“Loneliness is and always has been the central and inevitable experience of every man”.
Loneliness is a universal human experience that most individuals will go through at any given stage of life. Recently, it has been one of the glaring issues facing many of us during the Covid-19 epidemic, as we navigate the realms of quarantine, social and geographical distancing and stay-at-home orders. With the holiday season upon us, some of us may be feeling a sense of acute loneliness as we are limited in the ways that we can celebrate, whether that means not being able to be travel to be with our loved ones, or gather with all the people we would usually see.
One can feel lonely in spite of being among people, experience it in a marriage or a relationship, or be lonely due to lack of interaction with others. Many times, it is brought about as a result of changes in circumstances (such as physical isolation, separation, bereavement), aging, or lack of friends and community.
Ongoing and acute feelings of loneliness can impact physical as well as mental health. It can lead to alcoholism, depression, stress, anxiety, impaired cognitive functioning, or cardiovascular disease. So how can one address the intense, empty and (at times) overwhelming feeling of loneliness?
Acknowledge: Accept and acknowledge the very existence of it. Observe the feeling and the thoughts going through your mind. What does the loneliness look like? If you are a visual person, give it a shape, a colour, or a name. This first step can help to detach from the feeling itself and help to reduce its intensity.
Connect and communicate meaningfully: With the myriad technologies available to us these days, one can sometimes be led down the rabbit hole of the internet and social media without actually connecting with anyone. Choose your time wisely and use technology to connect with those who matter to you. It’s the quality of personal and social interaction that matters, not quantity.
Plan activities: Schedule and participate in activities of your interest or try something new. Not only will this get you out of your comfort zone, but could also lead to a hobby. Additionally you may gain the opportunity to interact with others who have shared interests.
Volunteer: Giving someone in need your time. Participate in community service. Reach out and volunteer with a charity/organisation of your choice. Serving others can help alleviate the feeling of loneliness as one gains a sense of purpose.
Practice self-care: What do you like to do for yourself? Indulge in activities that make you feel nurtured. It could be something as simple as a nice warm bath, reading a book, or walking outside.
Exercise: It is a well-known fact that exercise releases endorphins and enhances mood. Schedule regular exercise for yourself. If weather permits, try to get outdoors. Spending as little as 15-20 minutes a day on exercise that raises your heart-rate can boost your mood as well as overall health.
Seek help: If you find that the loneliness continues for an extended period of time, reach out and seek help from a therapist or call a helpline.
Feeling all alone in this vast universe is something we all experience, but it does not have to be a dark, bleak ordeal. As Hellen Keller once said, “Although the world is full of suffering, it is full also of the overcoming of it”. By taking small, gentle steps, with self-love and self-compassion, we can use it as an opportunity to connect with our deeper selves and discover our strengths.
Gayatri Singh, Associate Counsellor
Master of Counselling (Monash University, Australia)
Nowadays, many people are experiencing that working is no longer clocking in at 9:00 am and clocking out at 5:00 pm. Work is now physically or virtually arriving between 7:00 am and 10:00 am and leaving between 3:00 pm and 6:00 pm, all while juggling personal phone calls, work e-mails, doctor’s appointments, social media, conference calls, news reports, in-person meetings, the list goes on. At home, the work phone still buzzes from colleagues around the world or from people burning the midnight oil. There is no longer a concept of ‘work-life balance’ but now a concept of ‘work-life integration’. We now have more tasks to squeeze into a day, without scheduled ‘on’ and ‘off’ times for each task.
This integration is particularly problematic when new research has now shown that we need fully detach in order to recover. Researcher Bakker and his colleagues recently published a meta-analysis* to help us understand what helps us recover from all the hard work we expend during the day. What did they find? Some findings seem to be common sense. For example, all demands will make us more fatigued. Demands such as job ambiguity, conflict with others, overload etc. will make us feel fatigued. However, some demands will also invigorate us like solving complex problems or achieving results under a tight deadline. The less ‘common sense’ results were how to recover from these demands.
*A meta-analysis is where a researcher examines all the available studies on a topic and statistically combines them to see overall what effect they have
There are four typical ways people recover from work:
Control (e.g., schedule their evening or next day to reduce chaos)
Relaxation (e.g., nap, be a couch potato)
Mastery (e.g., take a night class, learn a musical instrument)
Detachment (e.g., mentally check out, completely submerge into another task)
Okay, so what did the research say was the best technique? Of course, the answer is “it depends”!
