In 2002 after my son Jonah was born, I sent an email out to a handful of friends from my prenatal yoga class and invited them to meet me at our local park on the following Wednesday. We sat on blankets under big oak trees nursing our newborns. I pulled out some inspirational self-care cards and attempted to ignite a conversation around how my brand new mama friends were “really” doing. It went nowhere. I left the gathering deflated, sad and feeling lonelier than I had in quite a while. I now know why.
“Loneliness,” says Johann Hari, author of Lost Connections: Uncovering the Real Causes of Depression – and the Unexpected Solutions in his new book, “isn’t the physical absence of other people,—it’s the sense that you’re not sharing anything that matters with anyone else. If you have lots of people around you—perhaps even a husband or wife, or a family, or a busy workplace—but you don’t share anything that matters with them, then you’ll still be lonely.”
The good news is that the experience I had with the new mothers became a catalyst for the creation of our women’s self-renewal groups– rich, sacred, soulful, authentic gatherings that are now meeting in 10 countries around the globe and offer regular opportunities for women to be seen, heard, connect and belong. The bad news is, as a nation, we’re lonelier than ever. (Although, this virus hopefully is changing that!)
Brigham Young University conducted an influential meta-analysis of scientific literature on loneliness and found that social isolation increases your risk of death by an astounding 30%; some estimates have it as high as 60%. To put it another way, loneliness might be a more significant health factor than obesity, smoking, exercise or nutrition. Many are saying loneliness may be the next big public health issues (2018 was dubbed “the year of loneliness” in the mental health community; read my post Why We Need Each Other for more on this thread).
As we navigate the pandemic and quarantine, heartfelt connection is more important than ever. Whether that be via phone, Zoom or in other creative ways. I also encourage you commit to intentional daily connections (structure makes us feel safe) and turn to the familiar (see what opportunities your favorite local and national guides/mentors are offering for community support). Some of the ways I’m connecting and practicing emotional self-care right now, include:
- A daily 7:30 a.m. walk in the neighborhood with my husband to share our intentions for the day and tap into the power of “moving a muscle and changing a thought!”
- Monday evening family dinner meetings with my husband/son to cover schedules, individual needs, things to celebrate and where we each need support.
- Regular T-F morning dance and yoga classes with my favorite Austin teachers (they’re all teaching via Zoom now). Read more and join me! I don’t miss these for anything!
- Weekly Artist Way Lunch Meet-Ups on Thursdays (this in-person group went online to Zoom).
- Sunday evening 7:30 p.m. Peterson Family Zoom Support Gatherings; in these guided circles, the 18 of us start with a song, we check-in and share around a theme, I read a calming bed time story to the littles and we end with gratitudes (we keep this to 45 minutes–attention spans are short!).
- Wednesday evening support calls with the Venus Girls (a circle of “moms of teens” I’ve known for a long time). It’s a place we can show up warts and all and offer soulful support to one another (read more on the power of friends).
I also will spontaneously FaceTime friends near and far (rather than text or call) and am making a conscious effort to reach out to my single friends to check-in. I also take part in various singing circles (check out www.singworldwide.org) and other meditation offerings (www.SoundsTrue.com). However, it’s all about quality of connection, not quantity. As an extrovert, I have to be mindful of this!
I challenge you this week to reflect on your emotional self-care (our April theme on Live Inside Out) and ask yourself: Which friends, communities or groups in my life have deeply nourished me and what are they offering right now that might support my emotional well-being?
More than ever community and connection = medicine (plus, feeling a sense of belonging boosts our immune system!). I’m here for you. Be gentle with yourself and lean on one another. We will get through this. Together.
P.S. If you missed my post on my recommendations for self-care, here it is.
SEEKING SUPPORT FOR SELF-CARE & RESILIENCY? HERE ARE TWO OPPORTUNITIES:
- Consider hiring me to create a workshop to help your team, organization or employees feel less stressed and more resilient, energized and focused. My primary work is speaking to professionals worldwide on how to find balance through practicing the art/science of self-care. Whether it’s an in-person workshop, retreat or via a Zoom call, I’d love to support your organization now or in the future. Learn more here.
- Want support for making your self-care #1? Check out my highly-popular self-paced, personal, audio classes and find balance, connection and joy right now. Only $99. Learn more.
Subscribe here to Live Inside Out, a weekly blog written by life balance coach/author/speaker and mindfulness teacher Renée Peterson Trudeau. Passionate about helping men and women find balance through the art/science of self-care, her work has appeared in The New York Times, Good Housekeeping, US News & World Report, Spirituality & Health and more. She and her team have certified more than 400 facilitators in 10 countries around the globe to lead self-renewal groups and women’s retreats based on her work. She’s the author of two books on life balance including the award-winning The Mother’s Guide to Self-Renewal. She lives in Austin, Texas, with her husband and 18-year-old son. More on Renee here.