counseling, forgiveness, loneliness, lonely, psychology, relationshipadvice, relationships, resentment, self-help

Loneliness: Do You Ever Feel Lonely?

a1

What do you believe makes us happiest and most content in life?

Some people might say money and success. Accomplishments and material possessions. Fame and fortune.

a3

Research shows this is not true. True joy and fulfillment comes from good relationships and feeling connected.

Loneliness is at the opposite end of the spectrum.

Loneliness is an emotional state we have when we feel disconnected. Our need for connection is ingrained in our DNA. Loneliness is a signal that something is not right. 

People have a fundamental need for inclusion, to be part of social circles, and for close relationships. We function best when our social needs are being met.

As someone who works in mental health, feeling lonely is a common experience that people report to me. I always ask clients if they feel lonely during our initial session. Nine times out of ten the answer is YES. I truly believe loneliness in our country is on the rise and may be the next public health crisis (if it isn’t already).

If you haven’t suffered from it, I guarantee you someone in your life has.

In this technological age, people are feeling more disconnected than ever from their fellow man.The feeling of loneliness or being detached from others is not just a human emotion; it is a complex emotional response to a multitude of factors.

Loneliness a universal human emotion that is both complex and unique to each individual. Because it has no single common cause, the prevention and treatment of this potentially damaging state of mind can vary greatly.

Loneliness represents a fundamental discrepancy between the relationships we have and the relationships we want.

Loneliness is a serious issue, as it can lead to despair and depression. It is often an emotion experienced by people who end up committing suicide. In my humble opinion, if I had to pick one thing that is key to living a happy life,  I’d say: strong, close bonds with other people.

The hardest times in my life have been overcome by the close bonds I have with my family and friends. The happiest times of my life have been THAT much more joyful because I was surrounded by the very same people. Connecting with others is a strong psychological need and is fundamental to our well-being.

Research shows loneliness can be more deadly than smoking or obesity. It can lead to a whole host of physical ailments. Loneliness does not harm just the mind but the body. Emotional pain lights up the same part of our brain as physical pain. An insult can feel just as painful as getting your hand slammed in the door.

a2.jpg

When someone says you broke my heart it is not just an expression. Emotional pain hurts. LONELINESS IS PAINFUL.

Loneliness is a state of mind. It is distinct from being alone which is a choice. Many people love to be alone–some people say they find solace in solitude, do their best work in solitude. Being alone is not synonymous with being lonely. We can be surrounded by people yet still feel quite lonely.

Loneliness is a silent killer. It is an epidemic. People, at alarming rates, are reporting being lonely. I think the nature of relationships has changed in the last couple decades and we have failed to adapt. We live in this “always on” society. We are always connected digitally but failing to connect emotionally.

The lack of empathy in our society is alarming. Many people unless forced to empathize will unfortunately simply not do it. Most likely because being empathetic requires being vulnerable. Being vulnerable opens us up to being hurt and judged. Therefore, for many being vulnerable is too great a risk to their emotional and psychological well-being.

Yet the cost of this lack of vulnerability and empathy…is loneliness.

The reality is we need to be able to connect and empathize with others to be truly happy and fulfilled. We need to expand our capacity for kindness and compassion to overcome said loneliness.

One key — maybe the key — to happiness is strong connections to other people.

What are some signs you may be lonely?

~Irregular sleep: sleeping too much, too little, or struggling with falling asleep

~Low-grade, chronic anger and feelings of resentment

~Change is eating: eating too much or too little

~Being addicted to your phone

~You get sick frequently–every cold, every virus

~Shopping alot

~You spend time with other lonely people

~You are constantly tired

~You feel depressed

~You are drinking more or self-medicating in one form or another

~Taking long showers

~You blow things out of proportion

If you read the aforementioned, and you are thinking, “Yes, I AM lonely — so now what can I do to change it?”

1.Help others — teaching, volunteering, caring for children, aging parents, or animals — all helps to mitigate loneliness. These are also suggestions I give my clients suffering from depression–to try to shift your focus from self to serving others in some capacity. It can do wonders for many common mental health ailments. Helping others can also alleviate feelings of loneliness. Prioritize and ritualize connecting with others.

