Everything is PERFECT. You’ve achieved your dream of running your own business working from home.
You don’t need to miss out on your kids school events, you don’t need to worry about childcare, you’ve got a great work/life balance (well, most of the time), your friends think what you’ve done is amaaaaahhhhzing (although you must be a bit bonkers for thinking it will work), you can work ‘on the go’ from your smart phone or tablet, you love your home office or work area and you work alone with no boss to answer to.
Everything is hunky dory, right?
What if you really just want to scream “I’M LONELY!”.
This shit just got real. Loneliness can creep up on you like a dark cloud and once it hits you, it can be really hard to come out of it because it starts to affect your mental well-being, confidence and self-esteem.
It starts with turning down coffee with friends or play dates because you’ve got to crack on with something really important (eventually they stop asking). Or maybe you never really even got invited to these things in the first place? Trust me, I know how hard it is to move to a new area with older kids; trying to make friends is quite frankly bloody hard. Work can be all consuming, especially when it’s your own business. Plus, it’s really hard to switch off (hands up if you’ve replied to an email or Facebook message on your business page after 8pm?…)
You reminisce about your happy work days where you had office banter, giggles with your colleagues, staff do’s and generally just people to socialise with (you don’t really want to go back there though – remember also the long hours, picky boss and lack of holidays?).
Loneliness isn’t just about how many friends you have, it’s about whether or not you feel lonely inside. And once you feel it, it’s really hard to admit it. You can’t possibly say anything to anyone because only last week you were saying how amazing it was to be working from home and great your lifestyle is.
Can you relate to any of the above? Then it’s time to take action.
I’m not going to promise it’ll be easy (you will need to challenge yourself) but it will be worth it. We NEED human contact; even solitary types need human interaction. I’m no psychologist but I do have some practical tips to help you to combat loneliness and they work!
Identifying your loneliness – What kind of lonely are you?
Are you feeling ‘left out’ lonely? An example is where you see groups of friends you used to go out with having fun on Facebook, which gives you a feeling of being excluded (FOMO – fear of missing out syndrome). This is common in people who move to a new area or who don’t have a close network of friends.
Or are you feeling ’emotionally lonely’? This can be like social exclusion but with added emotional difficulties such as feeling anxious or depressed because you have no close emotional bonds with anyone.
Take some time out to identify how you really feel and how your loneliness affects you. Acknowledging the feelings you have can help you to overcome them.
What social interaction do you need?
This largely depends on your personality type (introvert or extrovert). You may want to make lots of new friendships, or you might be the type of person who prefers one or two close friends. You might be happy meeting a close friend once a month for coffee, or you may prefer to be going out to the pub every week. Identify what sort of friendships you need to fulfill you.
How you can stop being lonely
Here are a few practical tips to help you make the first steps.
- Get outside. Seriously simple but that’s where the people are! Even if you don’t talk to a single soul at first, getting out is the first step. OK, is that too scary? In which case read on…
- Stay inside. Hey you know what there’s this cool new thing called the internet and loads of people (real people) hang out there. Go onto Google and type in ‘forum for lonely people’ or similar, start reaching out.
- Tell someone. I don’t care who you tell, but you gotta tell someone. It could be a friend you haven’t seen for ages, a family member, your partner, an online community or club. ANYONE. Reach out there and you’ll be surprised by what you get back. Just call, email them or chat online and say the simple words “actually I’ve been feeling a bit lonely lately…”
- Get networking. I know this might scare the shit out of you, but if you’re running a business then it’s a great way to get out the house, talk to people, possibly bring in some business and maybe even make friends. It doesn’t have to be oh so scary suity business cardy networking either, research online and see if there’s a Networking Mummies (or other female business) group in your area. These are much more informal and friendly than traditional networking events.
- Be your own BFF. This might sound a bit hippy, but it’s really important to love yourself and enjoy the time that you do spend alone. Make time for yourself each day where you choose to be alone. Banish your partner/hubby/kids to bed/another room and have 30 minutes in your own company.
- Talk to a complete stranger – arrghggh scary. So when you go back to the whole ‘go outside’ thing, have a go at talking to someone. Start with a simple “Good morning” salutation as you walk past someone (who cares if they think you’re mad, you probably won’t see them again). Gradually build up to having a conversation with someone in a queue at the supermarket “Gosh, busy in here today isn’t it”.
- Take your work away from your workplace. Plan a day a week where you work somewhere other than your home office; a local cafe with WiFi is a good start. Go to MeetUp.com to see what kind of events are going on in your local area as you might be able to find a group of like-minded home workers who meet up once a month. Also check out UK Jelly to see if there are any co-working events near you,
- Look out for cues clues (yes I did mean to say that). What vibes are you giving off? Do you go on the school run with your head down and arms folded? Take a more relaxed stance and smile at people. No manic grinning though, just a gentle smile is perfect. Look for clues in others too – is there another parent who looks to be on their own? Are they stood there head down, arms folded, no eye contact? Chances are they are feeling lonely too.
- Find other mums in your area. Go to MummySocial.com to link up with other mums in your area and remember they’ve joined Mummy Social because they are feeling like they need to link up with someone.
If you are struggling with loneliness and it’s causing social anxiety or depression, get support online or go and see your GP – there’s no shame in admitting you’re having difficulties.
I’d love to hear from you if you’ve ever felt like this. Comment below and share what worked for you.