6 Healthy Coping Strategies for Loneliness
Fact one: At this moment in time, people are self-isolating and quarantining across the globe. Many humans are feeling lonelier than ever physically and emotionally. Fact two: Emotional dysregulation is a core element of ADHD. Add the stress and loneliness caused by the pandemic and social distancing, and you have got some MEGA BIG FEELINGS happening. Ergo, we need to work harder than ever to manage our MEGA BIG FEELINGS. We know loneliness is detrimental to our health. Research shows us numerous issues resulting from social isolation over time, including increased risk for depression, cardiovascular issues, cognitive deterioration, sleep issues, lowered immune system responses and even earlier mortality. And yet, here we are, required to distance ourselves physically from others (temporarily, for good reasons!). Some people in households with loved ones may feel less lonely and/or have access to physical touch like hugs, sex, head scratches etc., while people who live on their own may be experiencing weeks-long and maybe even months-long stretches with no physical human contact. We need to emotionally prepare for the reality that social distancing is going to take a toll on our health. I feel like the first time someone touches me after this is over, I'm probably going to cry, in a good way. Or possibly feel so excited I'll jump their bones, if I'm attracted to them and it's all consensual and whatnot. Who knows? Who knows. But seriously, let's talk about some healthy coping strategies for dealing with loneliness. Thing 1: Connect with friends. Let them know you are struggling. I found this hard when I was struggling with touch hunger. My inner "Ms. Independent" was like, "Nope, you should be fine on your own. Don't bother them with your sads…"
And I was like, "STOP SHOULDING ON ME, Ms. Independent! Let me reach out and be honest about my feelings, I know it's the healthy thing to do."
I did reach out to a few people, and one responded with lots of love and care and sent me a couple of these ideas, so I thought I'd share and spread the love a little. Thing 2: Make yourself a burrito. No, not the food kind, though burritos are good. Yes, that too actually. Make yourself a delicious burrito if that floats your boat.
But what I actually meant was make yourself into a blanket burrito. Wrap it tightly around you and notice the sensations you feel in your body while being snugly pressed in on all sides.
Perhaps avoid this strategy if you have issues with claustrophobia. Otherwise it's great.
Neurodiverse folks have issues hitting a sweet spot for sensory stimulation. We can feel easily overstimulated or understimulated because we can have trouble filtering information through our senses. Being blanket burritoed can feel good for physical sensory comfort. Ha! Comfort yourself, with being wrapped up in a comforter, get the comforter around you to be extra… comfortable…yeah you got it.
Thing 3: Do a guided meditation
People with ADD say to me all the time, "I can't do meditation." Because there are a million misconceptions about meditation. Like, supposedly you have to stop thinking. That's the craziest and most impossible concept! It's about gently training yourself to be a human being, not just a human doing. Just to consciously reconnect your brain with your body by repeatedly bringing your attention to something simple and grounding like your breath.
I love the app Headspace for this, or Kristin Neff's website (www.SelfCompassion.org) for these free meditations, or there are a lot of other apps and Youtube videos to guide you. Just Google it. (#HowToAdultSummedUp).
Thing 4: Get out in nature.
This is fantastic for human beings across the board. There are also lots of studies demonstrating that ADHD symptoms are reduced by getting out into nature, as well as its ability to reduce stress and symptoms associated with anxiety and depression. So, take a walk if you can, or just get real up-close-and-personal with your favourite houseplant.
Thing 5: Give yourself some love.
It's hard for us to start a thing, right? (#TransitioningTroubles). BUT having a goal to do a thing for just 5 minutes is usually doable. So, give yourself 5 minutes of some sensory pleasure. Give yourself a little foot massage. Or a nice slow languishing head scratch – pretend like you’re in a hair commercial. Or get up and dance to your favorite song. Have fun with it! Do just one thing that feels good as an act of self-kindness.
Thing 6: Do something nice for someone else.
Lovely fact # (I lost track): we get a hit of happy hormones when we do random acts of kindness. Side note, we ALSO get a happy hit of hormones when we see someone ELSE do an act of kindness for someone! Write a thank-you note to a person who positively impacted you. Send a friend a quick text letting them know you love them. Platonically. I mean, if that's the case, because texts can be easily misinterpreted. But by all means tell them you love them romantically if you do, honesty is good. Usually I’d be more encouraging of telling someone that kind of information in-person, but now is not the time. Perhaps over video chat? But I digress.
Really take a moment to feel the good feelings, knowing that your action brought someone a spark of joy.
This list touches on a few social and sensory ways to cope with stress. Of course, the basics of human wellbeing like nourishing ourselves with good foods, exercising, and prioritizing sleep, are core elements for physical and emotional regulation. They are factors that neurodiverse people need to work harder to manage than neurotypical people, because we tend to frequently forget to eat or sleep while hyperfocused on that thing – or we may be more susceptible to impulsive coping strategies that aren’t so good for us, or simply overwhelmed by the MEGA BIG FEELINGS in general.
As best as you can, prioritize your health and remote social connections so you can keep yourself strong and sustainable through these tough times.
Take gentle care.