2.Try to figure out what’s missing from your life. Do you have close friends? Are you close with certain family members? I am talking about genuine closeness where you talk about feelings and emotions, not just physical closeness. Are you and your partner communicating outside of the superficial?  Do you feel you contribute to the world and society? Do you have something outside of yourself you derive meaning from? Think long and hard about what you feel is missing from your life. The more clearly you understand what’s missing, the more clearly you’ll see possible solutions.

3.Be positive and open-minded. Are you struggling with negative emotions? Negative emotions like judgement, anger, envy, ultra-competitiveness, jealousy, guilt, resentment are all are warning signs something needs to change in your life. These emotions also hinder your ability to connect with others. People can pick up on your negativity and will steer clear. Loneliness in and of itself can make people feel more critical, jealous, judgemental, and negative. If you recognize that your loneliness may be affecting you in this manner, you can take steps to counter it. Counseling might be a great place to start the journey to overcoming your negative emotions and feelings of loneliness.

4.Ask yourself, “How am I relating to others?” Are you communicating to others you are a safe, trustworthy person to connect with? Are you judgemental and negative? Are you respectful of differences? Are you open to building close bonds with others or do you feel other people are not to be trusted? Do you look at other people as kind and warm or selfish and cold? How you view others is an important part of this process. Do you do your part in reaching out to others? Are you scared to put yourself out there? Take time to reflect on your self-defeating thoughts. Remember we all eventually reap what we sow in our relationships.

5.Learn to be at ease with yourself. Accept yourself. The good,the bad, and the ugly. Stop running from your perceived faults and shortcomings. Some people spend their whole life in non-acceptance of their whole self. If you live your life this way, you will inevitably feel lonely. You will not be at ease in your own skin. If you cannot accept all of you, it will lead you to feel you NEED others. Loneliness will follow suit.

6.Check your ego at the door. The ego always lead you to feel lonely. Do you find you feel superior to others? Or inferior to others? Two sides of the same coin both of which will ensure loneliness. When we feel lonely, we tend to blame external factors including other people. The best way to stop feeling lonely in your life and relationships is to examine your thoughts and world view. Is your ego in the driver’s seat? An out of control ego coincides with feeling “separate” from others and life itself. The very nature of the ego is separation. Our ego drives us to be very isolated. In order to be connected with need to be seen, heard, and valued. In order to feel this way, we need to be capable of making OTHERS feel seen, heard, and valued. It is a two-way street. If your ego is in the driver’s seat, you will almost certainly struggle with loneliness for as long as that is the case, you will not be capable of truly seeing, hearing, and valuing others.

I truly believe we can change this trend in loneliness. But first we need to figure out a way to address this growing empathy gap in our society.

Try asking someone how they are doing. Be brave and put yourself out there. But remember people can only meet you as deeply as they meet themselves.

No matter who you are, you’ve probably experienced the depths of loneliness at some point in your life. If you are feeling lonely, remember, this too shall pass. If you are willing to do your part. It’s no wonder that loneliness can be an unhappy feeling, because most people enjoy other people’s company, and feeling connected with those who are important in our lives. Addressing your loneliness could be the key to unleashing your healthy mind.

I believe with a little ingenuity we can all have the relationships we want and need.

To schedule a counseling session with me (AND if you are a reader who lives in New Jersey):

https://anewcounselingservices.com/erin-theodorou%2Cm-ed-%2C-lpc

Anew Counseling Services LLC

617 Oradell Avenue, Suite 3, Oradell, New Jersey, 07649

(551) 795-3822
etheodorou@anewcounselingservices.com

 

Advertisements
counseling, psychology, self-help

Managing Stress During the Holiday Season: It’s the Most Wonderful AND Stressful Time of the Year!

holiday-stress-organixxFeature.png

Do you get stressed-out around the holidays? 

Thanksgiving is almost upon us which means the holiday season is about to be in full swing!

For many, this is their favorite time of year. Many look forward to the holidays and ending the year with a bang!

The holiday season can be full of joy and spending quality time with our loved ones…but it can also be stressful and full of angst. The holiday season is a time of year that often brings unwelcome visitors–anxiety, stress, and depression just to name a few–all of which can put a damper on one’s holiday spirit.

