Monday, 24 August 2015

How To Cope With Being Alone/Dealing With Feelings Of Loneliness:

There are numerous reasons as to why someone may feel lonely; some people feel lonely more often than others but everyone experiences loneliness from time to time. Luckily, there are a number of ways you can get through these times and hopefully overcome them; I thought I would share some of the ways I wish I had dealt with loneliness in the past and to write down some of the things I would have told my teenage self. I also came up with some new ideas as I am always learning how to better deal with these times. (I will forewarn you that this is an incredibly long post so if this is not your kinda thing or you simply don't wish to read it, I completely understand). For those of you that do struggle with this issue and do want some advice, please keep on reading :)

Reassurance 

Step back for a minute and realise that you are in fact not alone in feeling alone- we all get lonely. Having feelings of loneliness doesn't mean there is anything wrong with you. Remind yourself that how you are feeling now will not last forever and that tomorrow is a new day and you can try your best to avoid feeling the same way again by actively doing things to ensure that you are either with people or kept busy doing something. This leads on to my next point which is to get involved in activities.

Get involved in something! 

Join an after school club or take a class on the weekends. Volunteer at a local shop in your community or look out for any weekend or part time job offers. If you are very shy like I was throughout school, I understand this can be a lot more difficult and challenging- in which case maybe try looking for a local support group for social anxiety, even if it is online! Actively do things to limit the time you have to be on your own! Take up a hobby and take the time to learn something new and indulge in any passions that you have.

Keep Busy

This is similar to my point above, but keeping yourself busy is a sturdy way of ensuring the time you are alone is minimised. Having nothing to do and feeling bored is what causes those intense feelings of loneliness to creep in. Throw yourself into work or extracurricular activities. Don't be afraid or ashamed to do social activities by yourself. Take yourself out on a date, I know this sounds weird but for example, if you would have gone out to a cafe or to a movie with someone, then take yourself out to see a movie or go to a nice quirky cafe and read a good book. Although, at first, it may seem awkward to be doing things by yourself that you used to do with someone else, don’t hold yourself back. You should not feel embarrassed to be by yourself and out doing things! If you really struggle with being out in public alone and you find yourself having to do so on a regular occasion, take a book, magazine, or journal with you so that when you go out to eat or have coffee on your own, you’ll be occupied and it won't feel as awkward. Bear in mind that many people do often go out on their own on purpose just to have some time by themselves; people will not look at you sitting alone and assume you have no friends or that you are a total loner- that is just what your negative self talk is tricking you into thinking. Don't project your own insecurities on to other people! Have faith in others opinions and judgements of you- you never know they may be thinking your outfit is cute or that you look like a nice person to be around. Assume the best in people :)

Do not indulge in feelings of self pity! 

Don’t allow yourself to wallow. Instead of persistently dwelling on how alone you feel, do anything and everything to get your mind off it. Take a walk, ride your bike or read a book. Explore different activities and take up new or pursue old hobbies- don't be afraid to try new things. Having more experiences gives you more of an opportunity to discuss things in social situations and have conversation topics and things to open up about. If you are living alone and you cannot be alone with your thoughts for a considerable length of time, perhaps consider getting a pet. If you’re truly struggling without companionship, consider adopting a dog or cat from your local animal shelter. Pets have been domestic companions for centuries for a reason, and winning the trust and affection of an animal can be a deeply rewarding experience. Obviously make sure you are ready to take on having an animal as they are for life not just for the times you are feeling sad and they need properly looking after! Gotta be responsible.

Get in contact with people!

