These days the news and freely flowing opinions of nearly everyone around me have me wanting to hide under a rock, or my bed, for the foreseeable future.

Lots of people are feeling this way.

Maybe you are too.

Though the idea of hiding away and breaking all connections outside myself can be an appealing one,

science and experience show me the combo of high stress and isolation are a hot mess of a relationship I’d do best to avoid.

I realized it’s been more than a month since a neighbor friend and I spoke. We used to walk often, and though we have our differences, we connect on a lot of levels.

Up to recently we’d remained close even though we don’t share each other’s views on a lot of topics. As things have gotten more intense politically, and our opinions have diverged, we’ve been distant.

The growing divide runs right down the middle of my street.

It felt easier to stay away than deal with our stark differences.

Is this happening in your relationships?

We have a better shot at understanding each other, and maybe even to open our hearts and minds, if we communicate.

My friend may be thinking the same thing about our distance, but lately there’s been no back and forth,

…just the sound of crickets chirping.

The distance felt wrong to my passion-for-connection self, so I took a quick break to send her an email.

In the message I acknowledged stress of recent days and told her I was thinking of she and her husband and wondering how she was.

I took a risk to break the stalemate.

We’ll see how it goes!

Feelings of isolation, fear and separation can fuel insecurity, paranoia, and lashing out.

The opposite can be experienced by people who feel connected, supported and loved, even in stressful situations.

I’ll be the first “introvert who loves people” to acknowledge the need for quiet time. What I’m talking about here is the feeling that drives us to push others away, to build walls (almost never a good idea except in home and commercial construction), not just rest and recover.

We have found that negative reactions to stress are lower when dealt with in supportive community.

There’s also an ongoing 70+ year Harvard study that helps reveal the relationship between health, happiness, longevity and community. Here’s an article from “The Atlantic” that explains the connection link. Or check out Robert Waldinger’s TedTalk on “What makes a good life? The longest study on happiness.”

But, when you get right down to it, we don’t need those studies to tell us what we feel. Right?

We know we need each other even, and maybe especially, when we don’t want each other.

We just have to remember what to do when we are feeling that stress and desire to isolate.

Are you giving and getting love and support lately? Where is it coming from? Where is it going? Does it feel balanced, or in need of a boost?

When I see patterns of choosing isolation in life there are a few life hacks to shift myself back to connection.

  1. Take a walk – Yes, this is at the tippy top of most of my coping lists, but it is there because it works! It has been hard to quiet my mind lately by sheer force of movement and will. There’s so much cacophony going on outside, and I’m reflecting it inside, big time. So, I’ve been listening to inspiring podcasts like Krista Tippet’s OnBeing, and/or uplifting, energizing music. It may take a good 40 minutes to break the cycle, but if I can get my body moving, it never fails me.
  1. Prepare and eat a healthy and tasty meal. The act of preparing even a simple meal for myself that I know will feed my body and help me manage my stress can work wonders. Here’s one of my favorite quick prep lunches, salad in a jar. Though it only takes a few minutes to assemble, is beautiful to behold and just might help you feel connected to your body in the midst of stressful times.
  1. Look up at the sky and take 5 long, deep, breaths. Daytime or night, this quick life hack can work wonders. Like your first grade teacher told you, don’t stare directly at the sun, but do watch the clouds float by, or the stars twinkle and just breathe, long and deep. If the mind is still distracted, describe what you see that is appealing to you, either silently our aloud. I tried this with a group of people on a retreat recently and the results were nearly immediate, positive and astounding.
  1. Talk with someone. Find a way to reach out through your desire to isolate. This could be a friend, or someone new you meet in your day. Try just saying “Hello!”

Remember my neighbor friend I mentioned earlier? She responded to the email almost immediately. It turns out she was missing me too! We haven’t delved into our political disagreements, but it was settling to send her a message and to receive a kind message in return.

We are wired for connection, a fact of which I’m reminded almost every time I reach out.

Realizing that connection helps us remember what we already know.

Isolation is an illusion.

Connection is real.

The truth is we are all connected by a common planet, our need for safety, food, shelter, and love.

When we settle in, and acknowledge those needs with each other, we all feel better.

We realize what matters.

Let me know how you’re managing your stress, responding to your desire to isolate and staying connected to what really matters to you. Keep trying this list, or other things, until you learn what works.

And here’s the exponential part, once you’ve figured out what works for you, share it with others!

Subscribe here to join us and you’ll receive an interactive Mandala Map that helps you create a framework for realizing your connections. Once there you’ll be invited to join our Facebook group where we explore and experience breaking isolation and realizing our connection.

We can be the change we want to see in the world, together.

#IsolationIsAnIllusion #ConnectionIsReal #RealizingConnection #TheConnectionLabIsComing #KristaTippet #OnBeing #RobertWaldinger

Showing 6 comments
  • Peggy Acott

    Jennie, this is great, and timely. I know I’m not the only one who wants to retire from the world and all the grating noise of “news” and raw nerve emotion from every direction, but it is helpful to have it affirmed as “not just me.”

    Your five “hacks” are spot on – most of which I turn to, myself. Again, nice to be reminded, though so thank you for this post!

    • Jennie Benjamin

      Thank you Peggy. Grateful we are not alone!

  • Madeleine Eames

    Thank you for this. I am definitely feeling isolated and overwhelmed and just want to withdraw, but I know this is the opposite of what makes me feel better… I will do all those tips today :)

    • Jennie Benjamin

      Glad we can all support each other in staying connected in challenging times. I’d love to hear how it goes with the tips. Grateful.

  • Ginny

    Jennie, love this because I deeply have been yearning lately to escape, to run away to a quiet island and be alone for an indefinite period of time. Maybe just a few hours would suffice with that walk in mind! “We have found that negative reactions to stress are lower when dealt with in supportive community.” I find this to be so true as well. Thank you for these words given at this time in our world.

    • Jennie Benjamin

      Ginny, thank you for your work in the world. It is wonderful to hear from you.

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