How do I stop feeling so lonely?
Search “lonely” and the results throw back question after question from people who are all clearly looking for the same answer – how to cope with loneliness. It shouldn’t be a surprise right now (I’m writing this at the time of the third UK lockdown in the Covid-19 pandemic).
But interestingly this isn’t a new question. Nor is it confined to a particular type of person, age group or social demographic. In fact, it happens to all of us at different times during our lives. But knowing that doesn’t make it any easier to solve.
Why am I so lonely?
On my latest episode of the Teenage Kicks podcast I chat to Nathan Todd, a connection coach who has experienced his fair share of being lonely. Nathan was born with cerebral palsy, and describes his early years with so much charm that it’s sometimes difficult to remember that he spent them in pain, going through operations and therapy to improve his movement.
Nathan says his loneliness kicked in when he reached his teenage years and realised that the world wasn’t planning to treat him the same way as other kids his age. He says that having a disability means that people often put you on the outside – sometimes without even meaning to. It’s why he campaigns under the hashtag #nolabeldefinesme to help others lose the label of disability.
But Nathan doesn’t stop at disability campaigning. He says it’s often the people you’d least expect who feel loneliness the most. Through his coaching exercises he helps people stop feeling lonely whatever their situation.
How do you stop feeling lonely?
Listen to the podcast here
The most important part of tackling any problem is acknowledging it for what it is, and that goes for loneliness too. That means not trying to shrug it off, not berating yourself for feeling lonely, and not putting it down to another bad day. Unless it is just one bad day, of course. But if it’s been going on for a while, and affecting other things in your life like your energy, diet and sleep, you need to tackle it.
It doesn’t matter who you talk to, or for how long, but just voicing what’s going on in your head is sometimes enough for the dam of relief to open up. Whilst it may not be true that a problem shared is a problem halved, it certainly is a problem that you can now talk about, and talking is well-known to have a huge bearing on your ability to cope.
Find someone who you think might be feeling the same, or a friend who has really understood where you’re coming from on something else, and ask them for a chat. Suggest a walk if a face-to-face conversation feels too intimidating. But do ask. You’ll probably be surprised at how easy it is once you get started.
Stop worrying what other people think
If you’re feeling lonely because you think others judge you then just stop it. If someone is judging you you have two choices. Move on, because they’re not the right people to have in your support group; or step up and change what people think by advocating for yourself. Nathan talks more in the podcast about how to do this.
Notice other people’s loneliness
You might be surprised to know that the people who you think are coping brilliantly actually aren’t. One way to stop feeling lonely is to connect with someone who you think might need your support. Don’t ask (most people will just tell you they’re fine, even when they’re not), just do it. You might start a conversation that becomes mutually helpful, or just feel better in yourself because you’ve made a difference. Either way you win.
How can I help my child stop feeling lonely?
One of the hardest parts of being a parent is when they become young adults and you realise that you can no longer solve their problems.
Help them find ways to get out of their own heads
Often a problem will seem bigger than it is just because you dwell on it. And during a pandemic it’s not surprising that ALL our problems seem to get bigger – we have very little else to focus on, after all! So find ways to distract them occasionally.
Physical exercise or just a change of scenery can often completely shift a mindset, so insist on a half hour walk outdoors for the whole family if you can.
Let them know how you’re feeling
Teenagers sometimes don’t want to talk at all, let alone to their parents, and still less when we’re asking them to name a feeling! So go first. Let them know that you’re feeling down, and it might just be the key to unlocking their feelings too. Be specific. If you’re feeling isolated or scared say so. Far from making them worry more, if teens know that it’s okay to feel afraid they might just open up to you as well.
Listen to the podcast for more tips from Nathan on making connections to combat loneliness, and support for people with disabilities.
Listen to the podcast:
You can find the episode in your usual podcast app, or if you prefer, you can listen online below, or through the podcast page.
Where to find Nathan
Listen to the podcast for tips if you’re feeling judged, on the outside, or alone – whether you have a disability or not!
Subscribe to the Teenage Kicks podcast
Thank you so much for listening! Subscribe now to the Teenage Kicks podcast to hear about the new series when it begins. I’ll be talking to some fabulous guests about difficult things that happened to them as teenagers – including losing a parent, being hospitalised with mental health problems, and battling an eating disorder – and how they overcame things to move on with their lives.
I’d love to hear from you if you have any suggestions for future topics on the Teenage Kicks podcast. Just email me on firstname.lastname@example.org, or you can find me on Instagram and Twitter at @iamhelenwills. I appreciate every message, and love to hear from my listeners.
I’d love it if you’d rate and review the podcast on iTunes too – it would really help other people to find it. You can also find more from me on parenting teenagers on my blog Actually Mummy, and on Instagram and Twitter @iamhelenwills.
For information on your data privacy please visit Podcast.co. Please note that I am not a medical expert, and nothing in this blog or in the podcast should be taken as medical advice. If you’re worried about a young person please seek support from a medical professional.
Join me in the Teenage Kicks Facebook group!
If you’re a parent of teens it can be difficult to know where to go for advice, to vent, or just to talk. So I’ve made the Teenage Kicks Facebook group, for all parents of teenagers to chat in a safe space. You can request to join by clicking the button below. It’s a private group and everyone in there will be a parent of teenagers.
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