Being alone is hard enough, but when you’re between relationships it can feel torturous. Every day feels like an eternity, and adjusting to single life is exhausting. Most of us are in relationships in part to avoid being single, so when this life transition inevitability presents itself, we face it with a sense of dread.
I’ve written quite a bit about loneliness and being alone, and I have personally felt differently about these states of being depending on where I am in my own life. I’ve learned that it’s much easier to give advice on how to feel less lonely when I’m not feeling it myself, and I enjoy sharing tips about how to be alone when I’m feeling more confident about spending time with myself.
Right now loneliness and being alone—they’re two separate things in my mind—are both strongly present for me and I’m needing to get very creative. Recently I went the entire day without talking to anyone. Not because I was avoiding the world, but because my life is structured in such a way that I don’t have much contact with people. This makes dealing with loneliness tricky, because forcing myself to seek out socialization feels unnatural. But I know I won’t survive without some form of connection.
You may have a solitary life as well, or you may be in a work environment around a lot of people yet still feel lonely. That’s just as bad in my book, because the need to put on a happy face can get old really fast. This is one of the first things to remember about loneliness. Being around strangers you don’t really care about doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll feel less lonely. In fact, it can often feel worse.
So how does one cope when straddling the breakup gap between lost love and new love? It’s an ongoing education for sure, but I’ve come up with a few tactics that I hope you’ll find easy and helpful as you move through this transition of your life.
Binge on movies.
I know this sounds like a crazy and unhealthy coping mechanism (especially coming from a therapist), but there was a time when movies were the only pastime. It’s only in our modern culture that we shy away from this great distraction because of how technologically addicted we all are. Look at this the same way you would if you were on vacation and wanting to kind of check out of your life. You’re actually on hiatus from love, so why not use that situation to your advantage and get in some good screen time?
Everyone has at least a couple of drawers or a closet to clean out. Getting rid of some old stuff and relinquishing junk you’ve been stockpiling both fills your time and keeps you focused on something other than your loneliness. Taking action opens up pathways in the brain that inspire and motivate because we all want to feel productive. Sitting around feeds the loneliness monster because you’re just waiting instead of doing.
Start a project.
For me, writing is an ongoing project, and I’ve never been more productive than I’ve been over these last few weeks being alone. By now you’re probably getting the theme of focusing on something, and projects keep you directed while invoking a feeling of creativity. Creativity is inspiring and healing, so pick something to work on that opens that part of your mind and heart. Puzzles are great, start a Pinterest board, plant a garden, or build something if you’re handy.
A large part of loneliness is feeling like you’re disconnected or don’t belong. There’s something about the outdoors that makes it impossible to feel alone. I always think of plant life as my “relatives,” so even just sitting in the yard or going for a short walk can shift your mindset from loneliness to being a part of something greater. Going on a hike or visiting a body of water works wonders, but if that’s not possible, simply being in fresh air will do the trick.
This is a general recommendation, the point of which is don’t be still too long. That feeling of restlessness you get when you start to feel empty—or like something is missing—is normal, and moving will release the tension. Dancing is an amazing release (and no one’s even looking), or getting in your car for a little road trip can transform loneliness into freedom. Again, action is powerful when it comes to moving through loneliness. It allows us to take control and move on faster instead of dwelling on the situation.
Loneliness is painful, but it can be hugely informative as well. You’ll never know yourself better than when you’re forced to be with yourself on this level. Use the time wisely, because soon enough you’ll be wishing you had that solitude back.