HAS YOUR FRIEND-SHIP SAILED?
Most of the time, when we’re feeling lonely, sad or bored, we can fill up our day with a long to do list of going to work, shopping, hitting the gym, grabbing a coffee, attending appointments, running errands and so on.
During lockdown however, it’s been near impossible for most people to maintain an optimum level of ‘busyness’. Outings, routines and social get togethers have fallen by the wayside.
I’ve you’ve been home schooling, working from home with your partner or living with extended family, social isolation probably hasn’t hit as hard.
However, if you’re someone who lives alone, or has limited social contact outside your household, that ‘empty’ feeling (which is usually concealed by busyness) may be stronger than ever.
Without a mile-long to do list, you might be feeling a bit lost.
Perhaps the days have suddenly dragged on. Perhaps your friends have gone to ground and not called or texted as much as you’d like. Perhaps spending so much time alone with yourself has been a challenge. Perhaps you’ve realised that you don’t have the social support network or deep connections that you thought you did or that you would like to have.
This can be an extremely challenging realisation.
Humans are social creatures. We need and crave love, connection, talk and touch. When these needs aren’t met, it can feel like starvation.
As a child, you may have been born with ‘in-built’ support networks including extended family and other kids you met through sport, hobbies and school.
As an adult, you may have less family support and friendships due to relationship breakdowns, loss of work, an empty nest, death or geography.
As an adult, it can be difficult to make new friends, particularly if you are shy or lacking in confidence. You may also have less opportunities to meet new people than you once did, without inherent social interactions such as school or work.
It may seem as though others already have their ‘groups’ and don’t need a new member. Comparing your social or family network to that of others can leave you feeling sad, lonely, embarrassed and unlovable.
You are not alone. Many, many people feel this way.
It can be hard to admit (to yourself or others) that you don’t have as much social interaction or as many friends as you’d like. It can be even harder to put yourself out there and seek new friends to help fill this void.
We all have differing social needs, but if you feel that your needs aren’t being met, there ARE things you can do to change this.
Consider the things that worked and didn’t work in your previous friendships. Relationships are a two-way street. Don’t engage in negative self-talk, but consider the things you could do to improve your half of future friendships. Also consider the qualities you do and don’t want in a friend. Make a list. This will help you to select and set appropriate boundaries with potential friends.
If confidence is a barrier for you, make a goal to work on this. There are plenty of books, podcasts and YouTube tutorials available to help you. You can also seek the support of a professional Psychologist to build your confidence.
Sign up for local clubs or activities (virtual or face-to-face) that YOU would enjoy (it’s no use joining a running club if you don’t like running), with the aim of meeting like-minded people. This could include a book or movie club, Pilates or yoga, language or cooking course, art class, etc. If you’re not ‘sporty’, think outside the box. There are plenty of weird and wonderful teams competing in ping pong, gaming, dodgeball - the list is endless.
Get online! There are plenty of social media groups (dedicated to pretty much any topic you can think of) that you can join to discuss your interests – some even meet for social events such as theatre nights and dive tours.
Volunteer! This is a great way to meet other kind-hearted people, develop a sense of purpose and feel good about helping others.
If you have children, don’t be afraid to attend school or kindy social events. Not all parents are cliquey – some will be feeling just as isolated as you and may even become a great support throughout your parenting journey.
If you have a dog, join an obedience school and strike up a conversation. ‘Dog people’ are often very chatty about their fur babies!
There are certain work relationships that are inappropriate. However, some lifelong friendships can also be built on the job. Since we often spend more time with workmates than family, it makes sense that we should get along with them. Make your workmates a coffee, have lunch together, bring in treats and ask about their day – you’ll soon be pretty popular.
If you’ve been through a difficult experience such as a divorce, join a support group. It can help to talk to and build deep connections with people who understand what you’re going through.
Put things into perspective. Remember that just because you’re feeling lonely does not mean you are alone or that you are unlovable. Many other people are feeling exactly the same way and they too deserve friendship – maybe even yours.
Putting yourself out there can be difficult, but it shows that you have love and friendship to give others. It also shows that you value yourself enough to ensure that your needs are being met. These are desirable and deserving qualities in a friend.
If you’re struggling, help is available. In an emergency, call 000. Call Lifeline on 13 11 14 or Beyond Blue on 1300 224 636 any time for free.
Artius Health’s team of qualified, caring and experienced Psychologists offer ongoing support to help you build your resilience, self-esteem, confidence and social skills to develop long-lasting friendships.
Pension Card and Health Care Card holders are bulk-billed and some NDIS plans may cover the cost of treatment.
We accept NDIS, DVA, WorkCover, Private Insurance & PHN referrals; although you do not have to have a referral to access this service.