Learning How to Be Alone
I have noticed that I struggle with loneliness. With the encouragement of my therapist, I spent this Thanksgiving break focusing on myself and re-learning what I like to do. I rediscovered some of my favorite hobbies and found some new ways to help cope with feeling lonely.
A major way that I experience my anxiety and depression is having difficulty starting things. Whether it be doing chores, going grocery shopping, or even working on my hobbies, anything can be hard to start when I’m feeling down. I have long noticed that the transition from night to day is one of the more stressful times of day for me. When I shared these things with my new therapist, she and I discussed ways that I try to help myself. The past week has been the perfect time because I was essentially on my own: I had a stretch of five days off work, my roommate and best friend was working night shifts and I only saw her in passing, and my boyfriend had gone home to see his family for the holiday. Here are some of the things that I learned.
Schedule activities to distract myself/prevent loneliness
- The sun going down has the tendency to flip a switch in my brain that makes me sad and melancholic. This feeling is compounded when I am alone and perceive that I have no one to talk to or hang out with. For two nights, I went to watch a movie at the theater, which was an effective distraction with the added benefit of getting out of the house. Even if I only say pleasantries to strangers the entire night, it also helps me feel more connected to other people.
Stop thinking about the activity and just do it
- My therapist suggested thinking about the positive benefits of an action, then doing the activity, which may end up improving my mood. This approach is based on the ideas of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and how changing your thought patterns and actions can help you deal with challenging situations. I have been wanting to go on more walks outside because the weather is nice and I have done it a couple times and I enjoyed it. I noticed that I then started to worry about many other things (aka spiral), tried to stop thinking so much, changed my clothes, put on my sneakers, and just went outside. I really enjoyed my walk.
Think about what I used to like to do, and try those things again!
- My therapist reminded me that depression can make it hard to enjoy the activities that I used to love. While I objectively knew that as someone with a psychology degree, sometimes the knowledge doesn’t click until I hear it repeated at the right time. I borrowed a few library books and re-read three of my favorites. I started a new paint-by numbers project that I plan on gifting to my mom for her birthday next year. I watched one episode of a new show and really liked it. I called my family members a couple of times to say hello. I also baked cornbread muffins.
I made a lot of progress over this short period of time and I showed myself that I am capable of working on myself. It can be really hard to show up for myself sometimes. Learning how to manage my mental health is an ongoing journey, and I am grateful for what I have learned.
How do you enjoy time on your own? What are hobbies you are rediscovering?