Feeling Lonely at Work?

On a scale of 1-10 , answer these questions about yourself at work:

•   “I feel out of tune with my co-workers”

•   “I lack companionship at my work”

•   “There is no one I can turn to in this organization”

•   “I feel left out”

•   “I don’t feel like I can talk honestly with anyone in this company”

From time to time, we all experience the odd bout of intense loneliness. It may creep on us and leave us feeling physically and emotionally distanced from other people. Loneliness doesn’t just strike when we’re by ourselves either. It can be just as easy to feel loneliness when you are among people. Loneliness is not depression or shyness or poor social skills, and it certainly isn’t introversion. It's more of sense of not belonging.

Loneliness can create a deep psychological wound, one that distorts our perceptions and scrambles our thinking. It can make us believe that those around us care much less than they actually do. It can make us afraid to reach out, because why set yourself up for rejection and heartache when your heart is already aching more than you can stand? You can be in the grips of loneliness even when you are surrounded by people all day, so it can never occur to you. But loneliness is defined purely subjectively. It depends solely on whether you feel emotionally or socially disconnected from those around you. There is a great deal of research on loneliness, and much of it is quite striking - loneliness won't just make you miserable, it will kill you. Chronic loneliness increases your likelihood of an early death by 14 percent (Harms, 2014). Loneliness causes high blood pressure, and high cholesterol (Harms, 2014). It even can suppress the functioning of your immune system, making you vulnerable to all kinds of illnesses and diseases. In fact, scientists have concluded that taken together, chronic loneliness poses as significant a risk for long-term health issues as cigarette smoking (Winch, 2015).

Cigarette packs come with warnings about the dangers of using them, but loneliness doesn't.  Loneliness can also have a huge impact on the workplace as well. Loneliness isn’t a private and personal issue; this is an organizational culture issue. People who are lonely and disengaged at work are more likely to deliver less effort than people who have a support system.

There are steps you can take when feeling lonely, which we hope you find helpful. It is important to remember that everyone feels lonely from time to time,  but if you are feeling this way all the time or finding it is significantly affecting your daily functioning we encourage you to visit your doctor. 

Five things you can do if you feel lonely:

1. Fight the urge to  isolate

When you’re feeling lonely, it can be hard to think about trying to engage with other people, but keeping your own company may only make the problem worse. If we feel isolated at work, we begin to expect that the isolation will persist—it is a never-ending cycle. When you isolate, there’s nobody around to challenge your negative self-image. Try this: the next time you feel lonely and you feel like “no one understands me” or “ I don’t belong here”, try to recognize the emotion as an emotional response and remember you can choose how you feel.

2. Keep busy

Though it may be the last thing you want to do if you’re feeling isolated, try joining a group—a book club, a sports team, choir or a gardening group,  spend time outside of work to play on the company dragon boat team for example—where you can meet people who share you own interests. If you join a group where the activity is meaningful for you, and you enjoy it, chances are it will bring out the best in you. And if you feel good while you’re engaged in that activity, it will help you feel more connected to the people around you because you have this one thing in common.

3. Catch your inner critics's attempt to sabotage yourself

If you’re chronically lonely, you may be fearful of letting people get close. First, learn to love yourself! Fixing a negative view of yourself takes a lot of gentle self-care and nurturing. The biggest challenge is to treat yourself well when you aren’t feeling good about yourself.  Being happier with yourself will make it easier to reach out to others.

4. Get educated

The more you learn about loneliness and how common it is, the less alone you feel.  Emily White who wrote book  called 'Lonely: Learning to Live with Solitude' explains “it’s hard to be lonely, but it’s harder when you don’t understand it or you feel alone in your loneliness.”

5. Find someone to reach out to

Whether it’s a friend, a family member or a therapist, finding someone to talk to about your situation can make a huge difference. Our cultural stigma around loneliness makes the condition hard to talk about, but keeping your feelings hidden may leave you feeling worse. When you feel bad about yourself,  that’s when you need to hear a different message about yourself. You need to hear from someone else that you matter and that you are worthy.

 

What do you do at work to meaningfully connect? Share with us in the comments!

 

References

 

Dault, M. (2015). 5 ways to beat loneliness. Retrieved from http://www.besthealthmag.ca/best-you/mental-health/5-ways-to-beat-loneliness

William Harms (2014,February). AAAS 2014: Loneliness is a major health risk for older adults. Retrieved from: http://news.uchicago.edu/article/2014/02/16/aaas-2014-loneliness-major-health-risk-older-adults

 

Winch, G. (2014, November)  Why we all need to practice emotional first aid. Retrieved fromhttps://www.ted.com/talks/guy_winch_the_case_for_emotional_hygiene/citations