How to Cope With Loneliness
The fear of being alone grips us fiercely. But there is a way to cope with loneliness if we are willing to bring out that hidden courage that is in our hearts and seldom used.
I have lived my entire life in fear of being left alone. For that reason alone, I always compromised with my family, my friends, my co-workers, and everyone around me so that I could fit in even when they weren’t the best people to be around with. The questions that constantly haunted me were,” What if I died alone with nobody to care for me?” “ What if I had no one to celebrate any festivals or happy moments with?” “What if I had no house to live in or no one to talk to?” and many more ‘what ifs’.
But probably what I missed out on was what if I gave up the fear of always being dependent on people and being self-sufficient for a change?
Although the very thought of it gave me the creeps, I was forced to go down that slippery slope a few years back. And what transpired after that has changed my perspective and given me new found strength to cope with loneliness.
If you are grappling with the same or a similar kind of fear. My story will inspire you to break free from the shackles that are most often self-imposed.
During my school and college days, it was imperative to have a group of friends who would look out for me on campus and invite me for outings. It was a given that if I had no friends I wasn’t likable and there was seriously something wrong with me. The expectations followed me when I got married. I had to be accepted by my new extended family and always be included in their conversations and plans. If not then something wasn’t right in me. Hence the next obvious thing was that whoever was around me was to make themselves available to me whenever I needed them. That was the trade-off for putting up with them although it wasn’t easy all the time.
But like all false illusions, this one had to fall too. When I reached my fifties, I realized that most people had lives of their own and they couldn’t be with me all the time. Even my immediate family that I was conditioned to believe would always look after me had other priorities. Not that they disliked me or were irresponsible but they had a life of their own and I couldn’t always be a part of it. I had begun to see this shift over time but it hit me on one fine day and I was shattered. My biggest fear had come true.
Initially, I was unable to think or act and was convinced that my life was over but eventually, I realized that I had two choices. I could either wallow in misery, comparing my life with other people’s show of perfection (I’m not saying everybody goes through this but what we are shown by others is mostly selective) or I could pick up the pieces while they could still be gathered and rebuild a life for myself without being dependent on others. It was an uphill climb but they say that we win half of our battles in our minds when we firmly decide. I did that and the ways kept opening.
Here are tips on how to cope with loneliness. They helped me and may help you too.
1. I joined a self-help class that made me deeply believe in my abilities and strengths. If I had come this far in life I wasn’t stupid and I had to have some talents that were yet to be discovered. If you cannot sign up for a workshop or a class, you can read books on self-help or watch podcasts that are available online and most of them are free.
2. To take the belief that I was talented further, I decided to pursue my hobby of pottery. I refreshed my skills and started selling my products. The money that poured in gave me the freedom to buy what I wanted and visit places that I wanted to go to. That gave me the satisfaction and validation that I initially was seeking from people. I felt lesser dependent on other people for my happiness. Getting a job is a good idea and a great way to get validated.
3. A friend of mine suggested that with my emotional and mental well-being, I should also be taking care of my physical well-being. Hence I joined yoga classes that not only lifted my spirits but gave me more energy to do the things that I loved. Apart from Yoga, you can join a gym, an aerobics class, a trekking group, or any other physical activity that sets the endorphins going in your body to make you feel good.
4. I practiced more tolerance and empathy. I was gradually in a position to accept the fact that when people couldn’t be with me, it was nothing to do with me. They had their own lives and priorities and sometimes they were genuinely facing a problem. Hence I had no reason to feel offended and it was easier to let go and forgive people.
5. I am now in my mid-60s and I do realize the strain on my as well as my spouse’s health. My kids have migrated to other cities and we have opted for an assisted living facility for the elders. Many people have chided me by saying that these facilities are only for people who are abandoned by their kids and families. But I strongly disagree. These communities have people of the same age who love to do similar activities and it is so much fun. Moreover, there is medical help available round the clock in case of emergencies and the architecture is ideal for people who have limitations due to age catching up.
As I take my evening walk every day, and pass people by, some stop and talk, others smile while there are a few who just walk by. But I continue to have a lingering smile on my face for all. I am not scared to be alone anymore.
As narrated by Sakina Hakimji (Surat)
For Sukino Healthcare
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