Did you know that exhaustion can be a symptom of loneliness? Yeah, me neither. I’m reading Dare to Lead right now, one of my 2022 vision board books. In the second chapter, Brené references a Harvard Business Review article stating that companies with employees reporting high levels of exhaustion might not be suffering from fatigue caused by the pace or volume of work alone. Instead, people are actually feeling lonely, which is manifesting as exhaustion.
Based on what we’ve been through in the last two years that statement makes total sense to me.
But what I found really interesting is that I typically deal with exhaustion and loneliness in entirely different ways. And I’m guessing you do, too. If I’m feeling exhausted I want to stay in bed with my cats, nap, binge watch mindless shows – essentially hide from all forms of stimulation because I am so freaking tired. If I’m feeling lonely, I’ll call my family, go out with girlfriends – go do anything social. The diametrical opposite of what I do when I feel exhausted.
So here’s why Brené’s point struck me this morning.
Jed has been traveling for work a lot lately. He’s actually abroad right now. And if you ask me how I feel about it I’d tell you I’m fine because I while he’s gone I….
- Watch all of the reality TV that he hates (I’m looking at you, Bravo.)
- Sleep starfish style in the bed
- Maintain exclusive rights to all cat cuddles
- Schedule dinners and drinks to catch up with my girlfriends
Bottom line: I enjoy alone time!
Is it Loneliness or Exhaustion?
However, while he’s been on this particular trip (it’s a super long one, btw), I have been feeling completely exhausted. I’ve been thinking maybe it’s allergies or a sinus infection (it’s spring and I am allergic to our cats after all). It never once occurred to me that I could be lonely and that loneliness is manifesting itself as exhaustion.
Don’t you just love it when you read something at the perfect time?! Like the author is peering into your soul. I read this chapter and I thought, “but I’m Miss Independent! I love my alone time! I’m not lonely.” At least that’s what I told myself.
But then I thought more about what my days have entailed recently.
I talk to people all day long at work. But it’s mostly virtual still, so I spend my days on Teams rather than in-person. No matter how hard we try, that screen-to-face contact can’t replace the energy exchange felt when you’re with a real human. So that’s one factor. The other is that when Jed’s out of town, I feel super guilty about leaving our cats alone. (They’re my babies and I’m a proud cat lady…just go with it.) So even though I do like to schedule things with friends, I also stick pretty close to home.
Anyway, this was an unexpected “check-in with myself” moment that I thought was so timely – not only for me but also because May is Mental Health Awareness month, and loneliness can play a huge factor in someone’s mental well-being. Even though I was reluctant to admit it, maybe I have been feeling lonely after all.
If you’ve been feeling lonely or exhausted as well, here are a few things to try to get you out of the house, give you a social but still self-care-driven purpose. I’m going to be trying these things as well!
Things to Do When Feeling Lonely
- Call your parents, a friend, a close coworker, a family member
- Take your dog (or cat!) for a walk
- Better yet, adopt a dog or a cat
- Go to the gym or a workout class
- Go to your local bookstore and ask the clerk for their recommendations
- Take yourself shopping
- Meet friends for a walk, coffee, lunch or drinks
- Treat yourself to a massage or mani/pedi
What do you think? Could your feeling lonely be masquerading as exhaustion? What are some things that help when you feel loneliness creeping in?