By now you may feel (hopefully) that you’re getting to know a little more about me. My love for cats, leather, and all things sparkly are pretty apparent from my posts, but you may not know that my home life is a little different from most people I know. My husband, Todd, is a musician and has been a touring player for the last 11 years that I’ve known him (he currently plays guitar for Mutemath). Sometimes we have periods where the band is writing or recording and the tour schedule is a little lighter, but then we also have other seasons where he can be gone for 8-9 months out of the year. Ouch. So, for me, dealing with loneliness is a big (and ongoing) part of my life, and it took a few years for me to figure out how to deal with feeling alone.
I remember when I was in the middle of moving into and completely renovating our new house (all while Todd was out on a 3-month tour), and I hit some pretty low points during that period. I was stressed, physically exhausted, and pushed to my emotional limit. At one point, I had a full meltdown on my kitchen floor because I couldn't get the lawn mower to start, and I sat there, covered in lawn clippings, bawling my eyes out, feeling completely alone. Obviously, you don’t have to have a traveling spouse to feel lonely at times and these suggestions are just my opinion (they may not strike a chord with everyone), but these are the ways that I’ve learned to keep my chin up and face feeling lonely head-on: Keep busy: I have to admit that working on my master's degree during the height of Todd’s touring seasons was actually one of the best things for me. I was honestly too busy to be sad or lonely; I just didn’t have the time! I don’t suggest this idea as a way to completely avoid or try to stuff your emotions deep down (that’s not emotionally healthy either), but when you are involved in things that you enjoy and challenge you, your focus shifts from negative thoughts to positive ones. Set a goal or make a challenge for yourself to fulfill. You could spend more time on art projects, train to run a race, renovate a room in your house, learn to cook, volunteer, or even start blogging. Trying to combat loneliness is one reason that I started my own blog last year. I was done with my master's degree and had free time on my hands that wasn’t getting invested into anything else, so I knew I needed another project to direct my energy into. Sometimes I’ll save a big project I’m looking forward to (like a room renovation) for a time I know Todd will be gone for a bit—it gives me something to look forward to and adds some exciting thoughts to my bummed-out ones. It doesn’t always have to be the same venture, so feel free to switch up your projects every so often as the thought or opportunity presents itself.
Lean on a support network (but not too much): Unfortunately, I don’t have the physical presence of my family in town to lean on when Todd is gone (although they are great at phone support!), but I am blessed to have lots of great friends that I know I can count on if I’m feeling a little down. But as tempting as it can be to make a call and hang out with someone anytime I feel a bit blue, I don’t want to be totally dependent on my friends to cure my loneliness every time I feel alone—that’s ultimately my job to deal with those feelings, not just their job. And yes, sometimes being with people you love lifts your spirit like nothing else can, but don’t make your friends and family to be the only cure for your blues every time. What if they are busy or unavailable? They have their own lives and struggles to deal with sometimes, and it can put a lot of pressure on others if they feel that they are your sole source of strength. So make your loved ones an important part of your support network, but not the only part. Watch out for “bad habit” coping skills: This one can be a big deal depending on what your bad habit is. It’s possible that your bad habit may be a genuinely unhealthy action that’s brought out when you feel upset or stressed, but most of the time it’s a normal thing that gets taken to the extreme when you feel down (like eating tons of junk food when you feel upset). While I’m also totally guilty when it comes to lonely sessions of Taco Bell and Cheez-It eating, my personal bad habit is going shopping and spending more than I normally would just because I feel lonely (and also because I just love shopping). Most people can pinpoint their bad habits pretty quickly, so just make sure to keep an eye on that negative coping skill to keep the activities you enjoy at a healthy level.
Get a furry friend (or two!): I have to say that this suggestion is a big deal for me. Not everyone is a pet person (and I know not every pet is furry), but getting my oldest cat Charlie during one of Todd’s three-month tours was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. The house felt so empty and lifeless when I was home alone, but the moment she stepped out of her carrier when I brought her home from the Humane Society, I knew that was about to change. Now your apartment or rental may not allow certain kinds of animals, but there’s just something about having another heartbeat around the house that is so comforting, so if you can, I would totally recommend an animal buddy. We have two cats now (we just adopted another rambunctious kitten named Mac), so I always have someone fuzzy that wants to cuddle when I’m alone at home, and I love it. Even when I feel lonely now, it’s not nearly as strong a feeling as it was before I had those fur babies.
Embrace being alone: Okay, I know I just suggested getting a pet so you don’t have to be alone all the time, but let’s face it: As great as pets are, it’s not always quite the same as being with another human being (especially if you are missing a specific human being). Even with my projects and goals, friends and family, and kitties, I still feel lonely at times when Todd is gone. But you know what? That’s okay! Loneliness creeps in when we want to feel connected to others (but don’t at that moment), and with our Internet and social-media-obsessed culture, it can be an especially uncomfortable feeling to realize you’re disconnected. But that feeling doesn’t have to be a negative if you can take it as a time to breathe and reconnect with yourself. Being an introvert, I draw my strength from times of being quiet and alone, and I can use that alone time to unpack my worries and breathe a bit. And if you feel really bummed and just can’t move past the feeling, it’s okay to let that out too! Sometimes I just need to allow myself to feel sad for a moment, have a good cry to release the emotional build-up, and then wipe my eyes and move onto something I enjoy. Overall, if loneliness is something that you deal with a lot, learning how to deal with those feelings when they come up can really improve your overall quality of life and keep you on a positive path. What are your tips for dealing with loneliness? xo. Laura
Credits// Author: Laura Gummerman, Photography: Sarah Rhodes. Photos edited with Stella from the Signature Collection.