Loneliness. What a shitty word. What a shitty feeling. The thought that no one cares about you. That you have zero friends. That there’s no one thinking about you. That you might as well disappear off the face of the earth. Because you don’t matter anyway.
These are thoughts that are all too familiar. Sadness. Panic. Discontent. Feeling rushed. The idea that you’re not good enough. And never will be.
Phew! What a clusterfuck. You’d think you wouldn’t need to deal with that when you’re on a tropical island like Bali. Yes, the sun on your head, the salty seawater on your lips, and your toes in the sand do wonders. Yet even in Bali, there are people who struggle with these kinds of thoughts from time to time. I am one of them. One of many.
In this article, I share five things that help me when I feel lonely.
Life isn’t always rainbows and frangipanis
As much as I love Bali, I have come to see this island as a bit of a rehab center. A haven for crazies from the west. People with commitment issues, abandonment issues, (winter) depression, narcissists, borderliners, or just millennials who can’t deal with problems/responsibilities at home. This place is full of them (and I probably fall into all categories).
Okay, maybe I’m a bit cynical and shouldn’t be browsing the “psychology” section of Quora that much. But still, I do know a lot of people who have serious ups and downs in Bali.
Life isn’t always fun. And a life in paradise is no exception.
Actually, a beautiful island like Bali makes it worse. You feel bad, and on top of that, you feel guilty because you think you should be happy. You’re surrounded by freaking palm trees, what more could you want!
If you can’t be happy on a sun-drenched island, where can you?
But that’s the thing. It doesn’t matter where you go. You will still be you. Emotions you feel and have felt are stored in your body. You carry those with you. The way you react to stress, you carry with you.
Unless you learn to be okay with who you are, you will run into loneliness again and again.
1. I allow myself to feel like crap
Luckily, I now know that it’s totally fine to feel like crap sometimes. You’re allowed to. Even when the sun is shining. Even when there are perfect waves. Even when life is fantastic. It doesn’t matter. Enjoy a few days of seclusion. Take time for yourself. Let your emotions be. Cry, sleep, watch Netflix & chill, eat cake.
A few days like this is fine. Does your loneliness last longer than a week or two? Then it’s best to talk about it with a friend, family member, or helpline (see #5).
2. I move my body every day
Move, it’s good for you. Doesn’t even matter how you move. But move you shall. Put on some music, dance in your room, swing your arms up and down, take a walk on the beach/forest, go swimming or surfing, do yoga (calming, active, or a combination), drag yourself to the gym, or do some Qi gong.
Movement makes your energy flow freely. This is nice, as emotions settle in your body. The less you move, the more you get into your head. So you need to get the energy from your head to the rest of your body. And you do that by moving.
“Shake it like a Polaroid picture“
What also helps: shake for a minute. Do this in a room where no one sees you, so you can let yourself go completely. With your eyes closed, shake your entire body, from head to toe. When the minute is up, notice what you feel in your body.
3. I got a pet
As a (digital) nomad, it’s not exactly easy to have a pet. Yet there are possibilities. You can do some pet sitting, sign up for pet sitting sites, and walking services. That’s how I did it for a long time. I recently got my own kitten. It can definitely cause some extra stress, especially in the beginning. You and your little beast have to get used to each other, establish a routine.
But the benefits? Absolutely outweigh the disadvantages. When you pet an animal, your body produces oxytocin, a “cuddle hormone”. So that makes you happy! It reduces stress and loneliness.
Also, caring for a pet has a positive effect on your self-esteem (as long as you do it right and your beast is happy).
4. I reduce stress with time blocking
Stress management is actually the number one tip for fighting mental health problems. In my opinion. And that of countless professionals. Depression, loneliness, panic, anxiety disorders – stress plays a heavy, HEAVY role.
By dividing your time by day or by week (this is called time blocking), you give yourself something to hold on to and see what is achievable and especially what is not. This has a beneficial effect on your stress levels.
As a freelancer or entrepreneur, you can actually push yourself a little too much. You work well into the night because you want to meet a deadline. You take on every possible assignment out of fear of having no money next month. You perfect your work because you think you’re not good enough. You spend way too much time on one assignment and get frustrated with what you get in return.
Recognise that? Then cut it out. Honour your limits, learn how time blocking works and use my free template.
5. I call a friend, therapist, coach, or helpline
Loneliness is often accompanied by a great sense of shame. This shame is sometimes even more painful than the loneliness itself. Because of this, many people often withdraw, rather than seek contact with the outside world.
They want to solve it themselves and therefore isolate themselves. How do I know this? Because I do exactly the same thing. That is until I learned that it’s totally counterproductive. Now I call my online therapist when I need help or advice.
With friends I also discuss things, but I try to keep it light and be there for them most of all. Everyone struggles with their own problems. By talking about your issues, you can relate and connect.
But help comes in different forms and it’s up to you to see what suits you best. There are:
- (online) therapists & psychologists,
- coaches in all possible fields (money, well-being, career, love, etc.),
- (free) helplines via phone or WhatsApp,
- yoga retreats with a focus on mental health,
- healers and shamans;
- friends and family.
Breaking chains and stigmas
Sometimes life sucks. Whether you’re in a rainy country or on a sunny island. At the moment, though, I have little to complain about. I’ve learned to talk about what bothers me, write it off or exercise it off.
I’ve realized that’s a major privilege. As a modern nomad, I am far removed from the world in which some of the Balinese live. In some remote villages, people with severe mental health problems (schizophrenia, for example) are literally chained.
This practice is called pasung. Although banned, it still occurs throughout Indonesia. People with mental disorders are sometimes seen as dangerous, a disgrace to the family/community or possessed by demons.
Pasung is an extreme example and, fortunately, is becoming less common. But the fact is that the stigma on mental health problems is still huge. Not only in Bali, also in the rest of the world.
Mental Health Helpline L.I.S.A.
Fortunately, there are more and more initiatives and projects that aim to break this stigma. For example, I recently stumbled upon the new helpline L.I.S.A. This helpline is available to both local residents of Bali and foreigners. I read about it on Facebook and I think it’s a great initiative. Besides L.I.S.A., there are numerous other helplines in Indonesia.
All you need is (self)love
I’m convinced that the more we discuss these kinds of topics, the weaker our shame becomes and the more authentically we can live. That’s what connects us – it’s our strongest tool in the fight against loneliness. And that is why we are here on earth. To get to know, accept, and learn to love our true selves. So that we can also love one another. That, in my opinion, is the greatest lesson in life.