Make that phone call to a long lost friend or distant relative and try to arrange a get together and reconnect with them. Even if the people available aren’t who you most want to be with right now, any sort of human contact is better than none and continuing to feel miserable. Reconnecting with people will make you feel better in the long run and you never know you may hit it off with the person as if you never stopped keeping in touch. Sometimes all you need to do is pick up the phone to rekindle relationships. If no-one is available, just simply be around people by going shopping or to a coffee place or even go to the cinema. Challenge yourself to take the initiative in social relationships. Don’t wait for people to approach you: you should try to approach them. Friendship is a two sided thing! Ask your friends if they want to chat or invite them out to a restaurant- it is important to show an interest in other people, otherwise they will most likely not show an interest in you. Be a pleasant presence, draw people toward yourself by providing enjoyable company. Be complimentary rather than critical and make heartfelt and casual comments rather than criticising other people’s clothing choices, habits or lifestyle. Making compliments is one of the best ice-breakers that exists and it builds a better relationship steadily over time as people come to understand that you are a pleasant and warming presence to be around. The more you open up and put yourself out there, the more people you are likely to attract and therefore the more people you have in your life to keep you company. If you really cannot make friends easily or you are in a place where you simply have to be alone, try to join an online community. Sometimes it can help to share your thoughts and experiences online and find others who are going through similar situations and relate to them. Things such as online forums often allow you to express yourself whilst also doing good and helping others. In doing this, it is key to remember to be safe as not everyone is who they say they are online and you don't want to be catfished! Creeps on the internet feed off loneliness, so be aware of that (not to get too sinister on you!) Also be weary that you do not become overly dependent on online communities as you do not want your laptop to become your only social outlet. You need to socialise with friends and have physical contact with other beings as well as venting online- as great as your online friends may be, they are not at arms reach and will not be able to be with you in person and hug you in times of need.

Learn to embrace being alone. 

Now you may be thinking, "What?" as I have just said that you should go out and socialise, but there will be times in life where you will be alone and there will be times where you will have to learn to embrace it. It is important to differentiate between loneliness and solitude as one is negative and the latter is more positive. There is nothing wrong with solitude- (wanting to or enjoying being alone) and many introverts feel this way. Time alone can in fact be useful and enjoyable and a time to be productive and get things done. You can even take this time alone to work on improving yourself and making yourself happier. Usually, when we’re devoting most of our time to other people, we tend to neglect ourselves. If you are going through a period of loneliness, take advantage of it by doing the things that you want to do for yourself. This is a wonderful opportunity to really focus on self care and have a bit of 'me time' (hate that expression? Yeah me too).

As I said earlier about keeping yourself busy and getting involved in activities, perhaps consider joining a gym. Working out and taking care of our bodies is usually the first thing that gets tossed aside when we get busy. If you’re spending less time with other people than normal, try using that time to exercise. If you exercise at a gym, you might even meet some new friends or a new special someone! Alternatively you could use this time to get ahead with work or school and turn your loneliness into something productive and beneficial! You could try cooking yourself a nice meal or make baked goods for friends and family. Cooking up a meal is rewarding, you can channel your focus into something nourishing. If you are spending a lot of time alone, take this opportunity to pursue those dreams you have been dismissing as impossible. People often have something really big that they want to do but with it they have a thousand excuses as to why they cannot do it. Have you ever wanted to write a book? Participate in a charity event? Break a record in something? Use this loneliness as the excuse to do something great. Who knows, maybe it will turn into something that helps and inspires others. 

Get comfortable with who you are and start accepting yourself.

Learn to be happy with yourself. When you accept and love who you are, it shows. People like to be around those who ooze positivity and are confident in themselves. I think it is also helpful to understand and acknowledge that you don't have to be in a relationship to be happy. It may be difficult to see your friends going off and dating people or feeling like there’s something wrong with you for not dating (trust me I know), but you don’t have to be in a relationship to feel like you’re part of a group or to be surrounded by people that care about you. While your friends are with their significant others, make some new friends and start dating only when you’re ready to share your life with someone. If you’re feeling lonely, consider taking a break from social media websites like Facebook as you can often end up going on other people's profile pages and seeing photos of them socialising and in relationships and it will just make you feel worse. You don't always have to be doing what others are doing, things will fall into place when they are supposed to, so don't rush into anything just for the sake of it! Remember that the thoughts you are having towards perhaps feeling self-conscious about being single, are the same thoughts that the majority of other single people are having. You are not the only single person in the universe, remind yourself of that!

[On a serious note, if you have a persistent feeling of loneliness and it is bringing you down consistently and affecting your everyday life, maybe seek medical help. It might be a sign of depression or due to underlying anxiety and there are ways you can tackle this and it doesn't have to be by yourself!]

Whatever happens, I wish you the best and I hope you are able to use some of these ideas in your life. Let me know if you have any other tips or suggestions! Lots of love,

- Olivia Charlotte Alice

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