If you’re new to this series, be sure to check out Part 1 of this series to see the background information before this practical insight.
A pill to solve loneliness is how this series got started. In fact, the pill being answer to loneliness incited this anger within me because loneliness is not a medical condition in which we have no cure. Loneliness is a personal choice.
With the advancement of technology we’ve learned to rely less on people and more on our technology. For example, my husband started a new job after he retired from the Air Force and the kids and I got very sick one Wednesday. He was living and working in another state and the kids and I stayed in our home so we could navigate this next chapter of our lives. The kids’ routine and mine were kept nearly the same while we adjusted. During that season, though, the kids and I came down with a nasty flu. It was so bad I could barely move my body and the kids and I took turns vomiting. We’ve never had family nearby to help and my first response was to open my Amazon Prime Now app. I was able to order a few things on there and have it delivered within two hours.
Only after I had my order secured on Prime Now, did I even think to text my circle of friends to pray over us. Only then did I acknowledge I probably needed help from more than just an app. I needed able-bodied people that wanted to bless me and my family. And what’s worse, only after all that, did I email my husband asking him to drive the two hours home to help me with the kids so I could rest.
That sickness taught me how much I had isolated myself away from other people in a way that was actually harmful to me. I had relied on an app before a flesh and blood person who knows me and wants to love me well. I actually took away the option to have a person bless me with their gifts.
I keep thinking about our prison system and how we use isolation, or solitary confinement, as a punishment for the worst of the worst. Forced loneliness. This is a punishment and yet we’re forcing isolation upon ourselves.
I propose the solution to loneliness is intentional routine. Preparing to be a teacher in college, I learned classroom management and how establishing a routine is the most important aspect. A routine allows students to know what is next. It takes one piece of stress off the student (and teacher) because there’s an expectation that they can guarantee will happen every single time. It’s mental and emotional safety. A teacher (parent) who is sporadic, unorganized, and not able to set a routine will have a hard time managing her classroom.
Similar to students in the classroom, we crave routine. Our primitive nature works on routine. Think about it. We have a circadian rhythm in which our bodies recognize cues that tell us when it is time to wake up and when it is time to go to sleep. What’s cool? This circadian rhythm is literally on a twenty-four hour clock. Our bodies know instinctively how to care of themselves because of primitive routines already in place inside us.
Another picture of the primitive nature of routine built within us is when we get up in the morning, then we head to the bathroom to urinate. Most of us who are healthy will not wake up to pee in the middle of the night (unless pregnant or have a prostate issue) because our bodies shut down the receptors that help us recognize when we need to pee. Now there are exceptions to the rule. Some of us (me) drink so much at the end of the day that I’ll pee usually once in the middle of the night, but it’s also only if I’m woken up by a certain Red-Headed Dragon. Getting up and going pee in the morning is another primitive routine our bodies create instinctively.
Routines protect us, help us stay focused, and keep us from isolation and loneliness. Follow me here. Routines have to be formulated to match our needs. We need routine in the following areas:
In each of these areas we should be intentional about incorporating fulfilling activities. If your calendar is full of activities that do not fulfill each of these areas of our lives weekly, you need to take a look at reassessing your priorities.
Steps to creating an intentional life in order to prevent loneliness:
1. Your calendar should reflect your priorities.
Take out a sheet of paper or get yourself a pretty planner that is practical. I’m so neurotic about planning to keep myself safe that I actually have planners for every area of my life.
I have this family calendar on the wall in the kitchen so at a glance everyone can see what is on the calendar as a practical tool.
My husband and I share an electronic calendar on our phones called FamCal. We color code based on person so that’s helpful for us, too. Something you could do is color code your calendar to ensure you’re getting all six areas of needs met.
The calendar is one simple change we can implement. But if you’re ready to take a complete overhaul and really dig in to understand what your priorities are, check out the Cultivate What Matters Powersheets. I use Powersheets to really flesh through where I am in my life, what I want out of life, and what truly matters to me, and by proxy what doesn’t. I’ve gotten to the point where when making a decision if I’m going to add another thing to my plate I look at my Powersheets first. It has really helped me to say no to things that are good, but not for me, right now.
For work I use The Content Planner. It helps me to do similar prioritizing as the Powersheets do, but for my job. Running my own business opened up a whole new world of how the work never ends. We think laundry never ends, but work never ends when you own a business. The thing is, I need a hard boundary for myself to know when to stop. So I set goals for myself and plan ahead to keep what is important to me on my plate. I also know because of that work, what isn’t important and I don’t worry about unimportant things.
Weekly I sit down with this weekly calendar pad to write out what is on the calendar for the week and what I can actually manage to get done. This helps me feel not so overwhelmed with the tasks at hand.
I challenge you to take a look at your calendar. Does it reflect what your priorities are? Do you know what your priorities are? If you don’t keep a calendar, why do you think that is? Why not take awhile and really reflect upon the relationship of loneliness and how your calendar may be taking away from what you really want out of life.
2. Write activities on the calendar that meets your six needs.
Your time, energy, and money follow your priorities. If we aren’t careful and intentional with our time we can lose hours of valuable time to social media scrolling, Netflix binges, or videos on Youtube.
This is not an excuse to over-analyze and plan out your whole life. It is more of a way to organize your priorities into action. If it is on the calendar you have no excuses to not participate in activities that meet your whole health needs and you’re going to be doing it alongside other people. More time with people, less time alone and feeling lonely.
Below is a clickable image that you can save for yourself on your phone, your laptop, tablet or print it out and keep it in your calendar for ideas. Sure, some areas in your life you may not have access to some of these groups. Maybe this is time for you to start a new group!
