You may be familiar with the feeling of loneliness after dealing with all the pandemic lockdowns and social distancing protocols…
And as a spouse and parent you’re especially stumped as to why you’re feeling lonely despite being surrounded by your partner, spouse, family members, or children.
Having these feelings of loneliness during times of crisis can make you feel guilty for even thinking those thoughts in the first place.¹ I know this to be especially true for my clients who are parents.
Here’s the thing. It can be really easy for us to blame our feelings of loneliness on everything going on in the world, from elections to movements to protests, or just life in general. While this sounds logical, I want you to know that this may not be your truth.
There may be an underlying issue you are not consciously aware of.
My mission is to open your eyes to the probability that the reason you’re not feeling better is that you’re putting your time and energy into the wrong solution. A solution that doesn’t target the underlying issue, but the symptoms.
This is important because to create real, impactful change in your life, it’s necessary to pinpoint the exact cause of your loneliness first.
So, Why Do You Feel Lonely?
Back in early 2020, the first shelter in place orders went into effect. The majority of us were isolated in our homes to help reduce the spread. Following these measures, it really opened the eyes of experts to what they’re calling the “epidemic of loneliness.”
The term essentially refers to the escalating loneliness caused by the measures put in place and by the pandemic itself.
But this epidemic of loneliness was happening way before that.
According to a study, 43% of Americans 60 years and older were plagued by feelings of loneliness prior to 2020.² And surprisingly, in another study, individuals in their late teens and twenties scored the highest loneliness scores ever.³
And even in my own practice, many of my high-performing professionals we’re putting their work ahead of everyone else in their lives, including themselves. No matter if they’re a doctor, lawyer, or a parent – they too, lacked connection and suffered from loneliness.
Now, I’m not saying I disagree with other mental health experts here. I think the isolation and social distancing have definitely contributed to the problem. I hope you understand that the “epidemic of loneliness” has always been present. It’s just that now it seems to be getting the attention it deserves.
So how is it that you can be in a relationship and yet feel so far away? How can it be possible to feel disconnected when you’re surrounded by so many people in your life?
How is it that some people are able to only have a few relationships in their life, be happy and fulfilled, but appear so alone to others? Do they know something that you don’t?
Feeling lonely really has more to do with the quality of the relationships in your life.⁴ Meaning that we don’t feel lonely because we’re alone. We feel lonely because we aren’t connecting.
So if you’re feeling miles away from those you love despite them being in the same room with you… Or like those in your life, just don’t “get you.” Don’t worry. This is normal.
But Why Aren’t We Connecting?
You and I both know that we need necessities to live, like water, food, and shelter. What you might not know is that connection is also a basic necessity. We need connection to be happy and fulfilled, feel safe in our space, and at peace. It’s one of our primal needs. It’s part of how we’re built.
And yet, we often put our need for connection on the back burner.
Wondering what I mean by “connection?”
It’s helpful to think of connection as energy. So when you experience a connection with someone, a surge of energy is occurring within you, which you then pass on to the other person. And once contact is made, that energy comes right back to you, only more potent than before.
The more energy you put out, the more energy you receive in return. Or at least that's the theory if your relationships are already healthy and fulfilling.
So if you're already ahead of the game and actively trying to improve your relationships only to find it's not being reciprocated, it's possible that your connection to those relationships is broken or flawed somehow.
Or maybe, you’re not receiving any energy from connection because you're incapable of receiving it in the first place. This means your tank is on E, and you need to fill your cup. This is a common reason some people feel lonely.
In both situations, we feel disconnected because we crave this energy that we once received from others. Meaning that once you receive this energy in return, you’re going to ditch the loneliness and replace it with meaningful, high-quality, healthy relationships.
The only question is, how do you do that?
How to Fight Loneliness
To receive energy from others and fuel your need for connection, you must first make sure your energy supply is full.
We can work on refilling our energy supply for connection and fight off loneliness by practicing the art of self-love. Now, practicing self-love looks different for everyone. But self-love basically includes three different aspects.
The first aspect is self-care.
Self-care is all about doing things that help you grow, become a better version of yourself, and start the inner healing process. It’s not always about finding ways to relax. It’s about taking care of yourself in all areas, including:⁵
If you’re a high-performing professional like most of my clients, I want to make something clear about self-care. Self-care is not an indulgence – it’s essential. In the same way that connection is a necessity to live and be happy in our lives, self-care is no different.
So despite you thinking you don’t have enough time, I encourage you to make time. Just as you make time to eat, sleep, and drink – put your self-care in that essential category.
Self-care can look different for every person. But for you, your self-care could look like this:
Maintaining a regular sleep routine
Practicing a daily guided meditation
Journaling your thoughts and gratitude
Cooking nutritious meals that fuel your body
Protecting your time and energy (by setting healthy boundaries)
I challenge you to incorporate small actions into your daily life to practice your self-care. This can be as simple as devoting 15 minutes of your day for a cup of tea, a walk around the block, or practicing relaxing diaphragmatic breathing.
The second aspect is self-improvement.
Self-improvement is where you work towards improving the quality of your life, reaching your full potential, and realizing your dreams.
For you, this could look like improving your:
Self-improvement is all about knowing what the heck you want out of life. Once you realize what you want, self-improvement will help you enhance those areas of your life, so you:
Get that promotion
Start a successful business
Have more loving, healthy relationships
Lose the weight
Cut out sugar this year (this is my goal!)
I could go on and on. The point is that self-improvement, much like self-care, is essential for growth. And we all crave this growth because we have an insatiable need to “do better.”
But perhaps, you already know all about self-improvement, and it didn’t help. Perhaps, it only left you feeling frustrated, still feeling lonely, and plagued with negative thoughts.
Maybe in the past, you tried “self-improvement” techniques only to find yourself still stuck in the same types of situations. You constantly ask yourself, “why me?” or “why can’t I catch a break?”
This could look like always trying to lose the weight only to gain it back plus 20 pounds. Or finding yourself always attracting toxic and restrictive relationships into your life.
This is completely normal.
In fact, I see it all the time with my mindset coaching clients when they first start working with me. If you find that your efforts to work on your self-improvement leave you feeling as stuck as you were before you started, then you’re probably doing it wrong. And that’s okay.
For self-improvement to work for you, you have to figure out 3 things first:
What you want in life
Why you want it
Actionable steps to make it happen
Once you implement a self-improvement strategy in your life, you’ll be well on your way to feeling happier, fulfilled, and content. And you’ll improve your overall quality of life, including filling your cup, so you feel less lonely and more connected.