Summertime Sadness: The Loneliness Trap

Summertime Sadness“Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle” Plato

“Things turn out best for those who make the best of the way things turn out” J. Buck

The summer festive season is upon us once more and for many (myself included) it is a bittersweet time of the year. The chance to slow down and take a break from the chaos of everyday life and catch up with family and friends can be both a blessing and a curse. The blessing of relaxing and unwinding and re-connecting with family and friends can also become the curse of unexpected illness, stress, interpersonal conflict and loneliness.

Like so many other parents in separated families, the festive season is a mixed blessing for me. My children spend each alternate Christmas with me so the festive season can be either an intense high-energy family time or a quiet time of reflection, rest and solitude.

In either case, the expression ‘the cup can be either half empty or half full’ can apply.

Family Burnout

When the high intensity family get-togethers occur, the initial fun and celebration can consume a lot of energy. When the energy runs out, yet celebrations and get-togethers continue unabated, fatigue can set in and symptoms of stress can develop turning the half full celebration into a half empty time of family tension and stress. When there is insufficient rest and personal space given during prolonged get-togethers burnout symptoms are likely spoiling what is otherwise a tremendously joyous occasion.

The Loneliness Trap

On the other hand, when the kids and family are not around the rest, reflection and solitude can move beyond an opportunity for personal growth and development and can turn into boredom, loneliness and sadness. Thus turning the ‘half full’ opportunity of time to rest and recover into a ‘half empty’ experience of loneliness and sadness.

My Challenge This Year: The Loneliness Trap

This year my children are away for the festive season so my big challenge will be to make the most of the opportunity for rest and reflection and not fall into The Loneliness Trap.

Summertime Sadness: Avoiding The Loneliness Trap.

In order to avoid the Loneliness Trap when Riding The Waves of Life of being apart from loved ones we need to successfully manage the 4 Elements of our Wellbeing.

1. Mindsets
Worry and Demand frequently appear as unhealthy mindsets:
Worry that you are missing your loved ones and whether they are safe and not at risk of harm.
Demand that when you do see them they equally have missed you and are focused on you at the same level of importance.

These unhealthy mindsets need to be replaced by Acceptance and Encouragement:

Acceptance in that we need to make the most of each day and the people in our lives in the present moment and accept what we cannot control.
Encouragement in that we need to influence but not control our loved one’s desire to be attentive to our needs and our relationship as well as respect their ongoing individual growth and development separate to us when they are less interested in us than we would like.

2. Emotions
There is a lot to be said about managing the emotions of sadness, loneliness and grief when missing loved ones. Unlike the grief from permanent loss of loved ones, the grief of being apart cycles through regularly and can become a wound that never seems to quite heal. Recognizing these powerful emotions and developing effective coping strategies is crucial to maintaining your wellbeing when being apart.
Staying relaxed when sad or lonely is important as is distraction— keeping yourself busy and avoiding painful reminders like pictures or photos when sad.
• Make sure you problem solve during your time apart so you stay busy and engaged.
Pre-plan any contact with loved ones when you’re away so you are positive and engaged with them and don’t burden them with negative emotions.

3. Lifestyle
Sleep, Diet, Exercise and Fitness – a healthy body is a great buffer to ward off the mental challenges of being apart and missing loved ones. Make healthy exercise and diet a top priority when you are apart from loved ones.
Have exercise equipment handy wherever you are and do whatever recreational and fitness activities are available every day, even when you don’t feel like it.
Eat well and have a balanced diet.
Sleep is a “life preserver” when being apart, so make it a priority and avoid late nights or irregular sleep/wake routines.

4. Purpose
This would have to be one of the most important areas of wellbeing when managing the stress of Being Apart.
When sad or lonely reframe this as confirmation of how much you care for your loved ones.
Revisit happy memories when in a positive mood and take some time to plan ahead for special events and topics to engage with loved ones to further grow your relationships when you next interact with them.
• Take a long-term view of any periods of separation and stay committed to the longer-term relationships you have.
• Stay in touch with your underlying values and purpose as well as having a balanced outlook to keep your own growth and development moving forwards as well as your focus on loved ones.

In short, when it comes to avoiding the Loneliness Trap we need to learn to Ride the Waves of being apart and turn the time spent apart into a powerful motivating force where “absence does make the heart grow stronger” and enables higher quality and deeper family relationships.

Ride the Waves of Life!

Dr Pete

The Stress Surfer

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