Strategies to cope with solitude

Q   I moved to Newcastle for a new job about six months ago. Despite my job keeping me busy and the enjoyment I get from working with new people, I have become increasingly lonely. Unfortunately, my family, who live interstate, will be overseas for Christmas, which makes me feel even more lonely and isolated. I love Newcastle and want to stay here but I’m not sure how to overcome my loneliness.

At some point in our lives, most of us will experience times when we feel lonely. As humans, we are generally social creatures and we need to connect with other humans. This is the human experience. Solitude, compared to loneliness, can be a healthy way to recharge, to enjoy our own company. Prolonged loneliness, on the other hand is linked to poorer mental health and can also have a negative impact on your immune system.

Some people have many people around them, including loved ones, and they still feel lonely. Our connection to people and sense of purpose can contribute to how we feel, and these are important factors to consider when contemplating your loneliness. It can be easy to find a quick fix to “cure” our feelings of loneliness, but quick fixes are just that — and we often choose unhealthy coping strategies when we seek a quick fix to an uncomfortable feeling or situation.

I recommend strategies that will help you become more comfortable with your own solitude, as well as strategies to seek out new experiences and people.

  • Is it possible to celebrate Christmas with your family another time and have this to look forward to? However, for Christmas Day, consider some of the suggestions below. There are a number of services to which you could donate your time, for example, assisting with the serving of meals in community kitchens. You will have the chance to spend time with people who are doing it tough, and with people who just want to help.
  • Ask your colleagues what their plans are for Christmas and you never know, there could be someone else who is also alone on Christmas Day with whom you could connect.
  • Do you have a religious faith? Do you attend church? This is another way to connect with others during this time of year.
  • Find activities that you can do on your own. Many people are not comfortable with their own company, but Newcastle is a great place with lots to do, so take the time to explore and plan little local trips once per week. Also, the Action for Happiness website has great calendars with tips that promote happiness. The November calendar is called “New Things November” and you can find it at
  • Find activities where you are still alone, but you are around people. You might join a class, an online interest group, take up a new hobby, look for a volunteering opportunity. When you join a group, even if you don’t know anyone, you will be interacting with like-minded people, which is a great starting point for a new friendship.
  • Find opportunities to directly connect with people. You said you enjoyed working with the people at your work. Perhaps you could ask someone if they’d like to join for a coffee, a walk, or a movie? Get to know some of your colleagues and look for common or new interests. Or, you may have someone in your personal life that you haven’t spoken to in a while. Give them a call and connect.
  • Do you have a pet? If you have the time and the love to give, a pet can open new doors for you. A pet means you must focus on someone else apart from you, which is a great distraction if you’re not feeling great. They offer unconditional love, and if you have a dog, they require walking — which means you get to leave your home — and this could help you form new human connections at a dog park for example.

Your feeling of loneliness is an opportunity for you to figure out what makes you happy. Take the time to contemplate and then take some, or all, of the above steps. If it becomes overwhelming, reach out to a counsellor.

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Tanya Russell

Tanya Russell is CatholicCare's Assistant Director and a registered psychologist.

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