Whether overworked and losing touch with friends or in new surroundings and feeling isolated, many young professionals feel lonely at times.
If that’s you, the more your understand those less-than-welcome emotions, the more successful you're likely to be in conquering them. Read on for tips to help you de-mystify loneliness, find strategies to feel better, and identify when you might need professional help to do so.
Common responses to loneliness: Does this sound like you?
1. Denial or withdrawal: Crying, drug or alcohol abuse, overeating, watching excessive amounts of television. These activities draw you away from the positive parts of your life, and will actually drain you of the energy you need in order to overcome of loneliness.
2. Social contact: Calling or visiting friends and relatives, or just going out into public situations to seek interactions with others. This response definitely gets to the core of social loneliness, but if the feelings stem from a deeper emotional level, just being around people may not be enough.
3. Increased activity: Distracting yourself with exercise, shopping, work, or any creative endeavor. This is generally a healthy response to loneliness, and can often be a productive way to work through it.
Positive strategies for powering through lonely times
Sometimes your default reaction isn't the best reaction. If you’re lonely and your strategy isn’t helping—or is outright harmful—try one of these instead:
Loneliness... or depression?
For many, bouts of loneliness are occasional and short-lived. But for long-term sufferers, it can be difficult to draw the line between “just lonely” and depressed.
Depression and loneliness, while sometimes overlapping, are distinct and different states.The relationship between them is a complicated and well-recognized topic—it's been addressed in everything from memoirs to research studies. A few key factors can help you make the distinction:
If you suspect you may be suffering from depression, make an appointment with your doctor or a mental health professional and share your concerns. Help and support is easier to get than you might think. If you're contemplating the severity of your situation, WebMD's Depression Health Center is a good place to start.
Being alone does not mean feeling lonely
Above all, remember that loneliness is relative. What you consider to be a deficit in social contact may be the result of a (temporarily) skewed perception of how many relationships other people have, or how many friends you “should” have when you’re new to a place. Appreciate the transition phases for what they are, and the loneliness that can naturally occur during such times, and you’ll soon realize that when it comes to feeling lonely, you’re absolutely not alone.
Photo courtesy of Maciej Meller.
Claire J. Dunn is a native Austinite who spends her days breaking the internet through SEO. She moonlights as a writer and has previously worked for top universities in the US and UK, as well as for The Daily Muse as a marketing associate. Claire’s side-projects include academic research on teen television and improving her completion time for the NYT crossword.More from this Author