Isolation is dark.
Feeling anxious and invalidated in isolation is a deep, dark hole that I wish upon no one.
My Story of Battling Feelings of Isolation Started The Year I Got Married
I’ve had my share of battles with feelings of isolation, anxiety, and invalidation. When I got married I immediately moved to a new city and left my job, friends, community and family behind.
The community of friends we then built for the first 3 years of our marriage was scattered across the country when in the Spring of 2016 the St. Louis Rams, the team my husband played for at the time, moved their franchise to Los Angeles and released him from the team.
We spent the next 3 years moving 3 more times. In between, we had two children and with each the time we had available to spend building community dwindled.
When my husband retired from the NFL we began a whole new season of life at the time most people our age had just settled into theirs.
Multiple Moves Across The Country and 2 Kids left me Feeling Isolated, Anxious, and Invalidated.
I battled seasons where I felt no one around me could relate to what I was going through. Times where I felt I couldn’t share any of how I felt because I knew my feelings would not be validated. Times where I couldn’t possibly complain about things my family was going through or things I personally was going through because of the guilt that I had for feeling those feelings and being in a “privileged” situation.
I was so afraid to share how I felt, felt constant guilt for the way that I felt, and felt completely disconnected and invalidated.
I got to a a place this past fall where what I was feeling and thinking was getting in the way of how I lived my every day life.
I knew I needed change.
To Begin the Healing Process, I cut out the distractions, eliminated the negativity, and prioritized my healing
So this past fall and again in January I took a couple-month-long hiatuses from social media. I needed to remove any distractions from my feelings so that I could attack them head on.
I found a few really good books that set me up to do the mental work (which I’ll share below), I dove deep into my bible, I journaled, I went to a therapist, I focused on connecting with the few people in my life I knew I could share my feelings with and started being honest when people asked “how are you?”
I still struggle a little bit every day but by doing the mental work and leaning heavily on my faith I put myself in a position ready for battle.
Some days I still lose. But I get up the next morning and put the armor back on.
When I validate my feelings and acknowledge them, prepare for the anxiety and the feelings of isolation (or fear or stress, and so on) and surround myself with the right support, I have a much better chance of fighting it.
The coronavirus isn't just a sickness, it has become a catalyst to fear, isolation, and anxiety.
Over the past week I have felt pushed to share these words as I listen to friends and see others online describing feelings that I’ve literally spent the last 6 months battling.
Maybe I was put through that fire to help lead others in this hard time or maybe writing about it just makes me feel empowered. Either way I see it as a win.
The reality is we are all experiencing different feelings and rather than judging each other we need to validate the way each other are feeling.
We need to validate each other… and then we need to personally do the work to replace those thoughts and feelings and help pull each other up out of those strongholds.
I’m here to tell you that no matter how you are feeling about how the coronavirus circumstances are affecting you, you have every right to feel that way.
For me, the following routines and practices have made a world of difference:
Write down your anxieties every morning. There they are, on a piece of a paper. They are simply thoughts created in your brain. Once I acknowledged them and could see them in front of me they had less power over me.
Write down a daily mantra to recite when the above anxieties start to rise. A few of mine were: “This is a SEASON of life. This season is maturing me and growing me. Gratitude is the cure to anxiety.” Sometimes it was just a word or two: “Patience. Release control. Rest. Slow down. Breathe.”
Unfollow or mute anyone on social media who is triggering you to feel a certain way. For me this included “lifestyle bloggers” who made me feel “less than”, friends who are just in completely different phases of life, and food (even healthy!) accounts that just made me want to eat my emotions away. With today's circumstances, I would recommend following ONE source of news that you trust, and only checking in once or twice a day.
Take a social media break completely. I know this can add to the isolation we are all already experiencing, but sometimes being forced to really be honest and face yourself is what some of us need to recognize how our thoughts and emotions are affecting us.
Call a friend and be vulnerable and share how you feel, this gives your friend a perfect open door to be vulnerable back with you. This never fails for me. (thank you, Brene Brown)
Follow the 21 day brain detox steps in the book below “Switch On Your Brain”. The work in this book was immensely helpful for me and takes only 5-10 minutes every morning.
Do something every day that feeds your soul. For me this is any time of movement or exercise, feeling connected to my body. For you it could be painting, reading, baking, listening to music or a walk outside.
Take care of yourself. Part of my biggest issue was feeling guilt for taking care of myself. But unless I took care of myself I couldn’t serve my children, my husband, my family, or my friends well.
Do what “calms” you. For me just “meditating” didn’t work. Deep breathing exercises and reading to distract my brain from overthinking work the best for me. Do what works for you.
“Switch on your brain” by Caroline Leaf (the most powerful in helping me grow mentally. Her book includes the 21 Day Brain Detox that I mentioned above)
“I thought it was just me (but it isn’t)” Brene Brown
“Didn’t see it coming” by Carey Nieuwhof
“Banish your inner critic” by Brene Brown
“Atomic Habits” by James Clear
“Get out of your head” by Jennie Allen
“Braving the wilderness” by Brene Brown
“Unashamed” by Edward T. Welch
You may feel alone, but you are NOT alone. And you have every right to feel the way that you do. DO the work and prepare for your battles with anxiety, isolation, and fear. We are all treading unknown waters. How will you let it refine you?
About the Author:
Shelly Laurinaitus - Keep It Simple Shelly
I am not a doctor, I do not claim to have all the answers, and I highly suggest seeking out professional help if you feel that you need it.
“For when I am weak, then I am strong.” - 2 Corinthians 12:10