“There’s a big difference between being alone and being lonely.”– Tiffanie DeBartolo
Or is there?
Loneliness is another global pandemic we are facing in the modern world. But when the world shut down due to Covid and people were confined to their homes it become painfully apparent.
Many who were confined with their partners left lockdown separated, but MANY who usually find some solace for their singleness through socializing suddenly found themselves not only alone, but truly lonely. Parents flocked to psychologists for online counseling with their teenage children who fell into deep, dark depressions due to being so isolated from their friends and confidants.
“No man is an island.”– John Donne
People are not meant to be alone. Whichever way you look at it. Even if you consider yourself to be an extreme introvert who recharges their batteries alone behind closed doors, you’ll inevitably wander outside again for some human interaction. As homo sapiens our brains are biologically wired to connect with each other.
We actually share mirror neurons that makes it possible for us to immediately mirror each other’s emotions unconsciously. We can anticipate and mirror each other’s movements. The hormone, Oxytocin, is released because it plays a key role in bonding. We are biologically built to live in collaboration with others.
Whilst everyone was focusing on the dangers Covid has on your health, few could imagine the impact this period would have on people’s mental well-being. For the first time even those who usually appreciate their alone time experienced extreme loneliness after such a prolonged period without regular social interaction.
Dating became an online activity and “matches” lost its excitement. There were no gatherings of friends or family to distract or uplift you out of these strange and stressful circumstances. Depression rose and suicide rates sky rocketed. The demand for online counseling increased dramatically.
But the silver lining in this bizarre and unexpected scenario is that it finally made us sit up and notice and acknowledge what we have stigmatized for many years; that we are inherently social creatures and that loneliness is a very real problem.
Loneliness has a definite stigma attached to it.
We are afraid of judgement. People perceiving us as:
- A loser
Sometimes it’s not just a simple case of not wanting to admit it to others or ourselves, but that we don’t even realise that we are lonely. Many who come for online counseling completely miss the signs of loneliness. The signs of loneliness can be very subtle.
Please note that simply having one or two of these signs doesn’t immediately mean that you have a severe case of loneliness on your hands, but the combination of these over a longer period of time could point to a loneliness problem that needs to be addressed. Take note when you:
- Feel tired all the time
- Have trouble sleeping
- Find that you’re spending more and more time online
- Feel like you’re not quite fitting in amongst a group of people
- Feel like your friendships and relationships are superficial
- Constantly feel like you do not belong or that no-one understands you
- Have no-one you can turn to in times of trouble
- Find that you’re unusually focussed on material possessions (almost obsessively) like your happiness depends on the launch of the new IPhone.
- Feel that your immune system is clearly compromised
- Do not share common interests, hobbies or activities with others
- Do not have a group of people in your life who you consider being your close friends
During your online counseling session your therapist will discuss solutions to solve your loneliness. For instance, these solutions can consist of the following:
It is tough to remain open and keep expressing yourself in a world that consistently hurts and rejects you, but we can only connect with others on a meaningful level when we are not closed-off and guarded. With every encounter you need to be very conscious of remaining open.
Learn to identify and appreciate all love languages
We often start feeling lonely when we do not feel like we’re receiving love or affection. But the way we receive/perceive love and affection may be vastly different to how others give/show it. It is worth the time to learn the five love languages in order for you to identify and appreciate receiving love in all its forms.
Avoid toxic attachments
When we are feeling exceptionally lonely, we often lower our standards and expectations of others. This way we end up connecting with people who might not really be good for us. You’ll accept any potential connection you can find when you are starved for companionship. You will even persuade yourself that purely physical or superficial connections are more than they actually are.
Shift your focus
Loneliness makes us put a spotlight on all our negative feelings. You need to start shifting your focus away from what you are feeling and focus on the needs and feelings of others. By aiding others you will automatically find yourself reaching out and making meaningful connections without it even being your main focus. And by focusing on the positive feelings of others you will feel less trapped by your own negative ones.
Stop making excuses
Ironically the loneliest people always tend to find reasons why they cannot attend meetings or social gatherings. The goal isn’t to be the chattiest person there or the one who laughs the loudest; just show up. You will have fun once you’re there and you won’t believe that you dreaded the experience so much just a few hours before.
Find your birds
They say “birds of a feather flock together”. So if you’re constantly feeling like an outsider and alone, you still need to find your birds. The only way to find like-minded people is to go where they like to go and do what they enjoy doing. If you enjoy crafting, search for a crafting group that you can join or if you enjoy reading, look for a book club.
No, not to others; to yourself. When we start feeling extremely lonely, we will often start with negative self-talk. We tell ourselves things such as that we must be lonely because we’re losers or that things will never get better. Have a little compassion and grace for yourself.
By introducing affirmations into your daily routine, you can also switch lanes when it comes to negative thought patterns. Therefor your therapist will provide you with a list of affirmations which target your specific negative train of thoughts during online counseling. But these affirmations could include phrases such as:
“I am good enough”
“I am worthy of love”
“I am open to other people”
It is important to remember that everyone experiences loneliness during one or the other stage in their lifetime.
Share what you’re going through
Some of our darkest times can be when we are experiencing extreme loneliness and by keeping it to ourselves and regurgitating on the emotions all by ourselves 24/7, we are making the situation even worse. Not only does it lift a weight off our chest when we just unload some of our emotional baggage, but it also gives us the opportunity to take a step back and view the situation more clearly.
Find a friend who you trust and who you connect with on a deep emotional level. However, if your loneliness is because you don’t have anybody like that in your life. Or perhaps you can’t seem to shake feelings of shame and embarrassment about the situation and won’t feel comfortable sharing with someone close to you, then online counseling can prove to be particularly valuable.
At Personal Online Therapy we understand the struggles you are going through and offer a safe space for you to unload and work on healthy coping skills and strategies to help you rise above your feelings of loneliness. If you would like more information you can pop a mail to firstname.lastname@example.org and if you would like to book a free consultation, you are welcome to complete the form below.