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What to Do When You’re Lonely

I do my best not to spend too much time alone.

I know what you’re thinking – it’s healthy to be alone sometimes. It’s good to settle into yourself without the distractions of everyday life. There are so many truths hiding in the absence of noise, whether it be the crackle of the radio, or the constant television, or the marzipan-tried-and-true audiobook on iphone method of distraction.

Intellectually I know that there is value in being alone.

In my heart? In my heart, being alone feels like entering into the abyss. In my heart, being alone is likened to falling into a deep dark hole where your most persistent fear is whether or not you’ll be able to climb out without being buried alive.

When I was a little kid, in the sixth grade, I entered into a period of time where all of my alleged friends abandoned me. In a way that is only possible at that very difficult age, one friend, with whom I had naively shared all of my deepest darkest secrets and dreams and fears, spread a series of lies about me, resulting in my complete and utter abandonment. I was the ultimate social pariah. The world was going on around me, but no one would sit next to me or talk to me, all of my friends turning their backs overnight without a second glance.

And I entered into a deep depression.

I was unable to sleep at night, because I was consumed with anxiety and with the constant prayers that somehow, some way, I would be let back into the popular group I so desperately wanted to hang out with.

This may seem trivial. Marzipan, you were in the SIXTH grade! Let it go! But this abandonment was the first time my heart was broken. I trusted those girls. I believed that they were really my friends. And yet, overnight, they were taken away. Just because one girl thought that maybe I was getting a little bit too popular, and that maybe I needed to get knocked down a peg or two, that it would serve me right.

For the first time in my life, I spent almost all of my time absolutely alone.

Eventually, I was forgiven for all of the horrible things I had said about everyone, and I was suddenly again invited to all the parties and whispered to during class. But the mark had been made. I had learned that these weren’t true friends. I had learned what it felt like to put all of my eggs in one basket, only to see them spilled and stomped upon before my very eyes.

I learned to be a little tougher. I learned, eventually, to surround myself with better, more trustworthy friends. Finally, I learned how to give my heart to someone who deserved it 100% and who has promised to stand by me through thick or thin.

But sometimes, when I’m in the process of starting something new, such as leaving my home and my adorable girlfriend, and driving two hours away to plant myself in a new town, in a new house, with new friends, and new rules – I start to have a little bit of a flashback feeling.

Yesterday, packed up my little bag and headed out of town, and I was floored with the depth of my fear and sadness. Even as I write this, I’m getting embarrassingly weepy. You know the saying about how wherever things feel the most uncomfortable, that’s where the real work is done – well, I’m working IT today, let me tell you.

And it’s not just fear. It’s deep down to my bones I’m-accustomed-to-having-someone-at-least-sleep-next-to-me-at-night loneliness. It’s not dramatic or loud. It’s like a slow creep into the pit of my stomach where my biggest fears lay strapped down and tucked in.

So what do you do with that? What do you do when you are completely lonely and nervous, and no one can convince you otherwise?

How to cope with loneliness:

  • Do something LOUD. Loneliness thrives in darkness and quiet. Sing your favorite song AT THE TOP OF YOUR LUNGS. Thrash around. Jump in the air. Scream. Laugh. Make noise and get acquainted with your physical space.
  • If you are in a new place, physically, make it your own. Put up some photos. Draw on the walls. Hang up some colorful curtains. Rearrange the furniture. What have you always wanted your bedroom to look like? Start there.
  • Take care of your body’s needs adequately. Go to the grocery store and buy all of your favorite foods, things that are familiar and constant. Cook your favorite meal. Invest the entire afternoon in an elaborate recipe. Make sure that you are eating enough and also that you aren’t stuffing food into the hole where your pain lives – many, many people “forget” to eat when they are stressed out or start haphazardly stuffing food in their mouths because they don’t know what else to to do. Take care of yourself, but don’t supplement the company of others with food. You will be most able to encounter the world with energy and excitement if you are getting adequate nutrition.
  • Get enough sleep. This is the FIRST thing to go for me if I’m feeling lonely/stressed/overwhelmed, but the absolute most important thing to get me back on track. If it’s really becoming an issue, I have no bones about taking something to help me sleep, either holistic or not, because I know that sleep is a necessity for me when in a vulnerable position.
  • Got a security blanket? Pull it up around your neck to where it’s really cozy and warm. A long, long time ago, I started listening to books on tape when I couldn’t sleep or was feeling particularly anxious. Now, the mere moment of a book on tape lulls me into a calmer state of mind. Whatever it is for you, no matter how absurd, utilize it.
  • Go about your day as usual. No one around to talk to? Cross things off your to do list. Go to the grocery store, the post office, or the bank – whatever you need to get done. Smile at strangers. Strike up conversations with the clerks. Laugh. Be generous with your energy and attitude. Likely, it will make you feel better afterwards.

