One of the things I hear most often when I message friends living with chronic pain is, "Thanks for listening and reaching out. I was really (lonely, sad, feeling alone, etc.) today. Many of them want to go out and be social, but physical limitations (and now COVID mandates) are keeping them from hanging out with friends and loved ones.
Winter is the worst time for this because the cold and pressure changes often disables those with chronic pain. This increase in pain generally leads to a decrease in social activity or availability even though the desire for connection is there.
Loneliness is defined as, "a state of sadness due specifically to the emotional experience of being disconnected from others, of feeling and/or being, in reality, all alone". The interesting thing here is that you don't have to be alone to feel alone, but generally speaking it is due to social isolation.
If this is you, what can you do to feel more connected to the outside world?
1. Create/Join a Virtual Walking Group - I belong to an exercise membership group called Autoimmune Strong and we have daily emails, a private FB page and regular Zoom meetings. It's really nice to gather and share our experiences. We have a shared interest in getting stronger and more flexible and can help each other when we're struggling. I would honestly pay double for what I get from Andrea and this awesome group.
2. Have your friends or family over - You could host a book club, spa night, game night, even get together with others with chronic pain to meal prep. The options here are endless! It doesn't have to be a big deal, just invite your friends and host for how ever long you're comfortable.
3. Follow people with chronic pain on social media - I know, I know, social media's kind of a mess right now, but stay with me. I've connected virtually with so many who are struggling through the things I'm dealing with or have dealt with and even though we've never met, I count them as some of my deepest, dearest friends. They cry with me, pray for me, and encourage me when I'm not sure I can handle another day.
Some of my favorites are:
Phoenix Helix - weekly recipe roundups, podcast, and resources
Autoimmune Sisters - support, recipes, real life stories, and stories from others with chronic pain
Hashimoto's Hope - coaching and support for people with Hashimoto's
Crystal Burchfield - wellness warrior who shares her struggles and what natural things she's using to heal
The Tim Frie - education and advocacy
4. Create a 'chronic pain' playlist - I love music and it brings me peace and great comfort when I'm not feeling well. This is my favorite playlist of songs from the worship team at my church on those days when I need encouragement or a good cry. If you prefer a playlist with popular music, I love this one too. Both are equally important and can provide as much support as a trusted friend when you need it. It's at your fingertips whenever you need it!
5. Meditate, pray and practice mindfulness - While it isn't a social activity, it can help you feel more centered and calm in a similar way that socializing does. I get up a little bit before anyone else, read my Bible, pray and meditate. It helps me start my day in gratitude and increase endorphins that can help ease my pain. I've had meditation and prayer sessions where I've gone in with a lot of pain and came out with nearly zero pain. It's pretty wild when that happens!
6. Adopt a pet - now, this isn't something to be taken on lightly. A pet is still a big responsibility, but can bring you so much joy. Even our old obstinate cat will come snuggle with me, purring gently when I'm hurting. It's like she knows I'm not feeling well and just need a cuddle.
I'd love to know what things you're doing to combat loneliness. I can always use some more tips.