It had been 3 days and I hadn’t seen another human. It was mid-March, during a lingering New England winter, and I was head-down, writing.
Suddenly, the pangs of loneliness ached within.
I knew I had to do something… before loneliness caught up with me and depression reared its ugly head. So I made a plan to break the isolation, lift my spirits, and renew my energy.
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Here’s what I did:
I scheduled coffee with a friend.
It seems obvious, I know. But you’d be surprised at how long it takes me to reach out to others when I’m lonely. I conjure up excuses like, “It’s too cold out. I don’t feel like leaving the house.” Or “I have so much to do. There’s no time for coffee.” Or, quite possibly the worst, “My friend won’t understand what I’m going through. I can’t share my real feelings.”
Lies. All lies. The truth is, there’s always time for me to put on a coat and enjoy a 30-minute coffee break. Also, my friends really care about me — whether they can relate to my struggles or not. They want to hear about the successes and challenges of small business ownership. And they want to cheer me on.
I called someone who lives far away.
My friend Melissa and I used to live in the same town. Back then we saw each other every day. Then we got married, moved, and had babies. Now instead of seeing her every day, I pick up the phone. We’re both small business owners — she’s an interior designer — so we can relate to one another. We discuss marketing techniques and work/life balance.
It’s so easy to grow apart from friends who live far away. But, the phone is there for a reason. Remember to use it.
I got active and got connected.
I’m a big fan of walking. It boosts my creativity and helps me feel balanced. That’s why I challenge myself to walk at least 7,000 steps a day. Recently, I got a Fitbit activity tracker, downloaded the app, and started tracking my steps. The app lets me add friends and even challenge them to see who can get the most steps. The winner gets to gloat.
Here are a few other fitness apps to help you stay connected (and fit):
I started a group text.
I’m a working mom. And for all the moms out there — we need each other. Mom-ing is hard. Being a mom entrepreneur is even harder. That’s what I stay connected with my mom friends over a group text. On the thread, we discuss anything from daycare to feeding to fussiness. We send pictures, vent, and laugh. It keeps me sane.
Whether you’re a parent or not, it’s wise to get a group of friends who can chat on a regular basis. Maybe it’s your family on a group thread. Or your softball team. Or your coworkers from a past job. Ask yourself, “who are my people?” If you’re not into texting, you can do the same thing on a group email… or even in person. Get together once a month for dinner and some face time.
I joined an online community.
Have you heard of Slack? It’s a free team collaboration tool that’s pretty cool. And no, they don’t pay me to say that. Slack offers “channels,” with groups of people who are interested in the same professional topic. You can go to a channel to get advice, hear the latest in your industry, and even promote your product. #shamelessplug
Currently, I’m a member of several content marketing and SEO channels where I’ve learned a ton from other members. Here are a few other online communities where you might find digital camaraderie:
If you don’t see a group that matches your interests, start one! It might grow exponentially.
I began attending events regularly.
Every year, I attend the Hubspot Inbound conference in downtown Boston. This annual event gathers thousands of marketing professionals to learn the latest industry techniques. Last year I went solo, but using Twitter, I found a group of attendees who were also on their own. Together, we walked to sessions and even went out to eat. It was a great way for me to make new friends, learn from like-minded professionals, and gain new business.
But that conference happens just once a year. So on a monthly basis, I also get out for Meetup group events. I’m a member of several groups focusing on digital marketing, content writing, and graphic design. I’m even part of a group that visits new restaurants (because writing works up a healthy appetite.)
I got a mentor.
My friend Rachel is a speech language pathologist and has been a small business owner since 2013. And, whether she realizes it or not, she mentors me. We talk openly about the pressures of small business ownership. She lends me inspiring books and challenges me to do more. Even though we’re in different industries, I’m learning a lot from her — how she stays focused, balances work/family life, and demonstrates leadership for her team.
Consider people in your life who could mentor you. You don’t have to ask for a mentorship directly — just go out and spend time with them. Great mentors are invested in your success, have time to spend with you, and can give you constructive feedback.
And, I got out of the house.
Sometimes people aren’t available to talk. When all else fails, I take a break and get out of my home office. Whether it’s a trip to the grocery store or to a local museum, being around other people in public helps cure my loneliness. I find myself striking up conversations with strangers and saying hello to people on the street. Next time you’re feeling isolated, try:
Once you’ve cured your loneliness, remember to reach out to others too. Your text, “hello,” could come at just the right time.
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I earned a B.A. in Journalism from the University of Wisconsin at Madison (go Bucky). After realizing my first job might involve carrying a police scanner at 2 am in pursuit of “newsworthy” crimes, I decided I was better suited for freelance blogging and marketing writing. Since 2010, I’ve owned my freelance writing business, EST Creative. When I’m not penning, doodling ideas, or chatting with clients, you’ll find me hiking with my husband, baby boy, and 2 mischievous mutts.
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