5 Ways to Feel Less Isolated When Facing Change

5 Ways to Feel Less Isolated When Facing Change

People deal with stress and emotional pain in many ways.  I’m one of those people who slaps on a happy face and tries to face it head on, alone.  That doesn’t mean I bury my emotions.  I just don’t like to show people when I’m going through a tough time.  I also get satisfaction out of solving my own problems.  In most cases, I find a workable solution, and the situation resolves itself.

Sometimes, though, the issue lingers, and I find myself caught in a web of isolation.  I now have a serious problem that needs to be fixed, but I can’t fix it myself.  I might not have told anyone else, so they don’t know I feel terrible.  Guilt will sometimes set in if I don’t want to burden them with my problem.  Or, I might conclude that my friends and family could not possibly understand what I’m going through.  This combines the isolation, and if left to simmer, will inevitably make the problem more isolating.

Isolation can be a crippling environment.  Sometimes the mere act of breaking free can bring you peace, even if it can’t solve your problem.   If you feel alone with a huge burden to bear, here are a few ways I’ve found to deal with isolation.  For me, at least, some tactics work better than others in a given situation.

1. Decide to Tell an Understanding Close Friend or Loved One.

As an adult, I once had a problem that ate away at me for months and months before I finally decided to tell my mother.  She asked me why I took so long to tell anyone.  When I told her I felt so sure no one would understand, she told me that people are more similar than you think.  More often than not, we experience similar problems, even if we don’t talk about them.  It turns out my mother could completely relate, and she helped me work out my issue.  Even when a friend can’t help you work out a problem, the mere act of talking about it to a sympathetic ear can heal an isolated heart.

2. Find People You Don’t Know Who Can Help.

If you know that your inner circle of friends and family can’t relate (or could even make the situation worse), seek out new people to talk to.  A psychologist or counselor can help over a period of time, or if you want anonymous advice, look up a help line you can call by phone.  Support groups can help, especially if meeting people with similar issues makes you more relaxed than talking to someone one-on-one.   If you don’t know where to look locally, do an online search or call a community center for guidance.

3. Do Something You Enjoy with Others.

Some problems will go away on their own given time, but it’s the waiting that’s causing you stress.  I find this particularly true after a romantic break-up or loneliness after moving to a new area.  Here, the isolation is that you have a lot of time on your hands.  Although staying at home and watching television may seem like the way to power through, it can feed into your isolation and make you feel worse in the long run.  Even if it’s just having dinner with an acquaintance, the act of being with other people can make you feel more connected with the rest of the world.

4. Make a Routine of Getting out of the House.

If you find yourself going to work and then locking yourself up at home day after day, do something to break yourself out of that habit.  Join a soccer team or take an art class, something that occurs regularly outside of your house at a set time.  A structured “out of house” schedule help you realize that there’s a world outside of your problems and help you connect with people not related to how you’re feeling.

5.Read About Your Issue Online.

The great thing about the Internet is that it’s chock full of everything – good and bad.  Unless you have a rare issue, someone in the wide world has had a similar experience and wrote about how they got through it.  If you can’t bring yourself to talk to someone, the act of reading someone else’s experience could help you deal with yours.  At the very least, you will know for sure that you’re not alone.

* * *

These are tactics I’ve used in the past to help me through a tough time, but different people deal with stress differently.  Please provide in the comments below any strategy you’ve used to bust through isolation.

Photo by Luis Hernandez

Deborah Fike

Deborah Fike is the Director of Educational Outreach for Spotkin, an educational games company that marries fun with learning.  She’s also the founder of Avalon Labs, which provides marketing consultations and writing services for start-ups and online businesses.   She carves out a significant portion of her time to raising her two younger daughters.

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16 Comments

  1. You are right, even getting out of the house around other people helps. Another idea is to talk with friends or co-workers about it on a limited basis if you aren’t comfortable sharing the details. A lot of people will shy away from sharing detailed problems at work or with friends, but that doesn’t mean you can’t communicate that you’re having a rough time. Sometimes it helps and other times it opens the door to further discussion.

    Dan @ ZenPresence

    Reply
    • That’s a great addition, Dan. You don’t have to spill your guts to have a sympathetic ear. Just the fact that someone knows you’re going through a difficult time can help.

      Reply
  2. Someone close to me shared something with me recently, something that had been weighing so heavily on her spirit. It seemed so big and so scary that she could barely talk about it, so afraid of what I would think. But when she shared it and I reacted with compassion, it seemed so much more manageable to her. Within a day or two, she even said that it wasn’t really a problem anymore. Sharing something that is hurting us or troubling us connects us with others. It take the power out of the secret. Some pain might still be there, depending on what it is, but the fear diminishes. You have offered some very helpful and important advice here.

    Reply
    • Thanks for adding your insight, Galen. Like your friend, I have found through personal experience that telling someone can make the whole process more bearable, and, more importantly, that the people who love us are more interested in our well being than judging us.

      Reply
  3. But be careful with #5. Sometimes we can dwell too much on something and we’ll spend hours online in needless worry and waste of time.

    Reply
    • That is a good point, Dan. You don’t want to go overboard. Finding similar people with shared experiences (and reaching out to them) is good, but obsessing can magnify your problem.

      Reply
  4. For some of us who like to ‘be strong’ it can feel safer to keep things held tight within us. Letting some of it out can seem scary but it’s a hurdle that needs to be overcome. Sharing with the right people can give us perspective, support and release. I particularly like the fact that your points are realistic, safe and compassionate – thank you

    Reply
    • Realizing that ‘being strong’ sometimes means asking for help has been a particularly tough journey for me. It always help me personally, though, when I don’t bottle things up.

      Reply
  5. Very helpful post. Whatever the situation we face we need allies. Building these relationships is something we mustn’t neglect. These are people who we will help when they’re finding it tough as we should look to help others first.

    Reply
    • I also find that I would be there for someone, 90% of the time they will be there for me as well. It’s good to remember that it’s not a one-sided friendship when you ask for help or an ear.

      Reply
  6. Great post! The tactics mentioned are similar to what I do whenever I have a problem. It helps take the burden off when I talk to my sister or go out with a really close friend. If it means letting out my frustrations in a healthy way, I’d say doing extreme sports would do the job for me – free falling, bunjee jumping and the like. :) Thank you for sharing this post!

    Reply
    • Actually, doing a sport is a great addition to the list. Even if you don’t feel like it initially, exercise has a lot of benefits that can help lift you out of a funk.

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  7. Talking to family members and friends is really a big help. Socializing and keeping ourselves busy with thing we love to do is also a great idea. The more important thing to do is not to be too emotional in handling problems, keep an open mind and always have a positive point of views.

    Reply
    • I think the key there is “too emotional.” You need to address your emotions and find a way to get yourself into a better head space, but you shouldn’t let them overwhelm you. I’ve also found family and friends to be a huge help in the transitional process.

      Reply
  8. These are great advice. When you have problems, not sharing and keeping it to yourself can have its negative effects. Sometimes, we just have to stop thinking about how we’ll give other people more problems if we talk to them about our endeavors. They have problems, too, but if that person is a friend, he can be willing to set his problems aside so that he can comfort you or help you out. And so should you, to your friends.

    Reply
    • Great feedback, Jorge. Certainly bottling things up can have negative effects, and it’s good to know you’re friends are there for you – during good times and bad.

      Reply

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