how to navigate loneliness

It’s been a lonely year to say the least. We have been isolated from friends and family and have had barely any way to blow off some steam after spending week after week couped up at home. It’s enough to cause anyone stress – and for most of us – even the introverted ones! – we have felt very alone. And unfortunately, none of us were prepared for something like this to happen – which is why so many of us are grasping at straws trying to figure out how to navigate loneliness.

While COVID-19 is hopefully a once in a lifetime pandemic, all of us will face loneliness again at some point in our lives. That’s why we wanted to round up our favorite tips for how to navigate loneliness regardless of what’s going on around us. And, while we are in the final stretch of this pandemic – we aren’t out of the woods yet – so our hope is that these tips help you cross the finish line safe and healthy.

And, if you’re more of a video person, Coach Elise recorded her tips below! Give it a watch, or keep reading.

Acknowledge + Give Permission to Feel

The first step might seem easy, but it’s deceivingly tough.

If you want to know how to navigate your loneliness, you have to first acknowledge your loneliness.

I know, I know. Nobody wants to admit that they feel lonely. It feels loserish and weak and pathetic and sad. But truly, it’s not. Again, ALL of us feel lonely at times – pandemic or not. There have been plenty of times where I’ve felt lonely standing in a room filled with hundreds of people (in fact, that’s where I tend to feel the most lonely!)

So please put your pride to the side and freely admit, “I feel lonely.”

Once we have reached that step, it’s time to give yourself permission to feel it.

It’s one thing just to state “I’m lonely.” It’s quite another to embrace the pain. Accepting the sting of that truth does not mean that you are defective. It doesn’t mean that you did anything wrong or that you’re not loveable. It just means that in this moment, here and now, you are feeling isolated. Our ability to feel our truths is what leads us to overcoming them, so please do not try to skip this step. Bask in your loneliness. That way we can get to the true root of the issue and attempt to solve it.

Reflect on Your Experience

So…let’s figure something out. Are you experiencing being ALONE, or are you experiencing being LONELY?

These are two very different things. For example, I have spent many a Saturday night alone. My husband Andrew was on set in Ireland for a biggggg chunk of 2020 (the majority, in fact). He was away before the pandemic, came home with the literal virus (thanks for that), and went back once the film was able to follow strict COVID guidelines.

So while he was gone the second time around, it’s not like I could do much to entertain myself. We were still on pretty strict lockdown in Los Angeles and I had zero intention of catching that virus again. So, yeah. There were a lot of nights spent by myself.

Some of those nights felt extremely *lonely*. I felt like I had no friends, no support system, no one to hang out with – nothing. I wasn’t sure how to navigate that loneliness, let alone how to sit with it. And for full disclosure -, those feelings were all valid, even if the facts were false. But they were VERY different than me feeling “alone.”

Feeling “alone” to me can be empowering. It’s nice to know I can eat whatever I want, watch whatever I want, sing whatever I want, go to bed whenever I want, and wake up whenever I want. And while I was acutely aware that there was nobody around, I was more embarrassed by the social stigma of it all than anything else. I didn’t love the idea of others knowing I was spending all that time alone. But if I was being honest, I personally was having a fine enough time.

See the difference?

So take some time to reflect on what you are feeling right now. Do you feel like you have people in your life that you love, you just don’t really feel like reaching out right now and would rather hang out by yourself? That’s feeling alone. However, if you’re feeling isolated, misunderstood, unloved, and unsupported – that’s grounds for feeling “lonely.” Make sure to get comfortable with figuring out which one you’re feeling in the moment – as one doesn’t really need much solving at all!

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Do a Connection Check

Once you’ve decided you are ~definitely~ feeling lonely, it’s time to do some digging.

First up on our list, we need to do a relationship authenticity check-in. Meaning, how authentic are your relationships? Are you being truly vulnerable with the people in your life? Do they know you are feeling super lonely? Are they aware of what you’re struggling with or how you are feeling isolated? Can you call them up and cry and disclose how awful you’re feeling right now?

