Chronic Illness and Social Isolation

Learn how to ensure that social isolation isn’t ramping up your symptoms

Three women sharing a laugh in a coffee shop showing that chronic illness and social isolation don't always have to go hand in hand.

If you are struggling with your health, isolation is not your friend. Chronic illness and social isolation might seem like an unfortunate natural pairing but withdrawing is actually NOT helping you at all!

Whether you are a fellow Fibro Fighter, or just battling low energy, chronic pain, weight and hormonal fluctuations, or are simply fed up with feeling so sick and tired, often there is a tendency to want to pull back and disappear from life. You may avoid meeting up with friends and family, opt out of business events, stop traveling, and basically just go into your shell. This can be a strong tendency when we don’t feel well, especially if you are already introverted. After all, who wants to get dressed up, put on makeup, fix your hair and go out to meet people, when you feel like a total trainwreck? Believe me, I have been there—BIG TIME.

Although it may feel intuitive to withdraw, this is actually the opposite of what you need to get healthier. Don’t get me wrong, if you are depleted and need to recharge, you absolutely should make your self-care a priority and rest when necessary. But if you find yourself “cocooning” more than not, hear me out.

The Mind/Body/Spirit Connection

Our health, actually our entire life, is impacted by those around us and no woman is an island. I’m a person who LOVES alone time and truly likes my own company. Too much socializing zaps my energy and I need to regroup alone. You may identify with that, and that’s fine. But hibernating for days on end and avoiding others socially for extended periods is most certainly NOT fine and will make you feel lonely and desolate. Odds are that whatever pain you are battling will intensify.

Our health is not physical alone. You are, obviously, much more than your body. As French philosopher Pierre Teiland de Chardin and many wise philosophers and spiritual gurus have said, “We are not human beings having a spiritual experience. We are spiritual beings having a human experience.” We really do need to interact with others to grow and thrive, personally and in our businesses.

I resisted this idea for a long time and I didn’t truly understand how beneficial it is to get “out and about” as much as you are possibly able to do so. You may have a conversation with someone at the supermarket that sparks a business idea. You may spend an evening laughing your face off with an old friend and come home with a much lighter attitude, ready to tackle the next day. On a scientific level we need to enjoy ourselves with people we like to get that serotonin and oxytocin flowing, two key hormones that support our overall health and happiness.

I recently went through a period of “hibernation” due to being heavily pulled into some stressful family situations where I needed to focus. I love my family, every crazy, silly, wonderful one of them, but I let myself get so absorbed into their lives, needs and problems, that I lost my focus personally and in my business. I stopped connecting with friends. I neglected to get out into the new community I had moved to a few years ago, so I wasn’t making many new friends. And I let my business contacts slide. I was spending a lot of time alone attending to everyone else via phone, ignoring my own needs and letting my world get smaller and smaller. Predictably, this led to a decline in my health and the return of some fibromyalgia symptoms that I had previously vanquished. I started to feel quite run down because I wasn’t properly nurturing myself spiritually or physically.

What Can You Do?

If you see yourself in that description, take heart. You can fix this. Here’s what I did to get back on track:

1. Set healthier boundaries on my time
2. Reached out to friends each day
3. Made time for lunch, dinner, movies etc with friends
4. Discovered a thriving women’s business networking group in my area and joined up
5. Got back to taking daily walks
6. Realized (again) that my diet and nutritional needs must be a top priority
7. Resumed my daily meditation practice. For how-to meditation tips, click HERE.
9. Re-focused on my business goals

It’s natural to have a normal ebb and flow with our social activities; just be mindful of whether you are giving in to the urge to stay in and stagnate. It may take effort to get up and out but I can almost guarantee that you will feel happier, and probably have less pain, once you do.

Have you ever had a set-back in staying connected to others? What tips and tricks can you share that helped pull you out of isolation? Did any of the actions I listed above resonate with you? Chronic illness and social isolation do NOT have to be conjoined twins; let’s rally together! Feel free to leave a comment here and share with us all.

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