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Understanding and Overcoming Loneliness

The United States Surgeon General recently identified loneliness as an epidemic and emphasized that the physical effects of loneliness can be detrimental to our health. In fact, the stress of loneliness can manifest in physical illnesses like hypertension, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease. In this article, we will share what loneliness is, how to understand it, and what we can do to overcome it.

Loneliness can best be described as the feeling we get when our needs for positive social interaction are not met. “This feeling is usually due to what is happening internally, and rarely comes as a result of external factors,” says Elizabeth Khanov-Lubleva, Trauma Therapist at Centerstone. Some people have the tendency to self-sabotage, which can come in the form of pushing away, or even ignoring support systems. Specifically, when we feel stressed or anxious, we can sometimes assume that no one else understands what we’re going through, and that we are navigating life alone.

“Humans need social connection and community to thrive, but in today’s culture, social media adds unrealistic expectations for what our friend groups and connections should look like,” adds Khanov-Lubleva. While having a large friend group and busy social calendar is good for some people, it doesn’t feel right for others. And when online images don’t match reality, it can lead to feelings of isolation making us lose sight of the fact that it’s not the quantity of people around you, it’s the quality.

Below are some simple ways that you can combat loneliness:

  • Consider a change in scenery. If you live alone, work from home, or just keep your social circle small, a lot of alone time can make us feel down. So, consider doing your daily activities in a new location: do some work at the local coffee shop, or sit and read in the park. Just being surrounded by people can help boost your mood.
  • Make the first move. If you’ve been feeling lonely and want to spend time with a friend, don’t hesitate to reach out and initiate making plans.
  • Consider adopting a pet. Not only can your pet act as a companion, but certain pets, like dogs, can allow you to be more social by meeting fellow dog owners when you’re out for walks or at the park.
  • Seek professional help. Feelings of depression and loneliness can follow each other in a vicious cycle. So, if you feel like your loneliness is making you feel depressed, or that your depression is leading feelings of loneliness, you may want to consider talking with a mental health professional.

If you or someone you know is struggling with feelings of loneliness, depression, or isolation, Centerstone can help. Call us at 877-HOPE123 (1-877-467-3123) or visit our counseling services page.

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