I feel better already… Thanks for listening. xoxox.

How do you cope with loneliness?

30 Comments to What to Do When You’re Lonely

  1. August 26, 2010 at 6:57 am | Permalink

    Wonderful advice– I second all of it. And thank you for being so honest and open about your experiences with loneliness. Truly beautiful.
    Vanessa recently posted..Jeans- The Destroyers of WorldsMy Profile

  2. August 26, 2010 at 8:07 am | Permalink

    There is a fabulous book called Celebrating Time Alone: Stories of Splendid Solitude. When I moved to Minneapolis and was feeling painfully lonely, I got it as a recommendation from a librarian. It’s essentially about reclaiming and embracing solitude.

    It helped me have a little more perspective about my loneliness and figure out how to make my alone time into something transforming (I know that sounds hokey!). In any case, it might be worth checking out; the stories are very, very comforting. I know this is a difficult time, and I wish you the best of luck.
    Libby recently posted..I Own That I Moved for LoveMy Profile

  3. August 26, 2010 at 12:05 pm | Permalink

    Thank you for sharing your heart with all of us. Your in my nightly prayers my dear :)
    Cass recently posted..Extra days off Ill take it!!My Profile

  4. sui's Gravatar sui
    August 26, 2010 at 1:38 pm | Permalink

    have you seen the video, how to be alone?

    over the years, I’ve learned to not be lonely but instead love solitude. I… never had that many friends? middle school was terrible for me, too.

    when I do feel lonely, kind of like recently when all my close friends have left my hometown and everyone else is hundreds of miles away… taking care of myself. being my own best friend.

    leaving the house is a BIG help. it’s worst at home alone. at least seeing other people, you can say hello. you can say good morning.

    go to the library & read a book :]
    sui recently posted..being bare-bones blunt about pleiades- what it is- why I published it- &amp why you or anyone else would want to read itMy Profile

  5. ellie's Gravatar ellie
    August 26, 2010 at 4:23 pm | Permalink

    Wow, your 6th grade experience sounds SO PAINFUL. I mean, smaller things at that age hurt so much. I’m so sorry.

    I like to be alone, in large part because I’ve been married for 10 years, so it doesn’t happen very often : ) Also, I have two very interactive dogs, so there’s that, too. I’m trying to remember what I’ve done when I’m lonely, because I remember being very lonely a few times. I think I read. Yes, that’s it. I bury my nose in a book.

  6. August 26, 2010 at 5:44 pm | Permalink

    I totally found myself in your words about being lonely in 6th grade!! =( It hurt so much!

    Leaving the house is really the advice number 1! It’s so hard to go out when you’re not feeling well, but it’s probably the most effective solution..

  7. August 26, 2010 at 9:09 pm | Permalink

    I have had some big issues with loneliness lately so I can really relate to this post. I just got back from treatment and it was so hard to sit alone in my apartment and just be with my thoughts. My therapist tells me to just “sit” with the loneliness and that it will pass. I am not sure if that works, but it is a hard feeling to have. I relate!!

  8. August 26, 2010 at 9:16 pm | Permalink

    I can TOTALLY relate– I was just thinking of my 5th grade depressed, dark time today. I’ve vacillated between loving companionship & being alone for a while, and am surprised by how much I crave being around people since returning for my last year of college. Gotta love roommates (and your blog!)

  9. August 26, 2010 at 9:32 pm | Permalink

    Wow – I’ve had that 6th grade experience, and I recently had it again when I lost my job. It was exactly that: Just because one girl (co-worker) thought that maybe I was getting a little bit too popular (too good at my job and making her look bad), and that maybe I needed to get knocked down a peg or two, that it would serve me right.

    I’m sorry you had to go through that but, in a way, it’s a good lesson because it doesn’t end in 6th grade. It can repeat itself any time.

