Does your anxiety drive you to isolate yourself physically or emotionally? How about a Pandemic, does that isolate you? In this episode of the TAP Podcast, we talk about social isolation and how our insecurities convince us to keep our emotions and feelings to ourselves. The tension with this is that we were created to be social beings. We're meant to be part of a community.
Isolation is a real thing whether it's a physical isolation or an emotional one. While you may not be physically stuck on an island, you may be emotionally stuck there. Some of us live in both worlds; we feel emotionally isolated, but have also chosen to physically isolate ourselves from community and relationships.
Defining Isolation & Loneliness
Isolation is the act of separating ourselves from others; to be alone.
Loneliness is the feeling of separation from others; to be alone.
They sound like the same definition don't they? But did you hear the difference between the two words? Isolation is the ACT of separation, while loneliness is the FEELING of separation from others. Again isolation is the act and loneliness is the feeling.
I feel this way often. Most days I feel more alone when I'm with others than I do when I'm actually alone. I need you to understand that I get it. That's why I do this. I wish so badly that I could take both you and I out of that valley of loneliness and put us in the world of joy and happiness. But if I've come to realize anything about my mental journey, it's that it's not going to be a quick helicopter ride to that destination of joy and happiness, but a dangerous violent climb up the side of an emotional mountain. What's important for us to remember is that we have the gear that we need and a willingness to keep trying. We can't give up. We need to be motivated to start climbing or keep climbing.
There's something really important that we need to understand about loneliness and our health. It has been medically proven that loneliness has the same impact on your health as smoking 15 cigarettes a day. This makes it more dangerous than obesity. If that isn't enough to get you motivated here's some other ways that loneliness can affect your health: it's been proven that if you deal with loneliness you're more likely for heart disease and type 2 diabetes. Also, you're twice as likely to develop Alzheimers.
“The most terrible poverty is loneliness, and the feeling of being unloved.” - Mother Teresa
Isolation isn't always a bad thing, but it is if it leads to loneliness. Our time in isolation has to be filled with routine and purpose, not mindless chaos. Our isolation needs to produce an opportunity for solitude instead of loneliness. But don't use solitude as a mask to cover up your loneliness. They're not the same thing and our isolation can produce both.
There's a difference between loneliness and solitude. While both require seclusion, only one is a prison and the other a freedom.
Solitude is a free feeling of purpose that allows you to be alone, but not lonely. Solitude is a positive engagement with ourselves. It's a chance for those of us who follow Jesus to have a deep conversation with the Holy Spirit about who God is and how we can grow in His likeness.
Loneliness is none of those things. It's merely a negative, abusive relationship with our own insecurities. Loneliness wants to punish who you are and keep you from having deep meaningful relationships.
There's always a deeper issue that we need to address. For me, the deeper issue is an insecurity about my value. Does my life matter? Now, that's rooted in the pain I felt as a bullied child. So naturally I avoid connection because as a kid I didn't feel loved or valued. Those insecurities have stayed with me these other three decades and have become the chief motive why I don't seek to grow my relationships with others. So what's your pain? What's the insecurity you feel that leads you to isolate yourself either physically or mentally? I'm telling you right now that until you have an awareness of those things, no "to do" list or "method" you put in place will fix your loneliness issue. You need to first confront the pain/insecurity, then work to overcome it.
So as we move forward, I'm going to assume that you know what your pain is. I'm going to assume that you know the lies that your insecurities tell you. So I want us to focus the rest of the episode on some practical things we can do both in quarantine and in our everyday lives to help us connect with others and use our isolation for solitude.
Daily Routine - Whether in quarantine or everyday life, it's so important that you have a daily routine. A daily routine gives structure and purpose to your day and prevents your mind from wandering.
Self Evaluation - When do you have the most energy? When do you have the least? Make sure you're doing important tasks during those high energy times.
Bedtime/Wake Time - Get in a good rhythm of sleep by setting a consistent bed time and wake time.
Choose Positivity - Isolation can either grow our negativity, which will lead to loneliness, or it will grow our positivity, which will lead to rejoicing and solitude. So if you are that person who's stranded on an island inside your head, it's time to start bringing some new natives to the land. We need positivity in this world so badly and it has to start with each of us individually.
Ask yourself "what am I consuming?" If it's things that cause fear in your heart or unholiness in your life the replace them with family, fun and meditation.
Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. ...whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you. - Philippians 4:6-9
We're in a time like never before with technology. While you may be stuck at home, you can video chat a friend or family member. You can pick up the phone and text or call someone. We were created to be in community. I feel like I've said this a hundred times, but we are. Relationships give us the feeling of comfort, support and hope. Forced isolation doesn't mean we can't have community; it just means we have to do it a little differently.
Forced isolation doesn't mean we can't have community; it just means we have to do it a little differently.
If we're isolating ourselves from others either emotionally or physically, it's time to put our pride down and embrace real authentic relationships. It's time to call up your sister and say, "This virus thing is scaring me." Or it's time to ask your buddy Bryan to lunch and say, "Man, I'm struggling with not feeling like I'm good enough lately."
What I learned in that season was that when it comes to time management, or most other ways to accelerate awesome, change has to be simple. Especially new change. It has to be easily manageable, or we’ll fail at it before we even start. We can add on other changes down the road, but when we’re beginning our journey, we just need to get one thing right. - Acuff, Jon. "Start"
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