It isn't you - Loneliness is an Epidemic

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“It’s hard to make friends in DC.”  

Feeling Lonely is Hard

I hear this weekly from people of diverse nationalities, ethnicities, income levels, religious beliefs, gender identities etc.  We live in the most technologically connected age in the history of civilization, yet rates of loneliness have doubled since the 1980s - 40 percent of American adults say they feel lonely.

Building community can be challenging but it is critical. Experience and research tell us that “loneliness kills – it places our bodies in a chronic stress state and increases inflammation and is a more significant health factor than obesity, smoking, exercise, or nutrition.

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“Social connections are really good for us, -  people who are more socially connected to family, friends, community, are happier, physically healthier, and live longer than people who are less well-connected.”   “Taking care of your body is important, but tending to your relationships is a form of self-care too. That is the revelation.”

Building a Community

So now what do you do?  Community isn’t the number of likes you have on Facebook or followers you have on Twitter.   Those generally are comprised of loose connections. You probably wouldn’t call any of them if you fell down the steps and needed a ride to the doctor.   Let’s say you muster up some energy and decide to go out! You grab your keys and go to where the people are. There are a lot of people in community spaces and events - galleries, parks, clubs, markets, lounges, religious/spiritual spaces.  But we know that you can be lonely in a crowd.

Maybe instead, you decide to find a special someone -  a girlfriend, boyfriend, friends with benefits, et al and create community with them.  Well, we also know that you can be lonely in a marriage, so it’s not just the number of friends you have, and it’s not whether or not you’re in a committed relationship, but it’s the quality of your close relationships that matter.”   I know people who are the life of the party and feel exceptionally lonely because they don’t feel connected to the very people they seem to be having so much fun with.  Sometimes the loneliest people don’t look lonely at all.

Many of us like our own company and there’s nothing wrong with that.  Having time to ourselves to decompress or enjoy a good book are healthy activities.  But if you are at home by yourself imagining the fun others are having (#FOMO), pay attention.  There is no way around it. There are times when we want to laugh, share a meal, and spend time with people we care about and who care about us but don’t know where to go or who to call.  It may sound daunting but it really doesn’t have to be.

Community and Connection

We CAN create community.  But, how?

Ask yourself:

1.    Why: First, figure out what is making you feel lonely.  Is community what you need or is something else happening?

2.    What: If you are desiring more meaningful connections, identify the qualities of community that you have most appreciated in the past.  Do you want to be a part of a team or club and work on relationships based on common interests? Do you want to reconnect with people you once felt really connected to?  Do you want to get to know your neighbors better?

2.     Challenges: What has prevented you from taking these steps in the past?  What makes it challenging to take steps now? Which challenges are you prepared to take on?

3.     Resources: What resources - information, starting points, etc. -  exist for you to build community? What is the first step you can take?

4.     How: What are the qualities of friendship that you bring to these communities? How do you show up and contribute?

5.     Growth What are the ways you may need to stretch to have the community you want?  What may you need to do or see differently?

6.     Clarity: How will you know when you have begun to create the community you want?  

It is okay to feel lonely sometimes.

Loneliness is a normal human emotion and almost everyone experiences it at some point.  It can be caused by a variety of factors not just a lack of community. In fact, profound loneliness can sometimes be traced back to childhood experiences and not solved by building more community.  However, if you want to figure out how to build connections that feel fulfilling, join the Community and Connection group coaching series.  We will explore where community is or isn’t present in our lives, how positive connection and community looks and feels to each of us, and steps for creating, maintaining and growing the communities we want. Come and be in community with others who want to be in community and build community.  Look around, it’s probably about one out of every two people you see. If you are not ready to be in a group coaching setting, contact me for a free consultation for 1-1 support.

 

Building Community and Connection: DC Group Coaching Series

Every Monday from 7/30, 8/6, 8/13, 8/20    Yoga District 14th Street studio.   7:00-8:30 pm

 


 

Self Care - Why All the Hype?

“If your compassion does not include yourself, it is incomplete.” – Jack Kornfield

 

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A question popped up on my Facebook feed recently: “What’s the big deal with self-care? It seems like the new next thing. Now people are taking a shower and calling it self-care. What’s next, brushing your teeth?” A flood of responses came in including:

• It’s a way of trying to get women to not think of doing things purely for themselves as being selfish.

• In the disability community, we usually refer to self-care in terms of finding safe spaces away from abuse and ableism. ‘ Hygiene’ doesn’t need a euphemism because learning to take a shower is nothing to be ashamed of.

