What does lonely as an oyster mean?
Brief overview: loneliness
- What helps against loneliness? E.g. self-care, structuring everyday life, meaningful occupation, step-by-step contact with others, possibly psychological help, medication
- What each individual can do for the lonely: pay attention to fellow human beings; Above all, give time and attention to older, frail or immobile people in your own environment
- Symptoms: Among other things, feeling of being excluded and isolated, self-neglect, depression, hopelessness, boredom, inner emptiness, self-pity, longing, despair
- Where does loneliness come from? Usually from a combination of several factors, e.g. certain character traits, poor quality social ties, bad experiences, social circumstances, critical phases in life
- Can loneliness make you sick? Chronic loneliness increases the risk of cardiovascular diseases, sleep disorders, dementia, depression, anxiety and obsessive-compulsive disorders and suicidal thoughts.
- When to the doctor At the latest when loneliness becomes chronic and is linked to depression, anxiety or obsessive-compulsive disorders
What helps against loneliness?
Different paths can lead out of loneliness, especially in combination. The following steps are particularly important:
Self-care - rediscovering the joy of life
The way out of loneliness begins with yourself. If you think: "I feel lonely", then first try to look at your situation objectively. Being alone doesn't mean being lonely. Being alone can also help you relax, find calm, and relieve stress. Start caring about yourself again. Ask yourself which books you have wanted to read for a long time, which films you would like to see, which music makes you happy, which food you like, which sport you enjoy, which landscapes or cities you like.
- Make yourself happy, make a wish come true.
- Find a hobby that you enjoy or revive a neglected hobby.
- Take care of yourself and listen to your needs.
- Do not neglect your personal hygiene, eat healthy and exercise regularly in the fresh air.
- Treat yourself with kindness and compassion. Start liking yourself.
- Caring for an animal can be very fulfilling. But only get a pet if you really want to take care of it for the long term.
This allows you to gain a bit of joie de vivre in everyday life without having to rely on intensive external contact.
If the days stretch on and on, there is a great danger of falling into melancholy. People withdraw, start brooding, and feel lonely. What can you do with this loneliness? Now is the time to get your act together and structure your day. Make a detailed daily and weekly plan and try to stick to it.
Get in touch with other people in small steps
What can you do when you are alone? In small steps you can try to come into contact with people again. Especially in the Corona crisis, where direct human contact should be reduced for a certain time, you can make good use of the technical communication options to combat your loneliness:
Take a look in your phone book or cell phone - who haven't you spoken to in a while? Call your acquaintances, (former) friends and (if any) family members and ask how they are doing. Don't wait for someone to contact you! If you're scared of it, a short message is enough to get you started.
Of course there is also the possibility to meet people virtually, in social networks or chat groups you can exchange ideas with people who share your interests and hobbies. This is particularly helpful in times of self-isolation.
You should be aware that virtual exchanges are no substitute for real human interactions and relationships. If you mainly maintain contacts on the Internet, the risk of becoming lonely in the long term increases.
Even in the Corona crisis, it is allowed, for example, to smile at other strollers while going for a walk. If you get a smile back, you can perhaps find courage and get into conversation with people from your daily life, such as your neighbors - in the stairwell or over the garden fence. A few words are often enough to get you started.
What helps against loneliness? Whether you are lonely because you have hardly any contact with other people or because you do not feel understood and isolated in your environment - reach out to people who have the same interests and passions:
- You will meet like-minded people, e.g. in courses at the adult education center or in sports groups, learn a new language or train yourself in your area of interest.
- Taking on an honorary position is doubly effective: you experience the satisfying feeling of being needed and helping others, and you can make new contacts at the same time.
Tip:In times of the Corona crisis, voluntary work is still in demand and necessary, for example in neighborhood help. Courses can also be booked for the time after the restrictions or even take place online.
If you want to confide in someone and do not know who to turn to, you can first call the telephone counseling service. There you will find people who will listen carefully and actively to you and give you valuable advice. Self-help groups are also a good place to go.
Overcoming loneliness in old age
Elderly people in particular are hardest hit by loneliness. Important caregivers, friends, relatives and acquaintances die at the same age, the social network is getting smaller and smaller. In addition, there are often diseases and limited mobility.
As you get older, it is more difficult to make new contacts and friendships are harder to come by. But even at this age there are opportunities to get in touch with others:
- If possible, use virtual options such as chat groups or social networks.
