Dealing with loneliness is tricky. As one of the more complicated and painful emotions, learning how to cope with loneliness can feel nearly impossible. However, like with any other emotion, it is possible to manage feelings of loneliness in ways that are healthy.

Way 1 – Acknowledge that you’re feeling lonely….and that it stinks.

This may seem obvious, but it’s true – acknowledging a difficult feeling is a key step of managing it. This is true for any challenging emotion, loneliness included!

When you feel lonely, it’s important to acknowledge a few things about that particular emotion:

  1. It’s normal – everybody feels lonely at some point or another.
  2. It’s possible to feel better and recuperate from feelings of loneliness.
  3. Feeling lonely stinks. While it’s normal to experience, it’s certainly not any fun.

Any time a person tries to repress (or ignore) their emotions, they can cause significantly worse problems for themselves. Cigna Health recommends taking a few minutes to explore your emotions, identify them, and allow yourself a chance to sit with those uncomfortable feelings. This sense of acknowledgement is a key step of moving forward with the process of healing from a challenging emotion such as loneliness.

Way 2 – Find a way to engage with other people meaningfully.

If the prospect of calling up an old friend or making an effort to visit family feels too overwhelming when you’re feeling lonely, you can find other ways to connect and engage with other people in a meaningful way.

Often, people experiencing loneliness have issues with still feeling lonely when they’re around a big group of people. A lonely person may still feel lonely when they’re in a busy supermarket, for example.

Finding an opportunity to engage with other people in a meaningful way is a great way to add substance and context to your social activity. For example, instead of trying to force conversation with a friend over dinner, consider volunteering for a shift at your town’s local homeless shelter or soup kitchen.

In this situation, you’re engaging with other people in a way beyond conversation. You’re also completing an important task, helping others in the community, and participating in a social situation with more structure, since there’s also work to be completed.

Way 3 – Practice lots of self care and do things that bring you pleasure and relaxation.

Taking care of yourself is a key aspect of handling any difficult emotions. When you’re engaging in self care activities, you’re recharging your personal batteries through relaxation. This type of “self recharge” ensures that, when the time comes to handle difficult and challenging emotions, you’ll have enough energy and personal strength to manage them.

Loneliness can be alleviated by practicing self care on a regular basis. Not only do self care activities help you feel better, they also reinforce the idea to yourself that you are important and deserving of a relaxation period. This type of mental reinforcement is helpful when you’re also dealing with hard emotions like loneliness.

Way 4 – Give yourself plenty of social media breaks.

While social media is designed to keep people connected with each other, it can also create intense feelings of loneliness and isolation. If you’re already experiencing these feelings, social media can exacerbate them.

For example, while browsing social media, you may see photos of folks interacting with each other and having fun. For someone already struggling with loneliness, this can make them feel even more separated from those activities, making their loneliness feel worse.

Way 5 – Seek professional help.

Any time an emotion like loneliness begins to feel like too much, reaching out to a mental health professional is an excellent strategy to help yourself manage it. A mental health professional such as a counselor or therapist can help you examine and process difficult emotions like loneliness in a way that’s healthy and productive. As an added bonus, mental health professionals know a wealth of great strategies they can share with you to make coping with tough emotions easier.