Loneliness can have such a big impact on all our lives that I decided to write about my experiences of loneliness and what steps I and everyone can take to help manage these feelings.
So, I’ve been swapping WhatsApps and Zoom chats with Julia Rogers (a Personal and Professional Coach) over the last few weeks as I felt a coach would be the perfect person to talk with about this.
Alison : So Julia, you say that there are some clearly defined steps that we as individuals can take to manage our feelings of loneliness?
Julia: Absolutely, here’s the four steps that I recommend to my clients.
- Doing a Life Audit
- Understanding your Personal Values
- Taking Control
And you repeat this process as often as you need.
Alison : So acknowledgement, you’re saying that the first step is we need to acknowledge the impact loneliness is having on our lives.
Julia : Yes and to put things into some context here are some statistics.
100% of those surveyed said that they have ever felt lonely and 90% have felt lonely in a room full of people
(source: Coaching42 Loneliness survey 2020)
Over 50% said that loneliness has – at some point – affected their ability to make decisions and to do everyday activities like getting out of bed.
(source: Coaching42 Loneliness survey 2020)
DOING A LIFE AUDIT
Alison : I can say from personal experience that loneliness isn’t something that we want to acknowledge to ourselves and we can feel a sense of shame in admitting that we are lonely. Surely there must be something “wrong” with us if we are feeling lonely, as otherwise people would want to spend time with us? So Julia, how do we practically acknowledge the impact of loneliness without it damaging our self worth?
Julia : One way to do this is using something that I like to call a Life Audit. By objectively looking at how we are feeling (emotionally and physically) we can start to see what is going on for us. By asking ourselves some questions it can help us identify where and how things have changed.
I think an example would be really helpful here. So, some questions to ask yourself in your Life Audit might be:
- How am I feeling? – Not great physically. I don’t have much ‘get up and go’.
- What has changed for me? – I don’t talk to my friends as much, I don’t have anyone to talk to, so there isn’t any point in making an effort right now.
So by asking yourself these questions there is an acknowledgment that you are not feeling great, whilst noting that there is a tangible external reason for this. In this example, loneliness has had an impact on physical health, but because it’s your life audit no blame has been attached in the understanding of this. It’s an exploratory and self supporting step to take.
UNDERSTANDING YOUR PERSONAL VALUES SO YOU CAN START TAKING CONTROL
Alison : At this point in my personal loneliness journey the act of acknowledging really started to make me feel I was able to take control of my loneliness.
Julia : Yes, many people start feeling more in control of a situation once they’ve identified and acknowledged their loneliness. So now we’ve acknowledged it we can begin to take control of it. For this, I like to keep it simple and approach it in two steps.
Step 1 – Think about . . .
- Who are you?
- What makes you truly happy? Is it being creative, helping others, having a career you enjoy, spending time with friends; or something else?
Step 2 – Then think about . . . .
- What values are most important to you? Once you have a clearer understanding of what your values are it gives you a stronger sense of identity. It can also help you see areas of conflict in your life that may be at odds with your values.
- A value could be anything such as honesty, passion, independence and fun. This word cloud has some value ideas to help get you started.
- Start to try and surround yourself with people with the same interests, values and outlook on life as you. Have you ever noticed how you don’t feel lonely when you’re around people who have the same interests and outlook as you?
Alison : This is so true, I’ve noticed how energised and ‘in the moment’ I feel when I’m sharing a common interest like my love of animals and films.
Julia : Absolutely, then the next step is to decide if there are people in your life who aren’t ‘on your team’. If people aren’t a supportive presence, then this is a good time to examine where they fit. Often we can give attention to people who aren’t reciprocating, which can emphasise our feelings of loneliness.
Alison : Julia is there anything final points you’d like to add?
Julia : Absolutely, if you take only a few things away from reading this article I’d love them to be for you to remember the following
- Everyone is a ‘work in progress’ and this article will always be here for you to refer to whenever you need it; and
- that loneliness is not permanent and everyone has felt loneliness at some point in their lives; you are not alone in feeling it.
I hope you’ve found this article helpful and you now feel armed with some useful tools.
Myself and Julia have put together a short video with some personal tips from friends on how they manage loneliness.
Having disabilities or being the parent or carer of a person with disabilities can be physically and emotionally challenging and with the addition of lockdown and COVID-19 loneliness can become even more pronounced. If reading this article has highlighted feelings of loneliness for you, please know that you are not alone in this. There are many ways that you can get support for this. Avenues that might offer the support you need include The Samaritans, Mind and the Counselling Directory, as well as your GP.
ABOUT ALISON AND JULIA
- Julia Rogers CPC, PCC, MA is an experienced professional executive and life coach, an accredited Professional Certified Coach (PCC) and member of the International Coaching Federation. Her background is in social care and management. On her work as a coach she says ‘the part of my work that has always inspired me is enabling people to find the solutions that work for them’.
- Alison Lawrence runs her own Epping-based business (3 Orange Whips) working with small businesses and entrepreneurs on their marketing, social media, copywriting and projects. On her experiences of loneliness she says ‘I’ve encountered loneliness at many times in my life, most recently while I’ve been on dialysis as I wait for a kidney transplant. Knowing that I’m not alone in these feelings and that there are things I can do to help myself has been so helpful.