ferne kotlyar

How Do I Stop Feeling Lonely? - Fridays with Ferne: Episode #38

Brie imagined that when she left the United States to start her Ph.D. in Scotland, she would get the chance to meet other students, experience other cultures, and explore Europe. But when she got there, Covid was still running rampant. Brie found herself constantly stuck at home and banned from traveling.

The only place she could go was to the lab, and even there, it felt like a ghost town. It was almost more depressing than being home. There was no community or people to get to know. Brie felt lost and lonely. Being stuck in Scotland, how could Brie improve her situation?

Episode Transcript

[00:00:05] Kim Ades:

Hello, hello. My name is Kim Ades, I'm the President and Founder of Frame of Mind Coaching™ and the Co-founder of The Journal That Talks Back™. Today is Fridays with Ferne, and today Ferne is back!

Ferne is my daughter, and when her hair is down, she has curls just like mine, we kind of look very similar. But she comes to us every week and brings us a case, some random case. I never know what she's going to bring me for us to talk about and work on. Ferne, welcome.  

[00:00:32] Ferne Kotlyar:

Hello! Thank you for having me. As always, it's a pleasure to be here and a pleasure to talk to you.  

[00:00:39] Kim Ades:

So what do you have in store for me today?  

[00:00:42] Ferne Kotlyar:

So today we have a case about a girl named Brie. She's highly driven, like, you know, most of our, our people here.  

[00:00:52] Kim Ades:

"Brie", like the cheese? 

[00:00:53] Ferne Kotlyar:

Exactly. Brie like the cheese. 

[00:00:56] Kim Ades:

Okay, got it.  

[00:00:58] Ferne Kotlyar:

And so she just got accepted to do her PhD abroad. So she's American and she's moving to the UK to do her PhD. And she's super excited. This was all a year ago. She was super excited to start. But of course she starting in the middle of a pandemic. 

And she's generally a pretty easy to talk to person, she's warm and friendly and pretty bubbly. But she started her PhD and it's really tough. Now, the PhD itself is tough, but really what's getting to her is this lack of community, because so many things are shut down, too many programs are not running, there's no place for her to go and meet people.  

And so she's starting in this totally new country, this totally new degree, and she feels really isolated and lonely. And I think that, given this pandemic it's been going on for two years, it's a pretty common feeling. But just the fact that she starting in a new location, that's totally different, and that she has to be there for her lab work, is really, really tough on her.  

And she feels like she's been trying everything, but she really doesn't know what else to do because there's nowhere else to turn given all the restrictions. So what advice do you have for her? 

[00:02:19] Kim Ades:

That's a tough one. It's a tough one because I can't really say, "well, just go and knock on your neighbor's door and make friends with them". Although she could, right? She could bake a cake and go knock on her neighbor's door and kind of just try to make friends with them. She could find people to do socially distance walks with and kind of try some strategies there. 

But I often find that people who feel isolated, yes, they need a bit of a social life and, you know, it's interesting because we have a high need for physical in-person interactions, and I get that. And so I'm not taking anything away from her. And I don't know that this conversation is going to completely remove her isolation.  

But I will say that she probably does have some level of social interaction with her friends from home. Or she does have some level of social interaction with her advisor or maybe some of her students. So it might be low. And whenever those social interactions happen, there might be opportunities to extend them, to say, "let's do something together" or "let's play a game online" or whatever. 

So it's actually not that I want to figure out a way for her to socialize more, because she might be doing her best, she might be able to do a little more and we can give her some ideas or suggestions around that. But I find that a lot of people who feel isolated are so busy with whatever it is that they're doing, right? It could be they're working on their PhD, that when they're not working on their PhD, they feel an absence, a gap.  

And they're like "I'm either working or nothing else". There's nothing else. And what I think that often happens is that people have a sense of boredom and they say, "well, I feel lonely. And I feel isolated". And I think boredom and isolation or boredom and loneliness are kind of related to each other.  

And so what I would do with Brie is explore some of her interests and passions outside of her studies outside of work and help her find something that she could get excited about and get involved with that may or may not involve other people. That could give her a sense of satisfaction, engagement, involvement.  

So it could be that what she really loves to do is bake cookies, and maybe what she wants to do is bake cookies and participate in some kind of a homeless venture where she delivers her cookies to homeless people.  

Or perhaps she could do a little volunteer work. Or maybe she's really into exercise and she could create a virtual exercise group that she could do with a bunch of people online. Or maybe she's an artist and she loves to paint and get her involved in painting or something else.  

