Plus, baby steps to get back to your social life.
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You Aren’t Sure How It Started
One day, you woke up, and you felt lonely. You have friends, but you only speak with them occasionally. You don’t even see your family members that often. It wasn’t a conscious choice, it just happened slowly, over time. You used to be a lot of fun. It wasn’t uncommon for you to be really busy with parties, after work gatherings, lunches with friends, and hobbies. What happened to that person? How did you get here? At some point, you isolated yourself from others.
There are several reasons that people begin to isolate themselves from others. Usually, it’s when emotions have gotten too big for you, and being alone seems like the safest, easiest choice. Here are a few times that may happen.
- You’ve gone through a big life change, like a move, a new job, marriage, divorce, a new baby, an empty nest, an illness, weight gain, etc. There were such big emotions that went along with whatever your life change was. You couldn’t deal with the emotions of other people, advice from others, or putting yourself out there to meet new people.
- You’ve been through trauma, like death of a family member, financial loss, the end of a relationship, a fight with a family member or friend, a weather event, fire, or crime. Or, hey, even a pandemic!
- You’re not living your true passion. You’re in a job you don’t like, living in an area you hate, or not realizing your dreams.
- You have a narcissistic person in your life that you have trouble setting boundaries with.
Some of these things blend together, or overlap. They all have the ability to cause you to be in a depressive, anxious state. Sometimes they even cause deep shame. The funny thing is, the cure is just the thing you’re avoiding, getting out there with other people who love and uplift you.
Taking the First Step is the Hardest Part
The more you isolate yourself, the more isolated you feel. It’s hard to take the very first step, which is to be around people again. But, how? Where do you go? Where will you find people that are supportive?
When our home flooded during Hurricane Harvey, life was overwhelming for a while. I spent my days figuring out where we would find a contractor that would stick around, how we would pay for the extensive repairs, and what we wanted for countertops, fixtures, and all the other decisions that came along with a big remodel. Do you know how many shades of white paint there are?
I isolated years ago when I went through a divorce as well. I didn’t know anyone that was divorced, or single, at that time. All of my friends were married. I had no clue how to spend my time when I wasn’t working, or spending time with my kids. I was ashamed I couldn’t make my marriage work, which I now know, is a totally normal feeling.
These are the steps I took, or that I advise my clients to take, when they have isolated themselves from others:
- Find a coach or therapist with experience in whichever thing has caused you to want to isolate yourself. If you’re wanting to lose weight, find a weight loss coach. If you have a narcissistic family member, find a coach or therapist with experience dealing with narcissists. If you’ve been through a traumatic experience, find someone experienced with the effects of trauma.
- Go to a 12-step program. There are free 12-step programs for just about anything. You will feel supported when you see that you are not that different from so many others.
- Get back in touch with old friends. Invite one for coffee. Send a voice message. Make a phone call. Many of your friends may be feeling isolated too. They would love an invitation to do something with you.
- Make new friends by taking a class, volunteering, taking a Bible Study, or joining a group in your community. I gave lots of ideas for making new friends in this blog post last week.
If these things seem too difficult or scary right now, begin with a baby step. Take a walk outside in your neighborhood or a local park. Sunshine does a world of good for your mood. You could also just smile at someone in the grocery store, or help someone that has their hands full. A small act of kindness for others makes you feel great. When you feel great, you are more likely to want to be around others.
If the Thought of Getting Out There Sounds Scary
Sometimes, just the thought of being around others is just too scary. You’ve been through so much emotional turmoil, that you can’t imagine what you would say, or that you would even be any fun. In that case, take your time and practice lots of self-care.
Get lots of sleep, eat healthy foods, exercise, and do all the other things that make you feel good. Watch movies you’ve already seen, but you know you love. Watch comedy specials. Play with your pets. Pray and meditate. Plant a garden. Read fun fictional books, or self-help books. Put all the energy into taking care of yourself, that you would usually put into friends and family.
Before you know it, you will begin feeling better, and ready to be around others again. Then go back up to the suggestions above.
Let me know in the comments if any of these four things kept you isolated, and what you have done to get back out around other people.