Last Saturday, I found myself in a rare situation: I was home alone (minus my cat). At first, I was excited to have some time to myself and planned to focus on some work I needed to do. However, as the hours ticked by, I started feeling more and more lonely. I missed my partner and my children, and the tasks I planned to accomplish started to feel like too much to handle. My thoughts began to spiral and I started settling into the all-too-familiar funk of loneliness.
Thankfully, I have spent enough time on this very issue in therapy to not only recognize what was happening, but reach for my coping skills to pull myself out of the funk before I fell too far into it. However, I also realize that handling loneliness is a common issue for people who live with depression, myself included. So, here are some suggestions on how you can handle loneliness when you live with depression.
1. Reach out to close friends.
When you live with depression, it’s easy to slip into a mindset that reaching out to friends makes you a burden. However, that’s rarely the case. If you feel lonely, sometimes the best thing you can do is reach out to a friend and see if they’re available to meet in person or virtually for a bit.
Personally, I have a group of friends with an unofficial “loneliness agreement.” Essentially, if one of us is feeling lonely, we text the group. The other people respond so we can try to make plans to do something together. Sometimes we go out for dinner at one of our favorite local restaurants, and other times we meet at one person’s house and we each bring games and food. It’s pretty great.
2. Take advantage of interactive online communities.
Although I firmly believe in-person contact is the best remedy for loneliness, we do live in a world where it’s very easy to connect with people who share similar interests or deal with similar health conditions online. In fact, there are dozens of forums and social platforms people can use to build strong connections with interactive online communities.
The Mighty offers a lot of great groups, but you can just as easily post a thought or question to interact with others as well. There are also a fair amount of Subreddits specifically made for people who live with depression and other mental health conditions, or there are also support groups that meet online. If one of these types of virtual supports helps you combat loneliness, then it’s definitely worth it.
3. Focus on the present moment.
Unfortunately, FOMO has become such a huge part of our lives since we’re constantly bombarded with pictures and check-ins on social media. Sometimes this can make you feel even more isolated and alone when you live with depression, and it’s easy to spiral deeper into a depressive episode the more you scroll through Instagram.
If FOMO is contributing to your lonely feelings, I highly recommend trying some mindfulness exercises to refocus on the present moment. Meditation or paced breathing are ways to do this, but I personally love performing everyday tasks one-mindfully (focusing and being present to one thing with complete awareness) when I’m in a funk. I’ll ditch my phone on the couch, then walk to the kitchen and do the dishes or mop the floor. I also love eating ice cream one-mindfully because it combines my favorite food with my favorite dialectical behavior therapy skills for distress tolerance and mindfulness.
4. Find low-effort ways to connect.
Sometimes going out with friends or washing the dishes requires too much energy, and I get that. However, there are still ways you can connect with the people you love and stay curled up in bed.
If you’re craving connection but don’t want to leave your bedroom, you can:
- Use apps like Rave or Teleparty to watch television shows or movies with friends or family.
- Host a virtual happy hour or similar hangout through Zoom, Teams, FaceTime, or Facebook Messenger.
- Play multiplayer video games online.
5. Distract with activities you enjoy.
I’m guilty of assuming the cure to loneliness is surrounding myself with other people. However, that’s really not always the case. In fact, there are lots ways you can combat loneliness by hanging out with yourself.
Personally, I enjoy making or listening to music. Sometimes I even dance along. My oldest child enjoys drawing or reading books. I have friends who distract with puzzles, and others who paint. The activity itself isn’t important. What matters is that it’s something you genuinely enjoy doing. If it brings you joy, it will (hopefully) help those lonely feelings fade away.
Living with depression is no walk in the park, especially when you feel lonely. Although it sometimes feels like you’re on an island by yourself, I hope you can find ways to connect with the people who love you. At the end of the day, the lies depression brain feeds us are usually utter crap, and talking to people who love us can help tear apart those lies.