If you experiencing fatiguing demands during your day, the best thing you can do is to detach to rejuvenate. Some examples of how to detach include turning off your work email/phone, engaging in group activities, or reading. Detaching will allow you to complete your home tasks without distraction allowing you to focus solely on work the next day. It will also allow you to sleep better at night by stopping any ruminations over tomorrow’s workday.
If you facing invigorating demands, the best thing you can do is control. Scheduling your work and non-work tasks will allow you to keep control of your demands, ensuring they remain a source of energy rather than become a source of fatigue. Other suggestions on how to control your demands are to make to-do lists and set daily, weekly, and monthly goals. Having greater control will increase your self-efficacy and allow you to feel that you accomplished more.
Even though the research found these are the best techniques, it doesn’t mean ignore the other techniques. If you can, combine them! For instance, meditation will allow you to detach and relax. Using multiple techniques will have an incremental effect to reduce your fatigue.
Overall, although work-life integration can increase flexibility and autonomy, we run the risk of not recovering from our demands. Ensure you schedule time to detach to avoid burnout and to remain energized at work.
Whether you saw it it coming or didn’t, the feeling is the same: You’re devastated. You gasp at your vulnerability and wonder, “Why did this happen?”
Life dishes up so many hardships: heartbreak, illness, injury, death, abandonment. Though we may share similar experiences, every hurt is personal. No matter how many times well-meaning people say, “We understand,” they don’t. You may even resent them for trying.
As a psychotherapist, I’ve sat with many wounded people. I witness their pain and do my best to make space for it. Even when they cry out, “Why did this happen?” I try not to engage in reactive comforting. Advice or quick answers always feel false, even insulting, when someone is deeply hurt.
Suffering as a Teacher
After nearly 25 years practicing psychotherapy, this is what I’ve learned: When you’re viciously knocked down by life, don’t get right back up. Like tripping and falling, you have the impulse to rise and start moving again. But ignoring a serious injury will make it worse. Pain demands attention; it needs to acknowledged and embraced before you can move on.
When I met Amanda, she had just suffered one of the worst wounds: the death of her young child. For weeks, in individual sessions, she sat in silence, detached and stoic. “Tears won’t bring my daughter back,” she said flatly, as she carried on working at finance job that she resented and avoided her grief.
When I asked her to attend one of my adult groups, she scoffed, “Pointless.” But, with a little prodding, she agreed. “I’ll do it for you,” she sighed, “But it’s a waste of time.”
During her first group session, when asked why she was in therapy, she exhaled and replied, “My daughter…she…my daughter….”
Suddenly Amanda couldn’t speak. She couldn’t find words. She struggled to swallow her grief and choke down her tears.
“It was a mistake to come here. Sorry.”
When she stood up and gathered her belongs to leave, an intuitive woman reached out and said, warmly,
“I lost a child too.”
Suddenly Amanda fell back into her seat and let her tears flow. She cried long and hard, gasping for air as the group made room for her pain. In the weeks that followed, she looked forward to group sessions. Slowly, with the group’s help, she realized that the best way to honor her daughter was to find a new way to embrace life.
What to Do After You’ve Been Emotionally Hurt
I count myself among the heartbroken. I have nursed the dying, lost loved ones, suffered heartbreak. I have cried alone on the street, in my office, sometimes with friends and family, sometimes with patients. I tried to dodge heartache but, like everyone, it eventually found me. It’s one of life’s cruel certainties.
How to Support Your Healing Process
1. Honor Your Pain
Avoidance of pain increases it. To heal, you must pass through the doorway of grief. Emotional wounds are beyond “sadness”; they’re felt in the depths of your being. Honor your pain; don’t run from it. Unplug, put time aside to reflect, and give yourself permission to grieve. If well-meaning people push you to “Get over it,” ignore them. Time and patience are key to recovery. Surround yourself with friends who understand that.
