The Fall Season Can Make Us Feel Isolated — Here's How To Keep Your Energy High
The last quarter of the year can bring about mixed emotions for many people, including strong feelings of loneliness and isolation.
A study conducted last year by the Health Resources & Services Administration revealed there's a "loneliness epidemic" sweeping America. In another study published in the journal International Psychogeriatrics, they estimated that three-quarters of Americans regularly experience moderate to high levels of loneliness. Both studies revealed that the fall and holidays are the peak time for loneliness and that alone-in-a-crowd feeling. Some people may also feel some degree of sadness about the end of summer.
Loneliness is distress caused by a lack of satisfactory relationships, not being alone. We can either give in to those feelings of anxiety or seek alternative methods that help empower and energize us so we can end the year on an upbeat note.
Here are a few ideas for how to do that:
1. Schedule nourishing activities for times you know you're going to be alone.
Find ways to keep yourself occupied during periods of time when you traditionally feel the most isolated. As the days get shorter and it gets dark earlier, nighttime can be the most challenging period of the day to avoid feeling lonely. Try to strategize in advance by scheduling your evenings as well as your weekends. That might involve planning activities with friends—dinners, concerts, group classes, and other group events—but you should also strategize about what you can do when you're alone that you will enjoy.
Fall is an excellent time to start reading a new book, pick up a new hobby, or plan some home renovations. You might also think about finding solo excursions where you're around other people because that will also decrease feelings of isolation. Going to the theater, museums, movies, and sports events by yourself are great opportunities to be around other people while also being independent and proactive.
2. Plan meals with others.
In advance of meals, be brave and reach out to some people to see if anyone is available to meet. Be proactive. Remember that human contact doesn't have to mean that you have company at all points of the day. If you can embrace company and conversation during certain parts of the day, that by itself can make you feel much less lonely overall.
3. Fill up free time with something other than social media.
Don't spend the time immersing yourself in social media. That is a dangerous way to pass the time. Looking at social media to see who's with whom is a behavior that will only make you feel more isolated, and it can also make you less likely to reach out to people because you may become intimidated and inhibited by what you see. Free your mind to act spontaneously.
4. Make the fall season about reviewing your goals.
It's harder to be lonely when you're inspired and engaged! Consider spending this season reviewing all the goals you set for the year, personally and professionally. Self-evaluate and honestly assess how you're doing with accomplishing each goal. Some of your goals were probably written a long time ago, and now you have a more realistic sense of what to prioritize without the guessing. Focus on the ones you feel are most achievable in the short term.
5. Get outside.
During the fall, it's important to do activities that keep your energy up so that you don't fall into a low mood. Make a point of taking advantage of outside activities. Think about going apple or pumpkin picking, taking a hike in a picturesque area where the leaves are changing, or going bike riding or ice skating.
You can also improve your energy by tapping into your olfactory system. Turn those apples into apple pies at home, or, if you have a gas or wood-burning fire, turn it on. Alternatively, light some candles or simply go to a restaurant with a fireplace to embrace the positive aspects of the season.
6. Maintain your exercise regimen.
It's easy to slack on hitting the gym or going for your runs as the weather gets cooler, but exercise is restorative and helps you feel more energized, which is more important than ever in the fall season, when your energy may be lagging. If you maintain your weekly regimen, you'll notice a heightened ability to sustain your energy. No matter what the weather is outside, you can always do meditation, yoga, or no-equipment workouts right at home.
7. Plan ahead for the upcoming holidays.
Start planning your holidays now, particularly if there are issues that need resolution or if you think you may be spending the holidays alone. Get ahead on decreasing your stress levels (which are bound to peak as we get closer to the holidays) by working out a plan to visit a friend who lives nearby or who you could travel to see. You'd be surprised how many people would be happy to have you for the holidays if you just face your fears and ask. Likewise, if there are conflicting schedules that need to be worked out between you and your partner or family members, work on reaching your compromises now. Engaging in one or two mindful discussions will lead to a much more peaceful month or two leading into Thanksgiving and the rest of the seasonal holidays.
Advance planning will help you to enjoy the fall months more, keep your energy up, and avoid the lingering feelings of dread, loneliness, and isolation that could potentially ruin your entire holiday season.
Jennifer Guttman, PsyD, is a leading cognitive behavioral therapist and clinical psychologist with over 20 years of experience in the field of mental health. She has built thriving practices in Manhattan and Westport, Connecticut, that provide weekly services for over 120 clients. Guttman launched her own lifestyle motivational brand platform, Sustainable Life Satisfaction, via her popular YouTube six-episode web series, A Path to Sustainable Life Satisfaction, and her debut workbook of the same title is available in e-book and paperback on Kindle/Amazon.com. Guttman found that many people don’t feel “happy” about some aspect of their lives, and her mission is to motivate and inspire people think about happiness in a realistic way.