If the answer is “no” for a lot of them – we need to change that. Maybe that’s the heart of the issue – your friends suck – and in that case we have other tips on other blog posts to help with that. But usually friendships and relationships are lacking authenticity. not because they are horrible relationships, but because we are afraid of being truly vulnerable.

Vulnerability is how we establish connection. Without it, relationships will stay surface level. They’ll circle the weather, jobs, vacations, and other fun facts. Which…is pretty tough to sustain during a pandemic when literally NOTHING is happening in our lives. Vulnerability is what keeps relationships alive. That tough, I-feel-naked, no-things-aren’t-going-well types of conversations. It doesn’t always have to be rainstorms and thunderclouds – vulnerability also means being able to share good news and brag to people without feeling like they’re going to judge you! It really is the best.

So I challenge you right now to be completely honest with how you are feeling with one friend. If you really want to navigate loneliness…call them up. Tell them you’re feeling like dogshit and need reassurance that you have a friend. Let that honesty fly, and in turn, let them support you.

It will feel SO strange, but in the end, it will feel so good.

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Belonging and Being Yourself

Okay, so let’s get down to the real truth.

Are you being yourself? Like, truly being yourself? Or are you pretending to be a version of yourself so that you will “belong” in certain groups, only to end up feeling totally excluded?

If you want to navigate loneliness, then here’s the deal:

First, people can smell bullshit. You’re probably not as good of an actress as you think you are, so if you are really trying to push a version of yourself that isn’t truly *you* – people will pick up on it. Everyone else is just as insecure as you are, so if they’re feeling like you’re not totally in harmony with what’s going on, that relationship is bound to fizzle.

Second, the only way you can *truly* belong anywhere is by being yourself. This is because you’ll attract other people that are naturally complementary towards you. You won’t have to be “on” all the time and you’ll be able to practice true vulnerability (see above). This will foster a deeper connection, which has much more staying power.

Third, abandoning yourself feels exceptionally lonely – especially when it doesn’t even give us the results we want. Rejecting who you are for the sake of belonging is in itself isolating. Not only are you miles away from your true self, but you’re surrounded by people who don’t even know who you are. I can’t think of anything more lonely than that.

So from here on out – you are going to be true to yourself. You are going to only grow close to those who TRULY know who you are, and you will stop abandoning yourself. If nothing else, the relationship you cultivate with yourself will feel much more like being “alone” than being “lonely.”

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Make An Active Choice Toward Solitude

This might seem counterintuitive, but hear me out.

If you can actively *choose* to spend time alone, you’re going to feel more and more empowered about that alone time. I know, I know. Sounds crazy. I’m telling you to navigate your loneliness by going out and trying to actively be alone?!

But hear me out. Once you get going, it’s going to start feeling like an escape, like an activity, like a way of being – instead of like a punishment. Researchers have even surmised that actively choosing pockets of solitude throughout our days helps boost our physical and mental health.

Think of it like building a muscle. If you haven’t lifted weights before, and you’re forced to carry a bunch of heavy boxes while moving, it’s going to feel painful. Excruciating. Awful.

But if you’ve lifted weights before and are used to carrying heavy items, moving those boxes might have actually felt easy in comparison.

It’s a weird metaphor, but I think it works. The point is, you have to build up a tolerance for being alone, and in the. end, you actually might end up enjoying it.

I know I do

So my last challenge to you today is to come up with a few things you would really like to do, but can’t seem to find anyone who would like to do them with you. Could be seeing a certain movie, going on a particular hike, visting a specific museum – whatever! Find things that you *really* want to do, and then go do them. By yourself.

I personally love eating gluten (Andrew is gluten-free) and watching very bad movies (those are not allowed in the Solomon-Rogers household) while I’m by myself. There’s no one to judge me and no one to change the channel. Marvelous. Just marvelous.

So go find your exciting things, and make a date with yourself. You’re going to have more fun than you realize!

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Navigating Loneliness Can Be Tough…

But I promise, we are in this together. If you want to work with a life coach through some of these tough feelings, that’s what we are here for. Join today and get started instantly with unlimited chat and video sessions!

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