But I often find that people who have social skills, and it sounds like she does, right? We don't need to help her with social skills, she's warm and friendly. As you mentioned, and she can probably figure out how to make the best of her situation socially. I suspect that if we really addressed her boredom, as opposed to her lack of a social community, she might feel a little less bad.  

Will it solve every problem? No, but it will give her something else to focus on. So what happens is when we're working so hard and then we stop working and there's nothing around, nothing we're doing, nothing to put our attention on, we feel bad for ourselves and we feel that sense of loneliness. But if we're working and then we stop working, we're like, "wow, this is my time to go do the things I love to do".  

You know, maybe learn an instrument or whatever it is. Gardening. We love gardening, right? So maybe it's an opportunity to do the things that I want to do now. I don't feel the same sense of absence. I don't feel the same sense of loneliness, right? So it's not that one is supposed to replace the other, but it certainly helps to mitigate that feeling of isolation. 

[00:06:40] Ferne Kotlyar:

Yeah, definitely. And so where would she start looking for these programs?  

[00:06:46] Kim Ades:

I would encourage her to experiment. You know, there all kinds of online classes she could take that are unrelated to her work. She could take a cooking class online. She could open a cookbook. And I would encourage her to run some experiments. So every day of the week run a new experiment. One day try cooking something, one day try painting something, one day try making a puzzle, one day try writing a song, one day try standing on your head, whatever it is, right? Every day try something you've never tried before and start logging it. 

The other thing is I think journaling is a huge help. Specifically for people who feel this absence, to write down what you feel and use your journal to turn yourself in the direction that you want to be feeling. And I think in this case, gratitude journaling really, really helps to focus on all the things that are actually working and moving forward in your life. 

She's doing her PhD, that's a tremendous accomplishment in and of itself. So what's working with respect to your PhD? What conversations are you having that are productive and positive? Who are you connecting with? What are you learning? What are you doing outside of your PhD that's just for you? What skills are you acquiring? 

What are you giving yourself the opportunity to learn that's completely unrelated to your PhD? Let's start tracking a little bit in your journal the kinds of things she is doing and learning and engaged with. And I think when someone is lonely or feeling isolated, what I see is there's an opportunity for higher level of engagement, and engagement doesn't always only have to be with humans. It can be a different kind of engagement as well.  

[00:08:38] Ferne Kotlyar:

That makes sense. So if you had one last piece of advice for Brie, what would it be?  

[00:08:44] Kim Ades:

One last piece of advice for Brie is I would really, really start exploring things outside of her PhD, that she's always been interested in. She might want to learn a language. She might want to learn how to sew or knit. And I would encourage her to get involved with stuff outside of her realm that may or may not involve people.  

So, you know, let's look at the situation and look at it as an opportunity. Let's look at it a little more broadly. And also let's look at the moments when she is interacting with humans, because even if she's interacting with her family back home or her friends back home, or even the neighbor next door, who has a cat or whatever it is, right?  

[00:09:28] Ferne Kotlyar:


[00:09:28] Kim Ades:

We want to start tracking that things are actually moving forward and she's all right, she's okay. They're not ideal, but she's okay. She's handling it okay.  

[00:09:37] Ferne Kotlyar:

Makes sense.  

[00:09:38] Kim Ades:

Yeah. So for those of you who are listening, you might also feel isolated. I know for me, I have five kids. One of them definitely felt isolated through the pandemic. He moved to another city in Canada and didn't know anybody and had a really hard time because he wasn't going to work, he wasn't interacting with people on a day-to-day basis.  

And one of the things we discovered was his social life was actually not too bad. When he found himself not working, he was feeling very simply, I think, bored. And when he discovered that his boredom was the problem, he started to think about things he could do to fill up the time when he wasn't working and when he wasn't around people, and that helped tremendously. So hope that helps.  

For those of you who are listening, we'd love to get your cases, we'd love to hear from you, we'd love to get your likes and some feedback on our podcast. Please send us your thoughts. Ferne, how do people reach you?  

[00:10:45] Ferne Kotlyar:

Please email me! So that's fernekotlyar@live.com. And please actually do email me, I would love to hear from you.  

[00:10:58] Kim Ades:

And you can reach me at kim@frameofmindcoaching.com. And for those of you who have a young person in your life who can use some coaching, please send them to thejournalthattalksback.com and take a look at our new improved, fresh, exciting website, frameofmindcoaching.com.  

We will see you next week. Have a good week!  

[00:11:20] Ferne Kotlyar: 


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