    I have learned to sit with pain and loneliness, but every once in a while a cookie really does help.
    Carbzilla recently posted..Back to business- Favorite things…My Profile

  10. August 27, 2010 at 5:47 am | Permalink

    xo xo
    and hugs
    and for me it has been a journey and a realization that Im ok being lonely when IM ALONE but the loneliness in the crowd

    THAT PAINFULNESS

    is far far worse

  11. August 27, 2010 at 8:13 am | Permalink

    I’ve dealt a lot with loneliness, but I only realized it once I graduated college and moved away on my own. As an only child, I like having a lot of space and freedom to do whatever I want, and so that part of loneliness works for me. When you’re lonely, and actually alone, you can be pantsless all the time and nobody is around to look down on that. (lol, maybe that is just what I look forward to about being alone.) But seriously, I’ve found ways to cope like online social networking, reading a lot of trashy novels that I would be embarrassed to if other people were around, working. They may not be perfect, but they help get me through when I’m feeling the bad kind of loneliness.
    zenlizzie recently posted..Eating! with ZenLizzie- day 2My Profile

    • Sharon's Gravatar Sharon
      August 27, 2010 at 4:56 pm | Permalink

      From here, in the world and bustle of London I am holding your hand.

      With Love.
      XXX

  12. August 27, 2010 at 5:31 pm | Permalink

    This is great! I actually was going to do a post next week on how to deal with homesickness, because I’ve been feeling it once a week since I moved to Houston, and these are some great tips for that too! I really like “Do something loud.” It makes perfect sense!
    Rache Wilkerson recently posted..All Mixed UpMy Profile

  13. August 31, 2010 at 7:46 pm | Permalink

    This is such a heartfelt post. A lot of people, even those in relationships, get lonely sometimes. I make the most of those moments by doing things that only I like to do. I know it sounds crazy, but I like going to places that children enjoy (arcades, Chuck E Cheese, etc…). I suppose this falls into alignment with your suggestion to do something loud.
    Nea | Self Improvement Saga recently posted..40 Signs You’re In A Healthy RelationshipMy Profile

  14. October 31, 2010 at 8:20 pm | Permalink

    When I’m lonely, I often meditate and read spiritual books to help me get connected to the source. I think it’s important to differentiate between loneliness and solitude. Loneliness comes from a feeling of lack, but solitude is just some quiet way to refresh yourself.
    Henway recently posted..Colon Cleansing TipsMy Profile

  15. January 27, 2011 at 11:39 pm | Permalink

    Feeling lonely depends on you,when i feel alone i watch television,cd’s,play music that can make me alive.I also make myself busy like doing things that i wan to do..Once you are lonely without nobody,problems comes in your mind!

  16. Quiet's Gravatar Quiet
    May 27, 2011 at 1:28 am | Permalink

    Thank you for your words. They helped me — even made me cry :)

  17. moony's Gravatar moony
    July 8, 2011 at 3:39 pm | Permalink

    i don’t think there’s a girl alive who can’t relate to your 6th grade story on some level. i felt awful for you reading it, but i also felt better, because it reminded me that i wasn’t the only kid that it happened to.
    i found this by googling “what to do when you’re lonely”, and it really did help. :)

  18. Lily's Gravatar Lily
    July 15, 2011 at 9:46 am | Permalink

    72 days. Bar getting food, I didn’t leave the house for 72 days. It was my absolute own fault and only I could change it. I analysed why and found that all my internal freighting over being lonely was deliberate. I worried so much that people would consider me sad, odd, that I didn’t go out at the weekends, I had ‘friends’ but not friends. To look at me, I’m uber social but the bottom line is, it’s independence. Being alone can so often get misconstrued. As life progresses we find ourselves surrounded by unfamiliar faces and panic ‘Where did all my 20 bestfriends go!?’ You grew up. Let go. And moved on. The new found independence is something to truly savour. Be selfish with your time yes, but when you want to be social, only do so with people who are good for you. Life is too short to dance with ugly men and chat to crass women. The first few weeks are the hardest so combat this by making a solid weeks list of things YOU want to do, not at all dictated by others requirements of you. It’s scary. It’s liberating.

  19. Jessie A.'s Gravatar Jessie A.
    September 15, 2011 at 1:26 am | Permalink

    Thank You! Coming to live in dorms all alone has made me feel very lonely. Hearing your story helped me lots! Thank you very much! :)

  20. November 27, 2011 at 11:43 pm | Permalink

    Hey this is a great post! Thank you for all the great tips! I’ve recently started my own blog ( http://jalg-justanotherlonelygirl.blogspot.com/ ) Designed mainly for girls with problems..so pretty much-any girl. Check it out if you can! Thanks! -Faith
    Faith recently posted..What Do You Like To Do?My Profile

  21. Manuela's Gravatar Manuela
    February 26, 2012 at 7:37 pm | Permalink

    This post is awesome. Love it. Thank you so much.
    Something quite alike happened to me at the sixth grade, too. What a coincidence! :)

  22. Gwgw's Gravatar Gwgw
    March 20, 2012 at 9:47 pm | Permalink

    This post makes me feel less lonely. Thank you.

