Avoiding On-Your-Own Syndrome
Have you ever found yourself overwhelmed by multiple life transitions and wondered how it happened? Many women in their 40's, 50's and beyond experience exactly that. While they are busy building their careers, raising their families, pursuing social and marital obligations, forces are often at work that bring personal struggle and life changing experiences.
Many of these women (who have been all things to all people all their lives) will look for answers on their own in an effort to maintain their ordinarily stalwart persona. However, when multiple and major transitions descend at once, "on-your-own" is the toughest position to be in.
If you read my column, Let's Start Talking, then you already know that I, too, am experiencing multiple life transitions. And I won't lie to you. It's hard.
Like many of you, I'm out of work, living alone, facing financial distress, and more. Yet, the toughest thing that I've faced is the isolation. No coworkers to chat with and no one coming home to me at the end of the day. My friends are all hundreds of miles away and my family is scattered about the country. So, how do I keep myself from isolating when isolation has been thrust upon me? Here are a few of the things that I've done to remain a visible part of society:
1. Get online. Post, make comments, keep your professional and personal connections active. On my private social media pages, I post a lot of cartoons, anecdotes and opinions that keep my mind engaged and my heart light.
2. Find yourself a mentor. I'm very fortunate to have a wonderful mentor. She is someone who believes in me as much as I believe in myself. She doesn't accept excuses and she doesn't accept slips in confidence. We meet once/month and I never leave a conversation without action items to get through before our next meeting.*
3. Take your laptop to Starbuck's and work… on anything. Write, design, apply for jobs, surf the web, chronicle your experiences. Whatever it is, don't let you mind go stagnant. Once, I invented a fictitious company and built it electronically from the ground up. It kept my skills sharp and I didn't have to brush off the cobwebs when I landed my next position.
4. Take a class. You can do this through a local college, take in presentations from local organizations, sign up for seminars or online courses. And one of my favorites is to check the local library and see what's on their calendar. You can find anything from author readings to yoga!
5. Strike up conversations wherever you are. The grocery, gas station, unemployment office, doctor's office. Meet people. This is particularly hard for me. I am timid at engaging in conversations with strangers. But I do it anyway. I put myself out there even if it's just to hear "You're right, the avocados do look bad."
6. Go visit friends and family. If it costs you your last $10 in gas to do so, it won't be wasted. Recently, I had the most marvelous visit with my son-in-law. He wasn't expecting me, but (bless his heart) he shared several hours of his afternoon off with me. It was uplifting and it actually did cost me my last $10 that week. Worth it!
7. Call, Skype, chat and text people. Stay in touch. I spend time on Linkedin chatting with former colleagues. When the urge to isolate is strongest, I make it point to call and text with my friends and family. Reaching out tempers any impulse to completely detach.
8. Volunteer and help others. Everyone we help is also a growth opportunity for ourselves. I volunteer my marketing background to a not-for-profit that serves the blind and vision impaired community. For me, it's gratifying to put my skills to good use.
9. Babysit! This might be the best thing I've done to avoid isolation. I babysit, which gives me the joy of nurturing a child and I get to connect with adults. The kids and I play and get creative. And the parents and I talk about the days adventures… and our own lives. It's a wonderful, heart-filling pursuit.
10. Make and keep appointments. The dentist, doctor, counselor, coach, trainer - whomever you have had regular appointments with - keep going. If money is an issue, explain your situation and work something out. I find that my long-time health professionals are more than willing to help me until I can better help myself. No shame in asking!
Using these kinds of tactics to remain connected will aid in maintaining a positive attitude. And your attitude will impact how you get through your transitions. The most important thing you can do is to keep communicating.
Transitions don’t just happen to any one of us.
Transitions happen at varying stages and in varying degrees to ALL of us. We don't always stop to realize that those helping us through our transitions are likely going through their own.
Moreover, for women of an assured age, transition doesn't mean just one. It's almost certainly many changes and evolutions. Solutions may seem unattainable or prohibitive, but talking about it can open up opportunities not available in isolation.
For those that come together, it’s about solidarity. It's about representing. It’s about sharing experiences, knowledge, and helping others while helping yourself. It's about making these kinds of transitions easier for everyone simply by being there. Together.
To extend yourself to this movement, use the comments section below and share your own experiences, or find us on social media @leapingthechasm. What you bravely share with us today may help someone else tomorrow.
*If you're looking for a mentor and aren't sure where to begin, check out the amazing women at Mentoring Women's Network (MWN).
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About Leaping the Chasm
Leaping the Chasm™ (LTC) provides candid conversations and social media engagement for women in their 40's, 50's, 60's and beyond who are undergoing the personal, physical, financial, education and employment transitions that often accompany mid-life. These conversations are intended to share experiences, transfer knowledge, improve outlook, make new friends, and help identify opportunities for this powerful demographic.