3. Leadership development is for everyone, not just those with fancy titles.
If you have influence you’re a leader. You may not recognize the sphere of influence you have, on a grander scale, but you do have massive influence inside your home and with those you talk to on a regular basis. You are important. You are of value. You are worth caring for so that you can use your influence well.
A quality leadership network is hard to find. Many popular ones want to take a lot of your hard-earned money, repeat what others have said, and make millions off of your eagerness to grow.
Signs of a quality leadership program include:
–Empowerment with their own words, writing, and their own life lessons.
–Mostly use gender-neutral verbiage.
–Point you to Christ and your role as a follower of him
–Elicit a want and drive for you to grow your relationship with Christ so you can grow in passion for your purpose
–Price should represent the heart of the program and not fill bank accounts (pay for the cost of facility, printing materials, meals, etc.)
–Speakers should fully represent the purpose of the conference
Do your homework and look for the best leadership development opportunities. Ask Google, ask friends, ask for reviews of conferences and people claiming to provide leadership development. You’ll want to look at critiques and see if there is a trend positive or negative. You’ll want to decide if the values of the speakers/conferences are of the same values you possess. It’s not a great thing to let leaders influence us if we’re not on the same page of priorities (faith, ethics, morals).
If you’re looking for more options, reach out, because I do have a lot of resources I love!
4. Get help with your health.
Schedule and go to your routine doctor visits and hire a nutrition coach (professional and certified backed by real health professionals). You may not think that health should be on a list for loneliness, but when our physical health is not well, or we don’t feel like we are thriving in the skin we’re in, then we tend to stay away from others. We hibernate, get sick more, and isolate slowly over time. Your quality of health matters.
Prioritizing sleep allows you to feel rested and well in the morning. Our bodies recover, grow, and change when we sleep. Our memories are made when we sleep. So much happens when we get quality sleep of eight to ten hours.
Fitness is not just for those who are built with muscles or the women in aerobics leotards. Science is stating over and over there are predictabilities of longevity in two ways: The first is the ability to get off the floor with no hands and the other is the ability to do forty unbroken pushups. These movements don’t come because of cute exercise videos or popular group workouts. Even the ability to get on and off the toilet comes from functional fitness. If you’re nerdy like me and want to see some research I’ll link an article here about geriatric care now using functional fitness for its patients.
Are you stressed? Then learn to manage your stress. Sit back and figure out what stress is self-induced (referencing the calendar and priorities) and what you cannot control. Manage your nutrition to not cause more stress to your body, try not to get more than 300mg women or 600mg caffeine men. Eat anti-inflammatory foods as often as you can to avoid the crashes of fast food.
Another area of stress can come from relationships—manage your relationships well. Are the people in your circle encouraging you, pushing you, and helping you to the next level? Or are they holding you back, causing you anxiety, making you stressed that you have to worry about their issues? You are the sum of the five people you speak to on a regular basis. Watch yourself in this area.
Lastly, your health can be helped physiologically by simply getting out into nature every day. I thought it was the weirdest thing when we moved, that rain, shine, crazy cold or snow, people are outside walking here. They gear up in snow skiing gear, goggles included, and hit the road. I also learned there is a rush hour of walking hours in our neighborhood. –I just laughed out loud.—
Detoxing from stress can be as easy as getting in your extra steps outside. Doing it because you want to be a healthy person, so you behave like a healthy person.
Please, if you find yourself in an emotional crisis, maybe you’ve decided you’re ready for therapy, to work on the deeper core issues going on to cause you to be emotionally unstable. Do it. Do it now. Don’t wait. Walk across that parking lot scared of the unknown. That’s when you know your life is going to change for the better.
5. Prepare well for the week ahead
If you know what to expect ahead of time, then anxiety lowers. For example, once a week I grab a piece of paper and start meal planning. What do I have on hand that can be a meal or part of a meal? Off of that list I start making my shopping list for the grocery store. Knowing the food options for the week takes another stress off my plate and is easily communicated to the rest of the family of the options we will have on hand.
I look at my calendar and write down what I have to do that week on that weekly calendar sheet. I write to the side the goals I want to get accomplished but not necessarily a certain date. For example, make a vet appointment for the dogs. This takes a few moments of my time and I can cross it off.
I am a healthy person so I want to prioritize adequate and quality food intake along with working out four times a week.
I am a home school mom—Sundays I prep the kids’ weekly needs (their agendas are filled out, worksheets are copied, folders are prepped for the week).
Essentially every area of my life is accounted for and documented when I will do it. It takes all pressure off my shoulders to do it all and do it now.
These are just five ways I’ve found to help me stay intentional in these six areas of my life. What I didn’t realize before was that I was isolating myself, not building quality relationships because I didn’t know what my priorities were. When I knew what my priorities were, I was able to become intentional toward them and then with my time. When I learned where my time needed to be spent to achieve my goals, I was forced to do life with other people. I was forced to create relationships, build them, and learn from them. When I’m involved, meeting my needs, I don’t have time to feel alone or like I’m wasting my life because I’m focused on living an intentional life.
I have a lot of questions:
Are you lonely or do you experience loneliness often? Statistics tell me the answer is yes, especially in the United States.
Do you have any idea what your priorities in life really are?
Are you doing too much?
Are you not doing anything because you’re overwhelmed?
Do you experience anxiety and or depression from your overwhelming feelings of flailing through life?
What areas in life are you trying for the quick fix?
What areas in life are you an avoider?
I challenge you to finally do something about it.
- Find your priorities.
- Get involved in activities, aligned with your priorities, that meet your six human needs.
- Participate in leadership growing opportunities.
- Get help with your health.
- Prepare well for each week.
We always want a quick-fix pill…
Because we refuse to do the hard work that takes time.