Words of Encouragement (1):
We all find ourselves in a situation that we’ve never experienced before (a global pandemic! ), one that can feel frightening, nerve-wracking and filled with uncertainty and worry. A situation that none of us expected to be facing this year, or perhaps ever! Yet notice that *we* are facing this together, and it is affecting *us*. I’d like to try as much as possible to offer some snippets of regular encouragement to help us all through as a community.
To start with, I’d like to encourage you that you are not alone, we are all facing this together, and if you need help, please don’t hesitate to reach out. You can reach out to bloggers, you can reach out to groups, or other friends or family, and even if we don’t have a direct solution, there are a lot of networks forming regularly, with advice, support and practical and emotional help, so someone should be able to point you in the right direction in your area. You’re not alone. We’re in this together. Feel free to open up discussion in the comments because someone might just be able to offer you the encouragement and mutual support that we all need, especially at a time like this. Stay safe and well.
In this increasingly ‘connected’ world, loneliness can be an uncomfortable admission. When faced with images and stories of all the fun things other people are doing (or seem to be), particularly via online media, the ache that we are missing out can be all too acute especially as the winter season approaches.
For some who work in office based jobs, the end of the year may mean office closures over the festive season. Most of us welcome time off work to rest, relax, recuperate, and to spend time with family and friends, and maybe even to travel. However, for some people, this time of year is like a looming dark cloud, bringing with it a downpour of loneliness and isolation.
Maybe it is the case that you don’t have anyone to go home to, which is fine if at least you have other social contacts. But maybe you are far from home, or don’t even have friends or family, and the most social interaction you usually have is from colleagues at work. But when you’re not at work, you’re on your own. I live alone, and personally I find time alone very refreshing – I’m the type of person who thrives from a lot of solitude, but perhaps I am able to do so because I know that my family is just a phone call away, and I have a wide network of close friends. For others, a lack of relationships or an abundance of shallow and surface relationships can leave them feeling very empty, isolated and alone, even in a room full of people.
Loneliness can come to anyone at any stage of life, and for a variety of different reasons, as unique as each individual is. However, some people in society, such as the elderly, or young office workers far from home in a busy and unfriendly city environment, or people working overseas, or those who are bereaved, struggle to make social connections or feel like outsiders in some way might be more vulnerable to loneliness. Everyone feels lonely from time to time, but when it becomes debilitating and consuming, that’s when it can be dangerous, therefore we all need to look out for each other, even for those who on the surface seem ‘gregarious’ but who underneath don’t have any real deep connections or relationships to turn to. The season may also be particularly lonely for those who are perhaps single and longing for companionship while faced with lots of social invitations for couples, or for those facing family stresses, and maybe even separation or divorce.
There’s no easy or quick fix solution, but it’s important not to try to go through a period of loneliness alone, because when we are not in a good place, the isolation that would otherwise be a fruitful and enjoyable solitude can turn into a negative and unhealthy place to be.
Whether you are facing a deep loneliness that leaves you feeling vulnerable mentally and emotionally, or whether you are mostly fine but have the occasional ‘pang’ of loneliness during those dark wintery nights, you don’t have to face it alone.
What can you do?
Reach out to friends and family if you have them. If you don’t feel comfortable talking about how you feel, at least just reach out and talk – about anything – keep the lines of communication open, phone or meet up for a chat, and enjoy being in the company of people who know and love you, even if you are not yet ready or willing to share your deepest thoughts and feelings about what you are experiencing.
Perhaps you don’t feel that you have anyone to turn to. In that case, it can be a good idea to reach out to charitable organisations that exist to help people in such situations. During times of my deepest depression and post traumatic stress, even though I have family and friends who I can phone to talk to, I didn’t always feel that I could. I carried the burden of not wanting to be a constant source of worry to the people who cared about me, and also being mindful of the sheer impracticalities of phoning or reaching out to someone while I was in distress in the middle of the night when they would be sleeping. So I found solace in calling helplines like Samaritans in the UK, and it did help to have someone to talk to in that time of distress. Thankfully I don’t feel the need to do that now, but I would encourage anyone and everyone to reach out to the people who have been trained to help those in need, and find some solace there. It may not be ideal, I know first hand how it feels when you’re in that position, but it can be such a life line, and even if you don’t need a life line as such, it can still be a source of comfort, solace and just the right thing at the right time to help you on your way.
Find ways of being in situations that don’t make you feel socially anxious, but in which you can have even a small degree of social interaction. You might like to visit a library, join a group, or go to a coffee shop or a museum, or volunteer to help other people. All of these provide opportunities to engage with other people, even if just on an initial and surface level. It may not take your loneliness away, but it will remind you that you are connected to people, to society and even those simple interactions can have a positive effect, even if only in the short term, on our mental health.
If you really can’t face any of the above, maybe you might find it worthwhile talking to your doctor. And for those times when you are just on your own and struggling with loneliness, you could perhaps seek out positive articles, videos and blog posts from people who share what has helped them in similar situations and life experiences. Be careful not to go down the route, however, of indulging in emotionally burdensome, negative or draining content – seek out those with messages of courage, hope, inspiration, and positivity who can point you towards positive changes and ways of coping. And remember although the winter is here for the time being, things will change, and spring will soon be on its way.
Do you ever ask yourself, “Why am I single?”. I’m sure it’s not an uncommon question for those of us who are, and I imagine for most single people, it is followed with thoughts such as “What’s wrong with me?” “Am I not good enough?”, and similar feelings of self doubt.
But what if we were to ask ourselves that question with a positive frame of mind? Ask “Why am I single?” not to explore your self doubt or worry over what you think are your flaws and shortcomings, but to identify and discover and live out your PURPOSE.
I know it’s not easy, because our thoughts directly impact our emotional wellbeing and can in turn lead to negative physical effects. A negative thought seldom appears alone, and after a string of negative thoughts about ourselves, we might end up feeling sad, lonely, dejected and even depressed. Which is why it is so important that we learn to reframe our thought processes, especially in a society that has limited views of success, that don’t always include celebrating the lives, kindness and accomplishments of single people.
So, think about it this way. Why are you single? Why are you set apart (not set aside) for this season of your life, and what positive difference does the world and do the people around you need you to make, that only you alone can make?
Embrace the truth today that you are worthy, unique, special and do not require another person to complete or validate you – you are enough. We are sold the lie so often that we are incomplete, defective or lacking in some way. Once you begin to be able to identify that as a lie, you will approach your life more positively and hopefully with less fear and worry about society’s expectations. Your life path and journey can’t be dictated by someone else’s or society’s plan or timetable, especially when we live in a time when society’s standards are unfortunately quite low and seem to be slipping daily. There are things, eternal things, that we have little grasp of and therefore we can fall into the trap of being overly influenced by the noise around us from a multitude of sources. You have the capacity to reach great heights, to fulfil your potential and to inspire others, ‘just’ as you are today. Be blessed. x
Think of the time you have to pursue your own interests and goals that you probably wouldn’t if you had a partner, spouse and / or children. Don’t lose today wishing for tomorrow, but instead embrace this season as one of opportunities for self development, personal growth and discovery and really putting your mind to getting to know yourself, and building up your skills, talents and abilities without so many competing demands on your time, for who knows if or when those demands and commitments may come and you may not have as much freedom to pursue your personal dreams and goals.