- Stay in touch or connect with younger relatives using text messaging or video calls.
- If possible, live out your hobbies or find new ones.
- If you are fit enough, a pet can keep you company.
- Educate yourself further, e.g. with a degree in old age or with a language course - there are now also online offers.
- Even small activities help: for example, suggest that a neighbor take a walk together.
- Use senior meetings in your community.
- If your physical condition allows it, join a hiking group or club.
- Find an honorary position that inspires you, for example with telephone counseling, as a visitor to patients in the hospital, as a reader in a library or as a loan grandma or grandpa.
What each individual can do for the lonely
It is important that we take care of each other. Not everyone who lives alone, young or old, is lonely. However, if someone complains of loneliness, we have to take it seriously. This could be a warning sign of the onset of depression. Then we should be there for that person and make time for them.
At the moment we should not meet older relatives and acquaintances in order not to put them at risk of infection with SARS-CoV-2. Then important contacts are lost for them and they could actually get into loneliness. Right now we should therefore signal to them every day that they are not alone: Call your elderly or single relatives, acquaintances or neighbors, slip a note under the door, send a postcard, talk to them over the garden fence with the necessary distance or serenade in front of the window.
Tip! When direct contacts are safely possible again, we should visit our elderly, frail relatives and acquaintances and give them some of our time.
Visiting services are a great help in enabling elderly, immobile people to have human contact and to protect them from neglect:
- Visiting services from charities, e.g. the “NAHbarn” campaign in Jena and the surrounding area: once a week, volunteers visit older people in their homes, keep company, listen, apply for care services, set up a home emergency button or arrange social services.
- District networks, e.g. Aktion Augen auf! of the AWO Foundation Hamburg: Coordinators receive information from the population, doctors or pharmacists via a free telephone hotline, establish contact with senior citizens in need and organize free support in the apartment.
The definition of loneliness is feelings of exclusion, lack of belonging, and emotional isolation. Typical feelings of loneliness are sadness, dejection, helplessness, hopelessness, boredom, inner emptiness, self-pity, longing and despair.
Loneliness is an inescapable experience of every person, but it is experienced differently depending on the life situation and individual character. Therefore loneliness is a subjective phenomenon and not to be equated with actual loneliness or social isolation: There are many people who are often alone, but do not feel lonely!
Conversely, people with a lot of social contacts in family, work, school or social institutions can also feel lonely.
Social contacts sorely missed
Affected people experience and evaluate the inner separation from others and the extent of their social ties as negative. They perceive the subjectively lacking social contacts as painful, because this is usually associated with a lack of recognition, confirmation, appreciation and affection from others. Those affected wish to be noticed, but they have difficulty establishing a mutual relationship. It is difficult for them to overcome their isolation on their own.
Common traits of lonely people
Often the following characteristics are found in lonely people:
- You see yourself very differently than other people would describe you,
- are very self-critical
- pay more attention to failures than successes,
- justify themselves defensively,
- are afraid of rejection,
- devalue their counterpart,
- adapt excessively,
- quickly withdraw into themselves,
- are introverted or have less developed social skills,
- often show pessimistic, irrational and action-paralyzing thought patterns or basic attitudes.
However, these characteristics do not necessarily lead to loneliness! Good quality social ties and support networks can take care of these people.
The reverse are often even people with completely different character traits get lonely. This can happen, for example, if they lack such networks or if they have had drastic negative experiences in dealing with other people.
Loneliness is different: the palette ranges from people who are only lonely for a certain phase of life to those who are resignedly hopelessly lonely. In this case, it is called chronic loneliness.
Where does loneliness come from?
Loneliness does not inevitably arise when good social relationships diminish or even lack. Some people are also satisfied with just a few contacts.
Loneliness develops when we are involuntarily alone or have the feeling that the existing social relationships and contacts are insufficient. At the same time, lonely people are often ashamed of their situation, which can drive them even further into retreat and resignation.
Loneliness occurs in every age group: children, adolescents, young adults, middle-aged people, and the elderly. These people lack companions, sympathy and friendship.
Factors that can cause loneliness
The increasing number of single households forces involuntary solitude. Especially when people feel lonely doing it, being alone seems to be associated with an increased likelihood of mental illnesses such as depression or anxiety and obsessive-compulsive disorder. It is not entirely clear whether being alone promotes mental illnesses or whether people with mental illnesses consciously seek the anonymity of the big cities and a single household.
