step work toward one thing you want. Then add another. Eventually you can work toward socializing, and it will likely be a little easier because you've successfully been adding good things to your life. Taking a step away from the overwhelming big picture can go a long way toward creating happiness.
Does your community have local mental health organizations, such as the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) or the Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance (DBSA)? Organizations such as these typically have connections with other community groups as well as have support groups of their own. Other places of connection are community centers, which often have various activity groups, or specialty groups (like a hiking group) that vary from place to place. Reaching out to groups like these are great ways to connect with others and reduce loneliness.
Sharing your experiences isn't rambling, so no apologies are needed. Welcome to HealthyPlace.com! You'll see that there is a wealth of information, and readers interact with each other a great deal. In addition to comment sections after posts, there are forums where people can interact. Exploring the home page will help you find things you like. You aren't alone, and you'll find people who understand and who share things that they do that help them get out and connect with people.
Are there any community or senior centers in your area that might have activities you can get involved in. Sometimes local libraries also have talks or classes. I hope you find someone or a group to connect with.
I grew up in a very dysfunctional environment. My father was an alcoholic that was emotionally physically abusive towards my mother and later my siblings.I never felt "Safe" and had a very difficult time Trusting others. My mother and I were always close, but now she is continually attacking me verbally and I never know what to expect.
My father is still an alcoholic and emotionally abusive, but is now losing his memory. My immediate family is very dysfunctional fractured as my mother bitterly and angrily refers to us as. As for my 2 daughters one has developmental problems and lives in a group home. She consistently picks up with the wrong people and gets into trouble a lot even though she is almost 30 yrs old. My other one I have to be cautious with like"walking on egg shells" She is extremely controlling and emotionally abusive.
Who am I kidding! I have no one! I work p time at a mental health agency as a "peer facilitator." I am also seeing a counselor, but not very often. I also attend drop in advanced DBT therapy when I can. I am also in the process of trying to start my own business.
I have been hurt so much that I find it very difficult to let others in. I don't know how to help myself...
I think it is very strong to seek counseling, attend a group (DBT is proven to be an excellent therapy for people who have faced such abuse and dysfunction. The more regularly someone attends DBT sessions the better it works, so it's great that you go whenever you can, and be active as a peer facilitator. You are actively helping yourself (and, as a peer facilitator, helping others). Also, by being active in the world, you are putting yourself in situations where you are meeting other people. You don't have to give your full and complete trust immediately. It's okay to form tentative friendships and slowly let someone in as you feel comfortable. While there are no guarantees that we won't be hurt, we as humans tend to know that being lonely is hurtful, too. Finding a balance between the two extremes is tricky, but it sounds like you know yourself well and know what you want. Identify what is working best of all the things you're doing, and see if you can do a little more of those things. It's a process, but you can create the life you want and deserve.
I live in a dorm (this is my second semester in this dorm) and there are some folks here and I'd like to make friends with them, but I'm a weird person and tend to not make friends easily with people unless they share a similar whimsy to myself. I'm also inclined to think people don't like me because I'm weird.
Kudos to you for recognizing the drain that is social media. That's a great first step, because it gives you greater opportunities and even a push to get out into the world around you. Meeting people is difficult for most people (even if it doesn't look like it), and it takes time. Allow yourself time to stretch out of your comfort zone and begin to meet people. Your last statement stood out to me. It's so easy for all of us to get caught in assuming we know what others are thinking and to think that they don't like us. Have you considered starting this adventure (and think of it as an adventure rather than a torturous chore!) by listing your strengths and believing in them. For awhile (the amount of time is up to you, but it takes more than a day or two), notice all of the good things about yourself. Write them down. Think about them. Realize what you have to offer the world. Once you have begun to believe in yourself, pick one person, someone in your dorm or in a class, perhaps) that you'd like to get to know. Thinking of your strengths and avoiding assuming that he/she doesn't like you, you can reach out. These are just a couple of ideas. Perhaps you'll gain other insights and ideas in reading the comments left by others. Things might feel uncomfortable and anxiety-provoking right now, but you're not doomed to this for life!
Having got that out of the way, I can only say that sometimes a week of isolation (holiday, frriends & family away, illness) can be a sort of meditation. I've been taking stock since Xmas. I have a few resolutions, one of which is to stop insisting on correct punctuation online! Quality TV and radio and cats help. I'm hoping to resume my activities next week. The phone is a lifesaver too. And let someone have a copy of your house keys, in case you need shopping etc.
Social anxiety can definitely be debilitating. I understand your comments about things not working, because I was in the same boat for a long time. What finally helped for me was exploring the things causing/underlying my social anxiety and gradually working on those. Everyone is unique, and everyone's anxiety is unique, so what works for one person might not help another at all. I just thought I'd share something that did work for me in case you are interested in trying it. Good luck to you, and don't give up. It's frustrating that so many things don't work, but there really are things that do help.
Thank you for sharing your ideas. You mention great coping strategies that could be very helpful to many. I'm glad you mentioned self compassion. That is something vital to well-being that we all deserve (even when it's difficult).
Both you and your doctor have good insight into what is going on. What you describe is very normal. Adjusting to any change, especially like the one you are experiencing, can provoke significant anxiety. You are correct -- once classes start, you just might find your anxiety decreasing as you settle into your classes and new routine. If you find that your anxiety does worsen over time, listen to yourself and return to your doctor because there are things that can help. Do give yourself a chance to adjust to your new life. Good luck to you, and enjoy college!
It can be hard to deal with changing family relationships/connections, especially when you're also living with things such as depression and anxiety. Having even one positive relationship in your life, such as that with your son, is very powerful. Focus on that, and perhaps you might even build on that to gradually build other relationships (with parents of other five-year-olds, for example.) It takes time, but you can create happiness. Perhaps others who read this post have tips about what they have done. If your sadness becomes overwhelming, it's important to reach out to someone in your community or online, such as helplines. It doesn't always feel like it, but it is possible to increase happiness. You already are taking charge by focusing on your son.
Like your article pointed she felt she needed to do all the things she did alone and should not have needed help. She said she needed to find herself and stay out of relationships but she had already started another. She completely crushed me. I've never felt so used and humiliated and worst of all, lonely.
It happens all the time but I will never understand how people that are essentially the good ones get hurt the most. She is all over social media saying how happy she is and it's the same pattern she was in before. Now her new love is a recovering alcoholic and I am left empty and lonely wondering if true love even exists or worse, what is the point of life? To keep getting hurt? To continue running into walls.
Thanks for the article it explained a lot and helps.