Loneliness can, in many ways, be very debilitating. The more time an individual feels lonely, the harder it can become to step out of that feeling. It can become increasingly tiring to participate in social activities just because of how much energy it can take to do so. For some, this can become a barrier to stepping out at all. As a result, a person can easily be left feeling even more lonely than when they started.
It is also entirely possible to feel lonely even whilst surrounded by people.
If there aren’t people who share our interests, beliefs, or values in our close circles, it can be very easy to feel isolated; set apart in a crowd. Beyond simply being around others, as humans, we need connection with people in more meaningful ways. I personally have often felt a big sense of loneliness when going for extended periods of time without connecting with others who share my passions and interests.
As well as that, I have also struggled throughout my life with social anxiety. As a result, even when I am with people I value a lot and connect with, my thoughts can spiral and become quite negative, very critical of myself. This internal criticism can cause me to shy away from being my full and genuine self. Instead, I retreat internally and cause myself to feel increasingly lonely.
Whilst that is an area I need to work on every day, and I often feel that underlying feeling of social anxiety, building a successful self-care routine has transformed my ability to overcome that anxiety. I have been able to build my confidence, silence my inner critic, and be genuinely who I am. This has also helped to combat my feelings of loneliness.
Here are some self-care tools that I have found very effective in my own mental health journey.
Self-Care When Battling Anxiety: 5 Practical Tips
Identify your interests and values
Connection with people who share my values and interests is a key part of my own self-care. By connecting, I am able to stimulate my mind and get a sense of fulfilment from each day.
Sometimes, however, it can feel overwhelming finding people with shared interests.
The first step to finding people you connect with, who do share your values and interests, is identifying what those interests actually are. Once you know what those things you are passionate about are, you will be in a much stronger position to find people who are also passionate about those things.
Simply listing these things out on a piece of paper will help you to do this. Writing them down will make them more real and much easier to action. You will have a list of things you enjoy which you can refer to at any time.
This also helps to weed out the things you are not interested in, making it more manageable to approach. Rather than feeling like you have to explore everything, you will have a short list of things to look into.
Once you have identified the things you are interested in, you can begin to find others who share the same interests. Start simply with just one thing from your list. Next to that thing write down all the places people would engage in that activity or interest or the ways people would connect around it.
Once you have done that you will know exactly where you can go to find people who share your interests. Sometimes in doing this I have noticed that I am not currently connected to anyone with that interest. Knowing that has helped me to evaluate the areas I would like to connect with new people.
Read and learn new information
A big part of my self-care routine is reading and engaging with new information.
When I feel lonely or anxious, it is often because my mind has nothing to do. It gets bored and starts a spiral of negative thinking. I find that by purposefully committing to setting time aside each day to read books, listen to podcasts, and learn new information, I am able to keep my mind engaged.
I do this every morning, no matter what, at the same time. That works for me. The key is finding a regular time that works for your schedule that you can commit to.
Because I am reading each day, there is always something new for my mind to engage with. It is much harder to get bored when you are filling your mind each day with new information and ideas.
Because I am less bored, I don’t have that much time to spiral into negative thinking. Therefore, I am able to maintain a much more positive view of myself. As a result, I am much more willing to engage with others socially. This also helps to combat any loneliness I may have felt as a result of negative thinking holding me back from other people.
Clear and structured routine
Having a clear and structured routine is a key way that I am able to effectively self-care.
This routine includes different self-care tools and activities I use each day. I schedule them in at the same time each day, to ensure I prioritise my self-care. It is much more difficult to forget about self-care when you have it scheduled into your calendar. It makes things consistent. I know that these things are going to happen for my self-care, and I know when they will happen. My self-care becomes non-negotiable.
For me these daily self-care activities include: exercise, eating healthy, reading, learning and upskilling, and affirmations. I do these things every day at a time which works for me no matter what.
My routine also includes work and recreation activities so I clearly know what I will do and when.
This helps a lot with overcoming loneliness as I am able to see times when I may have a lot of downtime or may be alone for a long time. I can then schedule things into those times if I need to, or simply enjoy the space and purposefully relax without feeling guilty for doing so.
Eat healthily and exercise
It is really easy to not eat healthily and to not exercise. Just the thought of it can be enough to put us off!
