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The Danger of Isolation & a Too-Small World

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There are times when our world gets smaller. Maybe too small. Illness keeps us confined at home. Caring for others takes all our time. Deadlines and commitments keep us running from place to place, merely waving to the people we love as we scurry past.

If too much time passes, that breeds isolation, and isolation is emotional quicksand, pure and simple.

Whether we’re introverts or extroverts, we’re all social beings. The type and level of social interaction we need may vary, but if we spend too much time alone inside our own head, all sorts of nasty things try to move into the space where friends and family should be.

Scary, ugly critters like the doubt gremlins will try to move into your life, bringing their evil cousins depression, anxiety and self-pity along for the ride.

What’s a creative person to do?

Know yourself

I’m a writer. I’m also a people person. After several years of freelancing, I realized I was going stark, raving mad at home all day. The loneliness got to me. I needed to expand my world so I’d be happy when I did go back into my office. My solution was to become a boat captain. I absolutely love being outside on the water, around people. It provides the balance I need for the times I’m hunched over my computer.

Take an honest look at your life and make changes, if necessary. I’m not necessarily advocating a whole new career, but see if there’s a part of your personality you’re not taking care of.

Reach out–then go out

Isolation breeds isolation. The reality is that the longer we’re alone, the harder it is to get out the door. Make yourself do it anyway. Go sit out in the sunshine, go for a walk, call a friend. Better yet, meet a friend for coffee, or invite someone to a movie. Take that first step. Reach out. Especially when you don’t want to. That’s a sure sign you NEED to.

 

Connie Mann_photos

Dinner at a Mexican Restaurant in Copenhagen, 2011

I have to say here, if isolation has slid down into depression, please, please, please, call someone. Today. Right now. Call a friend, a clergy member, your doctor. Don’t suffer in silence. Help is out there. Truly. You really are not alone.

Look up

When our world gets smaller, we get tunnel vision. All we can see is what’s right in front of us. Last week my to-do list completely overwhelmed me. I talked with a friend and with hubby and they helped me reset my perspective. I looked up from my list long enough to see the big picture again. I’d gotten so bogged down I lost sight of it completely. Whatever mud puddle you’re in, you won’t be in it forever. Shake the mud off your boots and look up at the sunshine.

Expand your world

One of the best ways I know to break the isolation spiral is to help someone else. The moment I start doing that, it sends self-pity packing. It isn’t always easy to see beyond our own needs to those around us, but it’s one of the best things we can do—for them…and for us.

What’s your best strategy when your world gets too small?

PS—For those of you helping me count down to Angel Falls’ release on March 1st, Fresh Fiction just posted a great review, calling the story, “a perfect blend of fast-paced thriller, inspiration and romance.” Visit Fresh Fiction to read the whole review. I’m also delighted to have a sneak peek of Angel Falls featured on The Women of Valley View blog this week.

 

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    The Conversation

  1. Although I live in a house full of people, too many at times. (lol), everyone is doing their own thing. My solution came with our new puppy. He’s now almost three years old, but, weather permitting, I take him to the park across the street every morning and converse with all the other dog owners who show up. I also take him for late morning walks through the neighborhood. Getting out nearly every day clears my head and gives me a new perspective on everything. Can even cheer me up when I’m angry, stressed or slightly depressed.

    • Connie Mann says:

      Puppies are a wonderful thing! Sometimes we need that something or someone that tugs us outside to regain the perspective we need! Great strategy, Susan! There’s nothing like being outside to clear our minds…

  2. This blog really spoke to me, Connie.
    Just the other day, my daughter told me I was isolating myself. Not intentionally, but because I’m so busy, I’ve let many of my social and church connections go.
    If it weren’t for my half-time teaching job, I’d likely never leave the house. I don’t on days I’m not teaching.
    Though I love my writing room and all that goes into being an author, blogger, editor, etc., I realize I’m not taking time just for me, for my family and friends, and most importantly, God.
    Thanks for the reminder!

    • Connie Mann says:

      You’re so welcome, Collette. Isolation is something that sneaks up on all of us, I think. But by being aware of it, we can take steps to fight it off. So glad it reminded you to get out more! We all need that. 🙂

  3. Mackenzie Crowne says:

    Important reminder, Connie. It really is easy to get caught in the isolation bubble when your work is a solitary effort. Thankfully, my grandbabies don’t recognize my do not disturb signs, bonding into my private spaces with a grin and a “guess what, Loli!” And outside the family, my friends and I have a standing “chick date” on the second Saturday of the month. Because we purposefully set the meeting on our busy schedules, we’re all more likely to show up.

    • Connie Mann says:

      Thanks, Mac! I love picturing your grands bounding into your private spaces! And I think your standing “chick date” is a great idea. If I didn’t live so far, I’d probably crash the party. 🙂

  4. Niecey Roy says:

    This post couldn’t have come at a better time! I’m feeling a bit overwhelmed lately and have gone into isolation mode for reasons those of you who are writers will understand. I didn’t realize it until reading this post! Obviously, I need to get out of the house 🙂 I haven’t been out with friends in a very long time. Probably, I need to make a few calls for a dinner date with some girl friends I haven’t seen in awhile. For my sanity’s sake 🙂 It doesn’t help that it’s still freezing cold winter here in Nebraska. I’m going to blame the weather for as long as I can. I’m such an outdoorsy, lay out in the sun kind of girl. I keep telling my husband my tan skin wasn’t made for this blistering cold weather! It’s downright unbearable. But the small town life has its perks and spring, summer and fall are all very beautiful seasons here in the Midwest. The answer is winning the lottery and buying a winter home somewhere warm…ha! I’ll get right on that. Maybe I’ll buy a lottery ticket the night I venture out into the “social” world again 🙂

    Thank you so much for the very much needed eye-opening post. Really needed this today 🙂

    • Connie Mann says:

      Niecey, I’m so glad the post encouraged you! It’s so easy to slide into isolation without even realizing it! But I like your attitude–I hope you win the lottery on your night out with the girls!!! And here’s hoping for an early, warm spring!

  5. Melissa Fox says:

    Great advice, Connie, especially the part about when you really don’t want to go out being a good sign you need to. Having the dogs to take for a walk really helps me get motivated to at least get outside every day, and a couple of standing “dates” with hubs and friends – it’s easier to do when you have someone else’s well-being and enjoyment to consider other than your own. Thanks!

    • Connie Mann says:

      Thanks, Melissa. Glad you have hubby, friends–and the dogs–to get you out on a regular basis. It really does make a difference to get out of our caves!

  6. Katherine says:

    This is an excellent post and very timely for me right now. I’ve shared it on my Facebook page as I have a friend who is struggling with the care of an elderly parent and feels guilty when she takes a few hours for herself.

    • Connie Mann says:

      Katherine, your friend is lucky to have you in her life! I hope you’re able to spirit her away for a few hours in the near future. Or maybe a Skype chat if that’s not possible. It’s so hard to be a caregiver, especially when you don’t get a break. We’re gearing up to provide respite care for some of our family’s caregivers.

  7. Robin Grant says:

    Thanks, Connie! Good reminder. My sister and I are trading off staying with my elderly parents–my mother’s in her nineties and my father is in the last stages of dementia. So I’m either at my full-time job or sitting with them all the time. When I do grab a minute to be at home with my husband or just go out to a store, I feel guilty because my sister is stuck. It’s nice to be reminded that those breaks are okay.

    • Connie Mann says:

      Robin, you and your sister are doing a wonderful, giving, exhausting thing! And to keep doing it, you NEED those breaks. I hope the blog encouraged you to ditch the guilt. Unless you take care of you, you can’t take care of them!! 🙂