Given the people I work with, sometimes getting out of bed and brushing your teeth is the most you can do. And that counts as self-care because some people really can’t get to the next step.

Clearly, opinions vary and the care that is essential for one person isn’t the same as another. We each experience the world differently, absorb traumas differently.  So what is self-care?  "Self-care is any activity that we do deliberately in order to take care of our mental, emotional, and physical health.” “No matter how indulgent or fancy the term may sound, self-care is crucial for our physical, emotional and mental well-being.” Self-care is about: allowing yourself to exhale, to slow down for a moment, to regain a sense of calm and presence - giving yourself time to regroup and recharge.

Prioritizing Self-Care

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People decide to prioritize self-care for a variety of reasons. Maybe they are exhausted, overextended, stressed out, and/or having health problems. What each person does to care for themselves will depend on their needs and circumstances. Some go on vacations to unplug and decompress while others have parks nearby where they walk, run or just be in nature. Many people find time with their pets relaxing and rejuvenating.

Physical activity (like tennis, yoga, running, swimming) is a form of self-care of choice for
others. And the truth is, some people do all of these things while others do none. Some people come to self-care without the financial means to pay for a vacation or regular massages.

Self-Care as Survival

If you are working two jobs, sleep might feel like the only self-care you can imagine. If you are in a toxic relationship, work with traumatized populations or live in stressful environments then it can be hard to figure out what type of self- care could be best for you. Having disabilities makes many experiences in day-to-day life particularly challenging and requires significant work to build in a self-care routine. For people in any of these situations, self-care is a matter of survival. So yes, a hot shower can absolutely be self-care and spending time connecting with friends is absolutely self-care. Going to that doctor’s appointment you have been avoiding or learning how to set boundaries are also forms of self care.

When you have developed and are implementing self-care routines then you are more aware of what you are feeling. You are better able to honor your needs, manage your emotions, and be your own advocate. You ask for and accept help from others when you need it.

Self-Care Inventory

If you want to do your own self-care inventory here are some questions that might be helpful:

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  1. Are you exhausted?

  2. Do you feel balanced?

  3. Are you kind to yourself?

  4. How are you showing up with friends, family, co-workers, strangers, your intimate partner(s)

    and yourself?

  5. Do you feel healthy?

  6. Does your life feel like it is running you instead of you running it?

  7. Are you short-tempered, depleted, or find yourself overextended?

If you are happy with your answers then you may not want to do any further exploration. However, if you decide that how you are showing up isn’t who you want to be in the world or for yourself, then I encourage you to begin identifying what you need and what your barriers have been. It’s the first step, but a necessary first step, to figuring out how to live with more internal peace and wellbeing.

Self-Care as Part of a Routine

As a certified professional coach, it is my job to hold space for clients to feel safe enough to speak their truth about what they need and why it currently isn’t a part of their lives. It is not okay for me to be reckless with my energy and actions when participants need to feel safe. Being centered is not an option. My self-care is a requirement not only for me but for showing up powerfully for others. As a result, I have many tools on my tool belt.

Even as a coach, self care continues to be a work in progress. Lately, I have been in the flow of a great morning routine: meditating, doing yin yoga and taking time for silent reflection. I also have tools for when I am on the go: deep breathing, connecting with loved ones, and having short meditations. As a result, I start my day feeling clearer, kinder and more centered. I am more productive and less reactive. However, in the last few days, I realized that the cardio activity that was once a regular part of my day is no longer in my routine. My next step is to figure out how to build in more cardio for both my physical and mental health.

This infographic from the Cleveland Clinic sums it up well. There are so many benefits that it just makes sense. As life changes, our needs change and the types of self care we need may change as well. So, what do you need? Let’s figure it out.

Self-Care Workshop - Developing and Sustaining a Self-Care Practice

I hold group sessions on self care because it is essential to the quality of our spirit and our lives. For some people, coming to my self-care workshop is their first intentional self-care step. Others attend these workshops because they need support to find their way back to figuring out what works for them and committing to a plan. I help participants identify:

  • what self care means for them.

  • what is standing in their way of having the self care they want.

  • how to manage challenges that arise as they work to implement a self-care practice.

  • how to make self care sustainable.

The Next Group Coaching Series on Self Care will be held on Thursdays in August from the 2nd to the 23rd. (8/2, 8/9, 8/16, 8/23)