Loneliness Awareness Week
“Many people suffer from the fear of finding themselves alone, and so they don’t find themselves at all.”
Loneliness is defined as an unpleasant emotional response to perceived isolation. Survivors of domestic abuse are likely to be and feel more isolated than others. There are various reasons for this, but whatever the reason, there is much that can be done to re-build broken friendships, form new social bonds and become better integrated into the community. Reconnecting with family and friends following an abusive relationship is one of the most important steps towards recovery. It can be a difficult process, but with support, survivors can make progress towards building bridges, reconnecting with their old support networks and making new friends too.
If you’re struggling with loneliness, here are some strategies that might help –
Re-consider time on your own – Are you lonely or could you appreciate the solitude you have? Are you missing people or enjoying the peace? Are you having a boring night in on your own or will you indulge in being able to spend your evening pleasing only yourself? Sometimes it’s possible to embrace isolation and extract the positives, sometimes it’s not. Loneliness is a perception, not a fact – the same situation can be perceived differently depending on mindset. Solitude – a state of being alone often has positive connotations. Is there anything you could do to better embrace the situation you’re in now? Is it possible to mindfully connect with the moment rather than dwell on what you perceive you’re missing out on? Time alone could be spent reflecting and understanding yourself better, prioritising your needs, working out what you want.
“I think it’s good for a person to spend time alone. It gives them an opportunity to discover who they are.”
Work on your self-esteem – To be happy being on your own, it helps to be comfortable with who you are and not rely on others to validate you – loneliness is felt more acutely by those dissatisfied with themselves. Good self-esteem also makes it easier to build new friendships too. But most of us don’t like too much solitude, we are social creatures and human contact in terms of love, friendship, intimacy and a feeling of belonging are vital human needs and few people can live happily in isolation. When we feel alone, it’s easy to undermine our self-esteem by making assumptions that we are not accepted or liked by others. It’s important to notice these self-deflating thoughts and be aware not to ‘mind read’ when in reality, we can’t know what someone else is thinking about us. Taking action helps improve self-esteem – rather than ruminating and getting into negative thought patterns, doing something positive such as exercise, reading a book or achieving a goal will make us feel better about ourselves.
“I have to be alone very often. I’d be quite happy if I spent from Saturday night until Monday morning alone in my apartment. That’s how I refuel.”
Focus more on others – Wishing others well, volunteering and helping others can detract us from too much focus on ourselves and put our own issues and feelings of loneliness into a more realistic perspective – it can also help us build friendships. If we’re curious about and interested in others, they will be more attracted to us because we’re giving them attention. Curiosity about others also takes our focus away from feelings of awkwardness or social anxiety. Being kind, smiling at strangers, volunteering and just noticing others will help us feel more connected and less alone. The benefits of be kindness are well established, as are the benefits of volunteering – both give a feeling of connectedness, they take away our feelings of separation and provide opportunities to make new friends. Even seemingly trivial interactions with strangers, such as chatting to a cashier at the supermarket, can keep loneliness at bay and help us feel more connected – small acts can make a big difference.
Be prepared to put effort into making and maintaining friendships – Friendships and social connections, like flowers need time and attention to blossom and thrive. Also, like flowers, more effort is required at the start, but even when healthy and established, friendships require time and effort if they’re to stay healthy. You might feel too tired to meet up with a friend, make a phone call or turn up to a party you’ve been invited to – but effort is needed to cultivate and retain good friendships. Volunteering for the first time when you feel socially anxious is difficult, but as with lots of things in life, we only reap benefits when we put the effort in.
“Loneliness is the poverty of self; solitude is richness of self.”
Find others with common interests – There are so many more tools than ever before to connect with others who share common interests. Meeting with likeminded people can help to make social bonding easier. There is a national organization called Meetup – it’s aimed at those who want to connect with others who share a common interest. Meetup groups include those for foodies, heavy rock enthusiasts, bikers, cocktail makers and also people who want to make new friends. Finding others who you have something in common with makes friendships more likely. If all of this seems too scary, there are also Meetup groups for the socially anxious. All Meetup groups are found online and it’s possible to see which groups are available locally.
Be active online – While online, it’s worth being active rather than passively surfing. There are plenty of online forums that involve active participation – for example online gaming sites, chat sites and advice forums. Sharing words of support and empathy online is the opposite of trolling – this online kindness will help both you and the person you’re advising. Remote friends or family can be contacted via video calls which may help you feel more connected.
Avoid boredom – Sometimes we need to be aware that boredom can be mistaken for loneliness, and boredom can make loneliness more acute. If we have goals and aspirations, a strong sense of purpose and a plan of what to do in our downtime, we’ll be building self-esteem and at the same time countering feelings of loneliness. It can be useful to have a list of activities we can refer to at times when we can’t think what to do.
“I am lonely, yet not everybody will do. I don’t know why some people fill the gaps and others emphasize my loneliness”.
Loneliness is even more common now due to the coronavirus lockdown. Social support systems might be less available, and homeworking can feel very isolating. Survivors of abuse will never feel so lonely as when they’re locked up with the perpetrator of their abuse. These are very difficult times, but it won’t be like this forever, support is still available and there is lots you can do to improve your situation.
“I am stronger than depression and I am braver than loneliness and nothing will ever exhaust me.”
Because we understand the isolation caused by domestic abuse, Broxtowe Women’s Project works hard to do everything possible to help the women we support overcome these issues. We provide a befriending service that is available to our women following outreach support. We also invite former service users to volunteer for us once their support has ended. A grant from The Coalfields Regeneration Trust has allowed us to run a well-being project for both our service users and volunteers. This well-being project includes many types of social support including a reading group, coffee mornings, walking group and regular newsletters. All these initiatives are effective in helping women make vital social connections to combat loneliness that abuse so often brings with it.
If you are alone, lonely and feel frozen out by people who used to be there for you, we have the expertise to work with you to reconnect with old contacts and form new ones. Don’t feel you need to suffer on your own, together we can make things easier. Give us a call on 07914634190, we will always listen to you.
A group of Nottingham women who came together while receiving support for their experience of domestic abuse from us have raised hundreds of pounds by completing more than 1,000 miles in a fundraising challenge.
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