Isolation, it's an interesting social experiment, eh?
If you're anything like me, you might be experiencing loneliness while sequestered in your corner of the world...even if you're an introvert. Personally I kinda hit rock-bottom in the lonely department. But because of a few tricks I had up my sleeve, I've managed to crawl out of that dark and lonely hole.
First off, let me just say, I. Love. People.
I love to be around them whether I know them or not. One on one, small groups, crowds, being around people inspires me. It makes me feel like I'm part of a giant family. Being social has always been important to me, and becoming a massage therapist was like hitting the social jackpot as far as I'm concerned.
Seeing people every day, sharing safe space with them, working towards their wellness together, it's epic.
But then COVID -19 happened.
It was bad enough that I couldn't hang out at my local hot spots, and that my knitting group could no longer meet, but my massage practice? Really? I lost my main source of income AND one of the social encounters I valued most.
Something I realized, though it's my job to provide therapeutic touch, in essence, I was also receiving it. My daily dose of human contact has diminished significantly.
And I'm feeling it.
So, I've had to pull out some serious self-care tools.
First, I had to identify what I was feeling, and more importantly, why.
Identifying feelings isn't always easy for me, but loneliness and sadness were painfully obvious.
Another obvious thing was the reason why I was lonely and sad. I've been forced to isolate and lose physical contact with my people.
But in order to lift myself and soften the edges of my loneliness, I had to dive deeper into my why.
Being with people gave me validation of my worth and safety, especially when it came to my job. My clients put their trust literally in my hands. I could never explain how humbling that is, and how honored I am to have earned their trust.
Being with people also brings out my best self. I find it nearly impossible to fall into the dark places even my seemingly optimistic mind can go. I think it comes from having a little sister who had cancer. Times were dark when I was a kid, and for whatever reason, I found it in me to rally and be the bringer of good feelings. It's a quirk that's stuck my entire life. My positivity is infectious and inspires my clients, and that, in turn, inspires me. It's a powerful cycle. But now I'm home alone all day, and the void is vast.
Historically speaking, making strong friendships has been a challenge for me. I could get into the reasons why, but that's for another blog. My strongest connections came at a time I got to reinvent myself after moving to Alaska in my early twenties, and again after fairly recently joining a knitting group comprised of some of the most generous, intelligent, and hilarious women I've ever had the privilege of meeting. Creative kindred souls. And now I get to call them my friends. It took me fifteen years of being back in Maine to find this group of women I can feel 100% raw with. I recognize my good fortune every damn day. But now, we're sequestered to our corners of the world instead of gathering for weekly potlucks and shared creative time. It hurts.
And I can't even talk about not being able to hug my mom...
I'm mourning this loss pretty fucking hard (and I'm actually crying as I write this).
But that's ok.
The fact that I'm feeling is EPIC. I have people I love in my life, and that makes me the richest girl in the world.
But let's get down to the reason we're at this blog. How exactly am I feeling less lonely?
First, change perspective and see the truth.
My friends and clients and mother are still alive. Every single one of them is struggling in their own way during these times, and no doubt feeling the strain of the isolation, it's true. But (thankfully) they're still out there. I haven't lost anyone.
Reminding myself this is helpful.
Second, process, reflect, and pour that shit out.
Journaling, writing, drawing, and painting are always my go-to for processing my feelings and my truth. In fact, this series, Isolated Together, has been my meditation as I processed through my loneliness.
Third, connect in new ways.
My people are still out there, with phones and mailboxes just waiting for communication. I've never texted, called, or FaceTimed so much in my life! And letter writing is so wonderful, it feels extra personal to me.
I've done a few of the distant, from-the-car, channeling my inner John Cusack, visits. I'm actually considering finding a boombox to play love songs from while I stand under my friends' windows.
I've even found watching live Instagram streams helpful because it's real people in real time gathering in some way. ...plus they're pretty entertaining. I especially love seeing celebrities without makeup on.
If you're religious or spiritual, you could have a chat with your diety/spirit/woo-leader. Personally, I don't follow any particular denomination, but I do like to get outside and have a chat with my imaginary friend, Big Mama (she's kind of the universal intelligence that keeps this whole solar system thing turning - she's wicked smart). If you're without a spiritual character in your life, feel free to call on Big Mama yourself. I find her to be quite handy.
Finally, connect with the body.
Physical touch from another person could never be replicated. That said, there are oodles of nerve receptors in the skin that are ready and waiting to receive some goodness.
Giving yourself a massage, taking a soak in the tub, or doing gentle yoga are ways that you can trick your brain into feeling connected with others.
Why do these things work?
Oxytocin is a hormone that comes from the pituitary gland and gives us those fuzzy feelings associated with love, bonding, and well being. Not only do they feel good, but they're super important for your overall health and functionality of your body. So, you know, it's good.
Journaling about your people, meditating on your people, talking with or about your people, and giving your body a little love are all ways to bump the oxytocin in your brain and make you feel more connected. It's one of the most useful hacks I've used lately to get by.
My series, "Isolated Together", is the product of my meditations during isolation.
While it's easy to feel lonely during these times, I find great comfort in knowing that collectively, as an entire world, we've actually come together in very meaningful and intimate ways.
We can look to our neighbors across the street, and across the globe to learn from their resourcefulness, to gain strength from their resilience, to find lightheartedness in their humor, and to not feel alone in our suffering.
I find the whole thing beautiful.
While these activities will never replace being in the physical presence of your people, they can at least help you a little less lonely, and maybe even less stressed.
I hope you've found this blog comforting and reassuring, and perhaps even a little empowering.
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Get the Isolated Together coloring page & journal prompt [ HERE ].