Thanks to our good medical care, people are getting older and older. At the same time, the birth and marriage rates are falling. The elderly are often not necessarily part of the family because relatives live in other cities, for example, or do not attach much importance to close family contacts.
In addition, especially in old age, poverty or health problems make it difficult for people living alone to participate in public life.
Overall, experts therefore assume that the proportion of lonely people will increase, at least in large cities.
Changed communication behavior
Communication is changing through social media. Some people communicate actively with virtual contacts, but their direct contact with real people is often lost through this.
Conversely, some people also find new contacts via the Internet, which can develop into love relationships, friendships or professional partnerships in the real world.
If the parents are heavily involved in work or are single parents and offers from kindergartens, schools or clubs cannot compensate for the parental absence, some only children get lonely. A change of kindergarten or school can also make children lonely if they find it difficult to make friends.
Unemployment or switching to retirement (pension)
If work is lost, colleagues and a structured daily routine are suddenly missing. At the same time, those affected have to limit themselves financially, which is why they withdraw even more. In the long run, this can lead to loneliness.
Chronic illnesses, cancer, depression, psychotic disorders and dementia in particular can leave those affected lonely.
Critical phases of life
Difficult times such as puberty, separation from your partner, loss of close relatives, old age, change of residence or job can force loneliness.
In some cases, loneliness is also a form of self-protection because people have had bad experiences with society. Anyone who is bullied, who is on the boss' s hit list (bossing) or who experiences other exclusion, can sometimes get lonely.
The corona crisis is an extraordinary situation and requires limited contacts at the moment. In addition to private contacts, this also prevents professional care for risk groups: Outpatient clinics are partially closed, psychotherapeutic consultation hours are canceled or are only possible via video, self-help groups do not meet. This can cause or exacerbate loneliness in vulnerable populations.
Can loneliness make you sick?
Do people get sick from loneliness or can one even die from loneliness? The fact is - chronically lonely people are at higher risk of:
- chronic stress
- Cardiovascular diseases
- sleep disorders
- Anxiety and Obsessive Compulsive Disorders
- Suicidal ideation
As a result, the likelihood of premature death ultimately increases. In part, this has to do with the fact that lonely people pay less attention to themselves and thus live more harmful to their health. So they eat less well - lonely children become increasingly obese, for example through substitute meals. Lonely people also smoke more often.
As health data show, lonely people also see a doctor more often and are more often in inpatient treatment - due to psychosomatic illnesses such as back pain, among other things.
It becomes problematic when loneliness is accompanied by immobility, helplessness and social isolation, especially with children, the elderly and disabled people. Then life-threatening lack of care can arise.
When should you see a doctor?
Many people feel ashamed because they feel lonely and do not seek help because of it. That should not be! If you cannot find a way out of loneliness yourself, for your own good you should bring yourself to see a doctor. This is especially true if they are also depressed or anxious.
tip: In the Corona crisis, many clinics, psychiatric outpatient clinics and psychotherapeutic practices offer telephone and video consultation hours or online interventions as an alternative to a direct conversation.
What does the doctor?
The doctor can first use questionnaires to test and record the extent of your loneliness. There is the UCLA (University of California at Los Angeles Loneliness Scale) or LONE (questionnaire on social relationships, German version) and the KSE (Cologne scale for measuring loneliness). You fill out such questionnaires yourself and thus help the doctor to assess your social relationships.
The doctor will then work with you to find out what support you need. For example, it can be enough to structure your day better - for example with medically supported programs such as the “iFightDepression program”, which you can use to manage yourself online and free of charge.
However, your doctor may also recommend psychotherapy such as cognitive behavioral therapy. In doing so, you will learn to correct your perception of your personality and other people, and so you can escape the negative spiral of loneliness. In addition, the therapist can carefully introduce you to social contacts, which is known as milieu therapy. Together with your therapist or other professional companion, you will practice and reflect on social contacts, for example by attending events together.
If the loneliness is associated with mental illnesses such as depression, anxiety or obsessive-compulsive disorder, the doctor can also prescribe appropriate medication (e.g. antidepressants).
So that you don't get into loneliness in the first place, it pays to take care of your own social network throughout your life - even beyond the family. Because marriages do not necessarily last forever, especially older life partners can die in front of you, and children often find their center of life in other cities.
Stable and trusting social relationships are the best protection for mental and physical health.
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