Overcoming Isolation and Loneliness
Daniel Mandel, Creative Engagement Coaching July 10, 2019
I remember very specifically when I was in my early twenties. I had just moved to Los Angeles. I was in an apartment with a friend who was the drummer in my band. I had a water bed. I remember spending some weekends mostly in that water bed with a rather non-specific melancholic grey cloud over my head. Somehow one weekend I looked within and I wanted to answer the question where do these sad and low energy feelings come from. One answer that presented itself: These feelings are the result of unexpressed anger. As I looked back over the previous couple of weeks I saw where some significant frustration and anger had been suppressed and with nowhere to go the result was this slow, sad and vague release of energy.
In recent times I have often heard the phrase “Self Care”. I think this is a wonderful concept. Images of a relaxing, pampering and soothing practices come to mind. For those of you who love a great massage, a good long spa style bath or a long run in the cool of the morning or even a great meal of what we consider comfort food; these can all be great examples.
I think this self care construct can also be abused. This phrase can be a modern, new age, or “woke” way of avoiding what we perceive as difficult or stressful interactions. Can self care be a strategy to disguise hiding? Who is going to argue if you announce you are taking a self care day? To be clear I do champion appropriate and mindful self care strategies.
I believe that we invest in protecting our hearts in many different ways. This has shown up in my life often when I feel overwhelmed. As a reward for suffering through a day of frustrating interactions I set aside a time for myself that is very in keeping with this idea of self care. I orchestrate this in ways that tend to isolate me — and yes, this is understandable. When I am alone I don’t have misunderstandings. By myself I know how I like to be entertained. I easily make food choices that I am pleased with when it is just me choosing.
Social media has also created additional incentives to online engagement that increases isolation. A quick internet search will pull up a large volume of information on the social engineering that has resulted from social media, and specifically how isolating this can be. What is the cost when we isolate ourselves by protecting our hearts so strongly?
Engagement is the Antidote
As humans we need and we crave connection. We have in our minds ideals we hold for how we think that would, could and should happen in our lives. Think of how you define friendship and what having a “best friend” means to you.
For me just as I was turning 13 years old my father was retiring. Our family was moving across the country from Ohio to New Mexico. My best friend lived across the street. I would never ever see him again and this hit me hard! I remember how important writing letters became a literal lifeline to communicate from across the country. I remember the 1st trip back to visit my best friend and the fear that maybe we had grown apart in the interim. I also learned that relationships need to be cultivated and groomed in order to stay vibrant and alive.
As my journey unfolded in experiences in high school and into college and beyond I carried these constructs of friendships and best friends. I often just hoped that my circle of friends would provide all that I needed to get me by in life. In many ways they did. In other ways I struggled to recover from the large and small stresses I encountered.
I added intimate partners into the mix. I honor that each of our journeys are unique. You may have a small or a large circle of friends. You may have one best friend or you may have that “Sex and the City” style collection of your besties.
The question we each need to address with honesty and a deep sense of self compassion is whether or not we have set up an imbalance in the areas and ways we isolate ourselves as compared to how effectively we engage and connect with people in our lives.
The cost is real. The ramifications are serious. The antidote to isolation and loneliness is engagement. Cultivating engagement increases human connection.
What is Your Next Step?
Check in with yourself — assess the impacts isolation may have on your quality of life — take the appropriate action which may be to take the antidote before it is too late!
If you have found resonance with your journey in what I have written here — you are not alone! Many people throughout this modern world are impacted by isolation and loneliness.
As each journey is unique so is our ability and willingness to assess our situation unique. However you find it I encourage you to invest in yourself and search for what works for you.
I have a heart for those who have felt these impacts. I have experienced the costs of isolation and loneliness. I have also found healing and empowerment through actively seeking out connection and engagement. I have placed connection as one of my central values and aligned my life to meet others in authenticity and vulnerability.
Reach out and make contact someone in your life. A healing connection may come from almost anyone; this is not restricted to the realm of good or best friends. Reach out and share your story with a person who is willing. Share your story gradually. Experiment to find out who will listen. Trust is built in layers. Trust, communication, listening and willingness are a two way street. Experiment with your circle of connections and get curious. Ask questions to find out if those you know are satisfied with engagement. Ask a friend what they do when they notice they are lonely. Have powerful conversations to get you engaged and connected. Tap into your own internal wisdom.
Remember that it is OK to ask for help. Some of our hurt goes deep and assistance is available in many forms. Check in with yourself to discover when it is appropriate to seek more formal help. There are many professional modes of therapy, mentoring, and coaching that are very effective.
Go ahead, take the Antidote!PLEASE DO SHARE THIS ARTICLE WITH THOSE WHO MAY BE INTERESTED
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