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There’s a name for the sadness we get when we spend too much time alone: we’re lonely. But what about the negative feelings that can arise from not spending enough time alone?
Has a team of psychologists led by Robert Coplan at Carleton University suggested a name for it too: alone. As in, the opposite of lonely. We have to balance our time alone with our social time, and the right balance is likely to be different for everyone. This can be a more helpful framework for understanding our needs than trying to put ourselves in one of them introverted / extroverted binary file.
So what can you do about your loneliness? The first step is to acknowledge the problem: you are alone when you need more alone time than you can manage. The main tool that Coplan and colleagues used to discover loneliness was a simple questionnaire in which people were asked if they would agree with statements like “I wish I could just be alone more often”. With a little introspection, you can probably find out if you are actually alone.
When you are, you may feel “irritable, overwhelmed, or drained,” notes Psychology Today. With so much stress on our mental health these days, it can be helpful to try to separate those caused by loneliness from those caused by fear, burnout, and the myriad other stressors in our work and life . If this task is overwhelming in itself, keep this in mind It may be time to find a therapist Who can help you sort through everything your brain is dealing with?
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In the meantime, it can be beneficial to ask yourself whether you will feel better when you have more alone time, and then plan and protect that time on your own. For example, you don’t have to agree to every social outing or zoom call. You can decide that Friday nights are to stay in.
And even if you don’t have much time to yourself due to your current circumstances, you can make sure that time for yourself is a good time for yourself. Think of things that actually make you feel relaxed, happy, or refreshed – maybe reading a book or taking a walk instead of just scrolling your phone – and do one of these activities when you have a minute to yourself to have.