  23. March 22, 2012 at 6:02 pm | Permalink

    I remember originally reading this post back in 2010 thinking, “Damn. Can I please get more alone time, please?! This sounds LUXURIOUS.” At the time I was feeling trapped in an engagement I wasn’t sure I wanted, like I was a shadow of myself walking around on egg shells trying to please everyone but myself, and I was depressed. I was craving alone time, but also fearing it, which kept me in an unhealthy relationship. These days, having gotten out of that relationship and living on my own, this post is SO HELPFUL.

    Because… I need alone time, but sometimes being alone makes me feel badly about myself. I say, “Self! You’re alone again tonight? No plans? Not enough friends? Nobody to love you? You suck!” Such a bitch I can be to myself, eh? But I’ve been working on flipping the script when these evil thoughts come along and be like “Yo. Self. You can do whatever the fuck you want tonight. What do you wanna do?? Jam out to Beyonce while trying on outfits and talking to your cats? Eat your favorite snacks together as dinner (edamame + hummus/pita + salami – yes pleaes!)? Watch Battlestar Galactica? The evening is your oyster!” These suggestions will definitely help with this process… and for this I am grateful!

  24. Crazy Mixed up World's Gravatar Crazy Mixed up World
    April 25, 2012 at 1:05 am | Permalink

    I totally feel you… My dad wasn’t around much when I was a kid. As if that wasn’t enough, we moved every couple of years so I would make friends and then lose them constantly (this was in the days before the internet was a thing). Then when I was 13 we moved to a new town and I became friends with the boy across the street. He loved me a lot and we got to be best friends and I always knew I could count on him. But when I was 14 he died tragically in a boating accident in San Francisco Bay. My heart ached from that for years… still does at 27. After that, I made friends in high school, but most of the kids I knew made fun of me and rejected me, when I was 16 my best friend had some kind of breakdown and went away and I never really stayed friends with her after that. I went away to school at 18 and made a few more friends, but at 19 most of them rejected me too and a couple of them died. For a while, I thought death and sadness followed me around. I almost didn’t want people to be my friends because I was so afraid something would happen to them, but at the same time I was so lonely. Finally, at 21 I met the love of my life. He was younger than me and there were so many reasons for our families to complain about our relationship, but I didn’t care. We have been together 6 years now and we are so happy. There was brief year when we were separated, he went off to school four hours away, and it hurt me so deeply to have him leave me, but after that year he transferred to a school closer to me and for the last 4 and a half years we have just been happy. Love and life are never perfect, but you never know when that silver lining will show up, when love and happiness are just around the corner. All I can say is that you have to keep believing that you can be happy again. And sometimes you’ll still be sad or lonely, but you can still have hope.

  25. Hazel's Gravatar Hazel
    May 13, 2012 at 7:49 pm | Permalink

    I am treated as if I am challenged and have even been asked if I am. I AM NOT. No one is ever there when I need to talk. I have spent weeks – not one phone call to see if I am okay. No one cares about me unless they need something from me. I have tried everything to meet people and make friends. Most events were cancelled and I never ended up really making any friends past the time I was at the event or school. I go to work and treated rudely and I come home to nothing. Day after day, now its year after year. I have gone to counseling and find it to be a crock of bull. I know the generalizations. I don’t know what to do anymore to solve this issue or even where to turn.

    • May 13, 2012 at 8:57 pm | Permalink

      Hi Hazel. Thank you so much for your honest and straight forward comment. I’m curious, what is it that YOU (not your counselor or friends or family) think might be useful for you? How might you present yourself differently in the world to engage people in a way that feels better to you? Is that something that you would be open to? Most importantly, how can I help you?

  26. June 28, 2012 at 10:31 pm | Permalink

    Gosh I think I might write this down or print it out, because nights are hard to get through these days. Busy days are good, but silence, literal “nobody’s next door” silence, is tough. Thanks for your suggestions. And I too went through something very much like you described in fourth grade. It was real, so you don’t need to justify it to me.

  1. By on July 21, 2012 at 4:27 pm

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I’m Mara Glatzel. I’m an intuitive coach and writer. I guide women home to themselves and teach them to create lives brimming with supreme self-care. read more
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