Coping with Chronic Loneliness
If you are feeling lonely today, you are not alone. Many people, including strong Christians, struggle with loneliness from time to time. If loneliness seems like something that haunts you regularly, it may be time to reach out for help from a caring and compassionate Christian counselor.
Loneliness is a curable problem. But it’s not as simple as just making new friends. You may need to learn new social skills or deal with deeper problems that underlie your loneliness. You can learn to heal from loneliness and get connected with others in healthier relationships by meeting with a Christian counselor.
The roots of modern loneliness.
For most of us, life speeds along at a breakneck pace. We are blessed with the gift of technology, but it can also make us feel more isolated. You may feel jealous of others who have more connections than you as you watch their social media feeds.
Sometimes you may socialize more often online than you do in person, and this can increase feelings of loneliness. Many of us are rusty in our social skills due to quarantine and social media, and we may need more help learning how to carry on conversations and listen to others well.
You may have suffered from a painful relationship that tempted you to withdraw in self-protection. You may have always longed for friends but do not know why you have not been able to find them. Over time, connections can break down and might take more effort than we want to exert to rebuild them. Nearly all of us are affected by loneliness at certain times, but some suffer from chronic loneliness.
Loneliness is not a new problem, as it has affected people since the beginning of time. Even Adam in the Garden of Eden was lonely before Eve was created (Genesis 2:18). God wanted Adam to exist in community, because God himself exists in community as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. So, God created Eve for Adam as his helper and companion. Both enjoyed perfect fellowship with one another before sin entered the world.
You were also created for community, but our society has changed dramatically in the past one hundred years. Back then most families lived and worked together on farms. Families and small communities thrived with close-knit networks.
However, the Industrial Revolution changed the world and changed the family structure. Then the Sexual Revolution in the 1960s further changed the family and the social landscape. Many of us grew up in homes without two parents due to divorce or no marriage at all. Our social structures have been broken and don’t match God’s original design, so our society has laid the foundation for chronic loneliness.
God designed our families to be safe places of connection for us. While many of us did not grow up in families where connections were healthy, we can learn healthy ways of connecting according to God’s design as we reconnect with other Christians in the church.
Dealing with chronic loneliness.
You probably already know that being alone is different from feeling lonely. You may have experienced times when you were alone, and you felt content. But when you are lonely, you can feel disconnected even when you are surrounded by others.
The roots of loneliness can include insecurity, disappointment, sadness, grief, or other unresolved issues. To overcome loneliness, you must deal with those deeper issues first. In counseling sessions with a Christian counselor, you can discover the roots of your chronic loneliness and find freedom from them at last.
Here are some common scenarios that can lead to chronic loneliness.
- A child has trouble making friends at school because she is shy or socially awkward.
- A college graduate gets a new job and must move to a town where he knows no one.
- A young man immerses himself in video games for many hours each day.
- A young woman dreams of getting married but has trouble finding good dating prospects.
- A stay-at-home mom of three young children feels overwhelmed with her tasks and isolated from other adults.
- A wife and mother of two is married to a workaholic husband.
- Middle-aged parents are dealing with an empty nest.
- An elderly man becomes a widower, and he lives alone.
Any situations like these can cause loneliness. If loneliness persists it can lead to other problems. You may need to get help for chronic loneliness if you experience any of these signs or symptoms.
- Feelings of isolation even in community.
- No close friendships.
- Only surface-level connections with people.
- When you attempt to reach out, there is no reciprocation.
- Low sense of self-worth.
- Feeling consistently drained rather than energized by socialization.
Chronic loneliness that lasts for several months or more can harm not just your emotional health but also your physical health. When your body experiences stress related to loneliness it responds by producing cortisol, a hormone that leads to inflammation in many parts of your body. Untreated loneliness can lead to physical problems including the following:
- Insomnia or sleeping too much.
- Lack of concentration.
- Reduced immune system function.
- Weight gain or loss.
- Resistance to insulin.
Over time these issues can lead to more serious problems like anxiety disorder, depression, eating disorders, sleep disorders, hyper blood pressure, heart disease, and diabetes. To relieve your loneliness, you may be tempted to abuse substances, which will only exacerbate health problems.
Sadly, studies indicate that chronic loneliness can also reduce your lifespan. All these facts show how important it is for you to get help for loneliness before it turns into something worse. You can find that help and hope by meeting with a Christian counselor.
When you feel chronically lonely.
You should know that God doesn’t want you to stay stuck in chronic loneliness. He wants to help you learn how to connect with new people who will value you, encourage you, and lift you up.
But how do you fight lonely feelings that just keep coming day after day? A compassionate Christian counselor will help you dig deep to discover the roots of your loneliness. If you also have other issues in combination such as grief, anxiety, depression, or a mental disorder, your counselor can also address those issues.
Today you can start taking deliberate steps to beat your chronic loneliness. Here are several suggestions for you to try this week.
Cultivate a relationship with God.
God is always ready and willing to listen to you. When you read the Bible, pray, and praise God, your lonely feelings will subside. Make your top priority time with God every day and pray for him to show you ways to overcome your loneliness.
Many people communicate via text, but this is less personal than a phone call. It may seem old-fashioned to place a phone call, but you can try it to alleviate loneliness. Just hearing someone’s voice gives a personal touch and can lift your spirits when an in-person meeting is not possible.
Get out of the house.
Staying stuck in your home is a recipe for loneliness, especially if you do it day after day. Set a goal to get out of your house several times per week even if it’s just for a simple errand. A change in scenery will be refreshing and your mood will be boosted as you make connections with others while you’re out.
Shake up your routine.
Are you a fan of shopping online? You may feel less lonely if you decide to switch to live shopping for a while. If you are stuck in a loop of going from home to work and then home again, change it up by joining a gym we’re engaging in a book club or Bible study after work. By switching up your routine, you’ll meet new people.
Many Americans don’t attend live services regularly anymore, especially after the pandemic. However, churches are an ideal place to find people who are willing to connect. To find the right fit, you may have to try a few different churches. Once you find a church that you like, sign up for one of their small groups because that’s where the connections happen. Remember that connections are possible between the generations at church, which can enhance your social life.
You may be waiting for someone to move toward you as a new friend if you are naturally shy. But you may need to make the first move toward someone to build a friendship. When you do this, you grow in confidence and sharpen your social skills. Simply smile, make good eye contact, and listen well to start a conversation with a person who’s new to you.
You might have to try two, three, or four times before making new friends. But this doesn’t mean that you are a failure. There are many other lonely people out there in the world looking for a friend just like you are. It may take time to find people like this, but your persistence will pay off as you keep trying.
You need to remember that loneliness is a choice. You can learn to enjoy your own company even when you’re alone. Jot down a list of things that you like about yourself and find activities that you truly enjoy doing all on your own. Alone times are gifts that you can savor with God, if you balance them with the time that you spend in fellowship with others.
If you apply these suggestions but still struggle with chronic loneliness, reach out for help from a trusted counselor. A Christian counselor will help you unpack all the pieces of your loneliness so you can find solutions that are better suited for you.