Stress is ever-present during the holiday season. And it’s no wonder. The holidays present a multitude of demands — demands we place on our self AND demands placed on us by others.

We spend endless hours devoting much time to decorating, shopping, baking, gift wrapping, cleaning, and entertaining. Unrealistic expectations run rampant during the time of year. Just trying to stay within one’s budget can be stressful in and of itself.

It is the most wonderful and EXPENSIVE time of the year!

During this time of year, people often resort to bad habits—they may overindulged in sweet and sugar cravings, dip into the booze and pharmaceuticals, and live on cup after cup of caffeine filled drinks such as coffee and soda to power through their never-ending to-do list.

Emotions can be all over the place. You may feel annoyed by meddling relatives, experience bouts of loneliness,  miss loved ones who are no longer with you, or lose patience with your children over their endless requests and demands.

Stress and depression can ruin your holidays and hurt your mental health. Being realistic, planning ahead, and seeking support can help ward off stress and depression.

Below are some strategies for managing the stress of the holidays:

1)Stay connected. As families change and grow, you may not all be able to be together on the holidays. People live on different coasts, other loved ones may spend time with their in-laws, and schedules may not allow everyone to be together in ONE place. Give people a call, send holiday cards, and do your best to stay connected even if you cannot physically be together. If you want to stay connected you need to do your part as well to stay in touch–even a simple “Missing you, thinking of you” text can go a long way to letting the people in your life know you care.

2)Don’t blow your budget–you can’t buy happiness for yourself OR anyone else. Design a budget and stick to it. How much you spend is NOT a reflection of how much you care. Don’t be fooled into thinking you have to go big (big meaning expensive) on presents to make loved ones happy. It truly is the thought that counts.  The best presents to give are experiences–give loved ones Groupons such as to a paint class night or to try a cooking class.

3)Take care of YOU. Often during the holidays we are so focused on doing for others. It is also a trying time of year on us physically AND mentally— the days begin getting darker and colder (unless you live in a tropical climate-then LUCKY YOU), we eat more, drink more, sleep less, and are generally more busy. It is the recipe for the perfect storm on our emotional and mental well-being. Try not to abandon ALL your healthy habits. Try to get the proper amount of sleep, get some exercise in, and watch your diet during the work week. Don’t let the holidays be a free for all on your health. Come January 1st you WILL regret it.

4)Learn to say no. You do not have to attend every party you are invited to. You do not have to host your mother-in-law’s third cousins you never met before. You don’t have to drive to three different places on Christmas to not disappoint. Slow it down. Don’t allow the holiday season to run you ragged. Saying yes when you want to say no leaves you feeling overwhelmed and resentful. Nothing merry about that!

5)Lower your expectations. Cut yourself some slack. Cut others some slack as well. We are all doing the best we can. Things do not need to be perfect to be fun. Try for good enough and focus your attention on the real meaning of the holidays. Don’t let your annoying, crazy uncle get on your last nerve at the dinner table–this is why Jesus turned water into wine. Have a glass of red (heart health AND antioxidants), scoop on the salad, and try to have fun!

It is important to take control of the holidays before they take control of YOU.

Don’t let the holidays become something that spikes your stress levels to the max. Instead, take steps to prevent stress and depression that can arise during the holidays. Learn to recognize your triggers. Perhaps you worry about your family’s budget or demands placed on you. Stay mindful and take some time to RELAX. Keep in mind self-imposed demands tend to be especially tough, so try your best to mitigate the stress before it leads to a meltdown.

Even if you’re a easy going, laid back person, the holiday season can still be a trying time. Your stress level can go through the roof. Don’t be afraid to talk to a mental health professional if the holiday season has you feeling down or having a difficult time. A therapist can help you improve your coping skills so you can tap into the joy and peace that is all around you–and within you.

Happy Holidays!

To schedule a counseling session with me (AND if you are a reader who lives in New Jersey):

https://anewcounselingservices.com/erin-theodorou%2Cm-ed-%2C-lpc

Anew Counseling Services LLC

617 Oradell Avenue, Suite 3, Oradell, New Jersey, 07649

(551) 795-3822
etheodorou@anewcounselingservices.com