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