2. Reach Out
Being alone is part of healing, but long periods of isolation are unhealthy. Deep pain always brings out personal demons, such as blaming yourself, embracing victimhood, or bitterness. Such choices breed entrapment, not freedom. Reach out to friends, find support groups or twelve-step programs, seek comfort in prayer, meditation, or philosophy—whatever brings you peace of mind. Instead of longing for a miracle, create one.
3. Take a Break
It’s important to take a break from your pain, and engage in healthy compartmentalization. Everyone finds relief in different ways. Some find it creative activities such as writing, reading, music, art, or movies. Others find it in movement such as dance, hiking, long walks, etc. Choose a task that allows you to escape by stepping into another reality, even if it’s only for a few moments. Don’t fret: Your pain will be waiting for you when you get back, but you’ll be better fortified, rested, and ready to face it.
4. Learn from It
I’ve heard it said that the road to wisdom is paved with suffering. Reflecting, exploring, and pondering, without self-attack or blame, opens you up to greater understanding and compassion for yourself and others. An attitude of learning will help you unearth value in the experience. You may also discover a curious new freedom: Recovering from an emotional trauma or heartbreak makes you stronger, wiser, and more resilient.
5. Move On
Some people allow suffering to define them, shape them and, ultimately, rob of them of living. Many years ago, I was invited to attend a wedding between two widows in their 90’s. Every person who attended was deeply moved, not by the service, but by the spirit of the couple to keep living. After you give yourself time to grieve and mourn, after you reach out to others for support and make space for your recovery, you have to make a decision: Will you allow emotional pain hold you back or will you decide to use it to propel you in a new direction?
Years after finishing her group therapy, Amanda phoned to update me on her life. She left her bank job and acquired a degree in early childhoodeducation. She was working at the elementary school that her daughter was to attend before she died. When I asked Amanda how she was feeling, she replied simply, “I still miss her. But I have so many children to care for now. I like to imagine that my daughter, wherever she is, is very proud of her mom.”
The way self-care is portrayed today is completely and utterly backward. First, self-care as a concept is almost exclusively aimed at women (generally wealthy white women who can afford the goods and services that get marketed to them as self-care). The not-so-subtle suggestion is that women need to be reminded to care for themselves because, after all, they are so busy taking care of everyone else. And the even less-subtle suggestion is that while we should be taking care of ourselves, that doesn’t absolve us from taking care of everyone else.
Which brings me to the second way that the current portrayal of self-care is backward — it’s characterized as an indulgence. This means both that the practice of self-care is something we are occasionally allowed to indulge in and that self-care should feel like an indulgence. Think expensive bath products, luxurious chocolates, spa appointments. When we spend more time talking about the self-care power of high thread count sheets than we do about getting enough sleep we’ve wandered pretty far from anything that can be remotely considered healthy for either mind or body.
Turning off the TV instead of watching another episode of “The Crown” because the alarm is going off at 5am so you can get to the gym.
Declining the second drink at the office holiday party. It might even be declining the first drink.
Saying “no” to the thing you don’t want to do even if someone is going to be angry at you.
Maintaining financial independence.
Doing work that matters.
Letting other people take care of themselves.
If we are being honest, self-care is actually kind of boring. Which is why self-care is a discipline. It takes discipline to do the things that are good for us instead of what feels good in the moment. It’s takes even more discipline to refuse to take responsibility for other people’s emotional well-being. And it takes discipline to take full and complete responsibility for our own well-being.
Self-care is also a discipline because it’s not something you do once in awhile when the world gets crazy. It’s what you do every day, every week, month in and month out. It’s taking care of yourself in a way that doesn’t require you to “indulge” in order to restore balance. It’s making the commitment to stay healthy and balanced as a regular practice.
Ironically when you truly care for yourself, exercising all the discipline that requires, you are actually in a much stronger place to give of yourself to those around you. You will be a happier parent, a more grateful spouse, a fully engaged colleague. Those who take care of themselves have the energy to take care of others joyfully because that caregiving doesn’t come at their own expense. And those who take care of themselves also have the energy to work with meaning and purpose toward a worthy goal. Which means they are also the people most likely to make the world a better place for all of us.
Blog written by : Tami Forman phone. 917-952-8820 email. firstname.lastname@example.org linkedin. www.linkedin.com/in/tamimforman/ | twitter. @TamiMForman @PathFWD Reproduced after taking appropriate permissions.