The benefits, however, are amazing!
When we look after our physical wellbeing, we simultaneously look after our emotional wellbeing. The more we invest in our physical health, the better we feel about ourselves. This really helps build confidence and can be a key way to combat loneliness. Often our feelings about ourselves can hinder us from reaching out to people or engaging socially.
The key is to make it manageable. You don’t have to instantly completely change your exercise or eating habits, taking small steps which you can maintain into the future is vital.
It could be a short walk, swim, or run. It could be a regular game of football or basketball. Finding something that you enjoy will help you maintain this into the future.
A good way to look after your body is to make sure you stay hydrated and drink water regularly. If you don’t drink a lot of water, increasing your water intake will really help. You could start by switching one drink in the day for water, or by committing to having a glass of water first thing in the morning every day.
Affirmations and silence the inner critic
My thought life, and the value I placed on myself as a result of critical thoughts about myself, was something that really did negatively affect my self-esteem. A large part of the social anxiety I have experienced is a direct result of my negative thinking. This thinking led to me shying away from others and sometimes not being very social.
Daily affirmations have really transformed my thinking.
Our brains accept what we tell them as the truth. This means that if we think negatively about ourselves, our brains will start to believe it. Affirmations make sure we are talking positively about ourselves.
I like to do affirmations at 3 different times each day:
- In the morning.
- In the evening.
- When I find myself thinking about myself critically or negatively.
Catching my negative thoughts and actively speaking positive affirmations about myself really has trained my brain to start to see myself in a positive way.
I have also found that my proficiency for different things has increased exponentially simply because I am not criticising myself; and when I do, I am actively deciding to notice that criticism and think more fair and realistically about myself, identifying positive things about myself.
It may be that you find it difficult or uncomfortable to do this. Again, start with small manageable steps. Simply think of 1 positive thing about yourself and write that down as an affirmation you can use. Each day, think of at least 1 more positive thing and add it to the list. You will quickly find that you have a great list of positive things about yourself that you can refer to when you find your thoughts becoming negative.
As I have begun to think more positively about myself, I have found I naturally engage more with social situations, therefore having less time to feel lonely.
Final Thought: Open Up
This is always something at The Lily-Jo Project we encourage people to do. Sometimes life is just really hard, and it’s ok to feel like that – I often do.
During these times, opening up to either someone you trust or reaching out to a service such as Shout is so important. You don’t even have to discuss all your deepest darkest secrets for this. It can be as simple as saying to someone that you’d like to just have a chat or see someone’s face. You can even say that you’re bored or feeling a little down.
Small steps once again are often more important. Just that process of reaching out can open your mind to remembering that there are people out there who love and care for you and stop the downward spiral that is so easy to get into. There are people who love and care for you who not only will be there for you, but would love to hear from you as talking to you brings them joy too!
It’s easy to feel alone when you physically are alone. In these times, engaging with your purpose, having structure, looking after yourself as well as you deserve (really well), and opening up to people and communities available to you will ensure that emotionally you won’t be alone.
It’s a tough time, and that can feel overwhelming and scary – and self-caring is key. You deserve to feel emotionally and mentally well. You are worth it!
This blog article is a part of The Lily-Jo Project’s International Weekend of Self-Care campaign which takes place in August. To learn more about this campaign and access additional self-care resources, visit www.thelilyjoproject.com/internationalweekendofselfcare.
Further Resources on Loneliness and Self-Care
If you found this article helpful, check out these other resources on loneliness provided by The Lily-Jo Project.
- Loneliness: How to Cope When There’s No One Else at Home
- I’m Alone. Do You Know? 4 Tips for Recognising a Lonely Friend in Need
- How to Self-Care When Battling Anxiety: Mari’s Story
- How to Self-Care When Battling Depression: Alexis’ Story
About the Author: Peter Bonnebaigt
Peter Bonnebaigt or “Pete” is a Manchester-based sound engineer and tour manager. Over the years, he has done shows and toured across the UK, Europe, and globally. Pete is passionate about mental health and currently serves as The Lily-Jo Project’s operations manager. If you ever need to get in touch with us, Pete is often your first point of contact and is always happy to make a new friend!