3 Strategies for Managing Loneliness or Too Much Time Together This Winter
Winter is often a time of social hibernation as the weather gets bitterly cold and our hours of sunlight are outweighed by early darkness. And although the Twin Cities are known for their winter festivals and engaging activities during the cold months, this year the pandemic is causing us to get creative. Many of us will attempt new routines that focus less on in-person social engagement and more on time spent inside our “bubble” with the people in our households.
Depending on your personality, “going inward” can feel familiar and desirable, but after almost an entire year of this routine, it is probably starting to feel a little stale.
When you start to feel the tension of too much togetherness or the emptiness of loneliness set in this winter, how will you cope?
How Personality Traits Factor into Loneliness
There are three distinct types of broad personality traits that play a role in how you pull mental and physical energy for yourself; extroversion, introversion, and ambiversion.
As individuals, it is important to understand the differences between our personalities in order to predict our reactions under stress and in challenging situations.
If you are an extrovert, you gain and sustain your energy by spending your time surrounded by others. An introvert has the opposite experience, drawing the most power from prioritizing time alone. And an ambivert is the perfect mix, drawing energy from having a balance between both situations.
But now, in pandemic times, our ability to choose how we spend our time has been compromised. This unusual situation has diminished our opportunities, leading to personal discomfort and depletion of our overall energy.
When an extrovert is no longer able to experience the world with others, they can face health-threatening loneliness, depression, fatigue, and anxiety.
And while the stay-at-home orders may seem like an introvert’s dream, when they are required to be in a household with multiple generations or children all day, they can face the same feelings of energy depletion from overwhelm.
As for ambiverts, having too much of one situation offsets the delicate balance needed to sustain their energy, causing them to shift to either side of the spectrum.
If you feel like you are struggling with managing your internal energy, here are three simple strategies to reframe your behavior patterns to meet your individual needs.
Strategy 1: Acknowledge Your Feelings
Don’t try to avoid or hide these feelings of loneliness or overwhelm. If you find you are pulling away from relationships because you are feeling tension in your conversations or a prickliness in your responses, having a courageous conversation may help to bring your needs to light to cultivate more support.
Consider telling three trusted people about how you’re feeling and notice what it feels like to lessen the burden of carrying it all on your own.
Here are a couple of conversation starters to help you:
- “I need more time alone, can you help me brainstorm my options?”
- “I need to be with more people, will you help me think of options?”
Strategy 2: Disengage From Social Media
Social media does a great job of highlighting everyone’s highlight reel – even during a worldwide pandemic. Scrolling through social media can sometimes have more negative side-effects than positive ones.
While you might view social media as a connection to the outside world during this time of isolation, your feed may be amplifying your feeling of discontentment as you compare your reality to another’s cherry-picked photos.
Instead of spending 30 minutes scrolling, relish a half-hour by yourself engaging in movement outdoors, connecting with nature. Another uplifting idea is to use the time to call a friend and nurture a genuine connection. Allowing yourself time to disengage with the online world can help you focus on your own highlight reel – instead of someone else’s.
Strategy 3: Mindfully Join Like-Minded Others
Finding a group of like-minded individuals via online, time-limited groups can be an anchor during these unusual times, for introverts and extroverts, alike. Groups can serve as a reminder that you are not alone and can help you practice a broader range of coping mechanisms.
Here are some ideas of groups to look for based on your personal needs:
- Book club
- Mother’s group
- Bridge club
- Work conversation circle
- Men’s group
- Family circle
- Monday-morning coffee with a friend
The Key to Finding a Balance With Others
The most important thing to notice during this process is what it feels like when you recognize and acknowledge that you have needs that are not being met.
Once you do that, you can reframe the issue to focus on getting your needs met instead of getting stuck in a black hole of spiraling thoughts. This process helps you move into healthier behaviors that actively meet your needs for the months to come.
Ricka Kohnstamm is an Integrative Health and Wellbeing Coach who walks next to others as they discover or rediscover their own personal or professional truths.
She provides a supportive, confidential partnership when chronic, confusing, or complex home or work situations take a toll on your health – body, mind, or soul - and you are ready to untangle the mess and create a plan to move forward.
To learn more about reframing your beliefs to align your behaviors to optimize your health, visit her website.