In my blog post last week, I shared how presenting a recent program on loneliness led me to reflect on how loneliness is a common experience for people who are currently in or facing the aftermath of an abusive relationship. Although loneliness is a universal experience that virtually everyone will face from time to time, it’s also an uncomfortable--and sometimes--painful experience.
Working through uncomfortable emotions is an important--yet challenging--part of the process of recovering from past abuse. Loneliness is an especially uncomfortable emotion, in particular because it can involve thinking patterns that, left unchecked, can lead to a cycle of more isolation and even greater feelings of loneliness. (You can learn more about the “Loneliness Loop” in the Healthy Relationships Initiative program by clicking here.)
There are healthy ways to cope with loneliness, which include the following:
First, know when to reach out for help. If your feelings of loneliness are very distressing or lead you to feeling hopeless, it’s important to seek professional help. You can find directories of counselors and therapists here.
Second, work on your own personal growth, including intentionally striving to be comfortable with alone time and enjoying your own company. It’s also important to work on your thought patterns and self-talk that may be leading you to self-isolate or self-sabotage when it comes to building new connections with others.
And third, take small but meaningful steps toward fostering connections with others. This could include reaching out to a friend or family member you haven’t seen in a while, joining new groups in your community to expand your social network, and practicing basic relationship skills that can be helpful across many different types of relationships.
Finally, work to overcome the stigma surrounding loneliness. Remind yourself that when you feel lonely, you’re experiencing something that’s a natural part of life. You don’t need to add any more shame or embarrassment to the mix by pressuring yourself to get over your feelings or pretend they’re not there. Take time to reflect on what your emotions can teach you about the types of connections you want to have in your life (including with others and yourself) and then identify steps you can take to build those connections.