Fenny Nadorp is an entertainment and creative industry life coach with more than a decade of experience. She has been trained by neuro-linguistic programming (NLP) legend Tony Robbins, Chloé Madanes, Magali and Mark Peysha. In honor of Mental Health Awareness Month, she has teamed up with Mixmag for a series of topic discussions that artists, industry members and fans alike face to create and encourage a safe environment to openly discuss mental health issues.
Loneliness is a familiar concept to everyone. We can feel alone when we are by ourselves, but it isn't limited to being physically alone. We can feel alone in the middle of a crowd, at a party and even with friends and family.
The feeling of being alone can cause overwhelming sadness and doubt, but the effects of loneliness can sometimes go even further. "The absence of social connection triggers the same primal alarm bells as hunger, thirst and physical pain," says neuroscientist John Cacioppo, who has made a career out of studying loneliness.
It's important, then, to not underestimate loneliness as a phase or a feeling that will simply go away on its own. Loneliness can have a serious, harmful effects on your physical and mental health, not limited to diminished sleep quality, depression, restless and stress.
It might come as a surprise to some, but artists and musicians have often discussed their shared experiences of loneliness. "It can be kind of lonely. If you go out there and you’re rocking the house with 2000 people, and they want one more tune and everyone’s clapping, but you can’t do one more and you walk away, get in your car and go to your hotel room, then you’re on your own,” Carl Cox once said in an interview, explaining the polarizing experience of being a touring artist. “No one is saying ‘poor me’, but it does have an effect on who you are."
Even in a room full of people, loneliness can creep in - especially as an artist, on the road. Far away from your loved ones, you can feel entirely disconnected. Throw in long flight hours and time zones, and it becomes an easy breeding ground for sad feelings. Even for those who are surrounded by people, say at shows, meeting new people every day in foreign countries can feel even more alienating than physically being alone.
Feeling lonely is a human experience, and it's important to remember that it is an unavoidable experience. Often, we make the mistake of blaming ourselves when something isn't going the way we want, and convince our inner critic that we've done something wrong. It's a vicious cycle: the more you feel alone, the stronger the voice in your head will become, feeding on thoughts of feeling left out or not belonging, which in turn forces us to avoid others, and remain in a dark feeling of being alone.
Instead of being consumed by these thoughts, use these feelings as a warning sign that there are changes that are necessary to make.
Ask yourself (and be honest):
When do I feel the most alone?
When do I feel the least alone?
What activities do I most enjoy?
Who do I feel good spending time with?
When I feel alone, what or who do I miss?
With these questions answered, you can begin to establish a plan. The first method is to distract yourself in lonely situations in a proactive way. Make an extra effort to seek out proper and healthy meals, especially while on the road. Cut back on drinking, drugs and heavy partying. Dedicate time to sleeping, exercising and meditating. Look for healthy and fun ways to stimulate your mind, like carving out time to sightsee in new destinations or learning a new skill that is easy to take on the road.
"I've sort of got into podcasts because voices help me to relax," says Heidi on ways she stays sane on the road. "It's nice to listen to other people talk for a change because when I land I usually have to be on form all of the time and talk to the driver, the promoter and the fans and making sure they feel comfortable around me."
An important way to combat loneliness is to focus on learning on how to enjoy your own company. Being alone can be a great opportunity to focus on yourself and awaken your creativity.
The following D.I.S.C. method can be used to remind yourself on effective ways to combat loneliness.
Discover: Get out of your comfort zone, and try something you've never done before. In a foreign country, plan time to sightsee, or get active around town. It's important to be adaptable and openminded, as every place will have something new and fun to offer.
Interact: Don't be afraid to reach out and connect with those who you miss, or those who inspire you. Most are only a call away! You can also look at those closer to you, like people you work with. Ask questions and get to know the people around you - you might find something in common or learn something new. And while social media should be used sparingly, you can also use it to your benefit by getting to know your fan base and building a community online.
Sense: Stimulate all five of your senses, and take in your surroundings. Be curious, and allow yourself to be amazed. Make time to explore nature and see new sights. Explore sounds of a new city, or try and uncover some new music and visit a local record shop. Taste is an obvious one - try a local cuisine and learn about the ingredients and how it's made.
Create: Finally, revisit being alone as a time to be productive and invest in yourself. Let everything that you've experienced, learned and seen now come together and shape you and see what new magic you might create.
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