Cut Through That Empty Feeling

If you’ve ever realized that a chronic, unpleasant feeling in your life is emptiness, you’re not alone. With the advent of globalization and open borders comes freedom, and people are moving around more than ever before. Trips across the ocean are cheaper than they’ve ever been, jobs regularly move to new cities, and families that used to live within a single block are now spread around the globe. On an individual level, it’s now easier than ever to ignore our feelings, and distract ourselves with a potent cocktail that includes but isn’t limited to work, social media, food, alcohol and drugs, and shopping.

If you’ve ever felt empty inside and are at a loss as to how to solve the problem, you’re not alone. Today we’re going to talk about that pervasive empty feeling, how it may have come into your life, and what you can do to stop it.

Everyone feels like this sometimes

On social media, everyone puts their best foot forward, and it’s not hard to see why many people today have developed a real intolerance for pain and hardship. After all, we see it modeled in our everyday life less and less as time goes on. It’s much easier to post a photo of a cool cocktail or a perfect hair day than it is to really engage with your feelings in a public setting.

One of the most important things to understand when you feel empty, alone, and frustrated is that everyone feels like this sometimes. They just don’t post about it when they do, so it’s easy to overlook.

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Acknowledge the feeling

One of the most important aspects of dealing with the issue of feeling empty inside is acknowledging that you have a problem in the first place. For some people, this feeling is linked to a particular event, so it’s easy to see why you feel this way. For others, it’s a pervasive feeling that can’t be traced back to a single event. Either way, feeling like this is OK.

Once you acknowledge that you have an issue, it’s easier to act on a potential solution. However, you shouldn’t rush to try and pull yourself out of the feeling. This could lead to damaging, distracting behavior that makes you feel better in the moment, but only leads to further harm if you’re unable to acknowledge your feelings.

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Practice mindfulness

One of the best ways that you can really explore the way you’re feeling and get more comfortable with these unpleasant sensations is to practice mindfulness on a regular basis. Mindfulness can help you accept the way you’re feeling and work towards a long-term solution, rather than just grabbing at any momentary distraction.

There are tons of apps out there that can help you practice mindfulness on a daily basis — everything from Headspace, which is full of excellent meditation sessions, to Stop, Breathe & Think, which helps you evaluate your mood before suggesting a helpful guided meditation. These apps are a great introduction to the practice, but you really have to stick with it to see lasting results.

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Avoid your triggers

A great way to help yourself if you’re feeling empty is to start paying attention to things that make the unpleasant feelings worse and avoid them as much as possible. There will definitely be times when you can’t escape the unpleasant feelings, but identifying your triggers is a great way to gain insight into why you feel like this in the first place. If you’re continually upset and feel empty every time you scroll through social media, it may be because you feel left out of social situations. If you’re grumpy every time your coworker brings their children into work, you may be longing for more family time more than you realize.

Avoiding triggers won’t solve your overarching problem, but it’s a way of giving yourself some grace. You won’t be able to avoid your problem forever, but you don’t need to see it every hour of every day.

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Speak to yourself the way you would speak to a dear friend

One of the hardest things about feeling empty is that society, through the pervasive lens of social media, has told us that it’s not OK to feel negative emotions. As a result, we are increasingly hard on ourselves as the problem progresses, and our feelings will only deepen and get stronger.

The next time you’re struck by that empty feeling, try talking to yourself like you would a trusted friend. You would never tell them to “snap out of it” or invalidate their feelings, so why do it to yourself?

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Change the expectations

If you’re feeling empty and it’s progressed to the point that everyday life feels like a struggle, it’s important to know that you don’t have to show up looking and feeling perfect every single day. It’s OK to compromise. If you’re feeling too sad to have a shower, brush your hair. If you need to eat but can’t be bothered to make a meal, stock up on finger foods like pre-sliced cheese, crudités, pickles, fruit, and other things that can be eaten separately that are filling and nutritious. Getting half of your daily tasks accomplished is better than not trying.

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Make sure your time isn’t dominated by one aspect of your life

Sometimes, that empty feeling can creep up on you. It’s a common side effect of people being so busy that they don’t have time for self-reflection or examination. If you find yourself busy but feel emptier than ever, try to balance the aspects of your life, which include work, relationships, and your hobbies and interests. Sometimes, one of these categories takes over, which is fine as long as it’s not for an extended period of time. If you focus too much on just one of these categories, it will be at the expense of the other areas of your life, which can make you feel both exhausted and out of touch with yourself.

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Talk it out

One of the best ways that you can help yourself if you’re feeling empty, uncertain, or just generally off is to talk it out with a trusted friend or mental health professional — or both.

If you want to talk to a friend, make sure it’s one that you know has your back. Someone that you can be wholeheartedly honest with, without the fear of repercussions.

If the empty feeling in your life are pervasive and dominate your mindset, it may be time to consult a mental health professional. A trained psychologist or therapist will be able to help pinpoint the source of your discomfort and can work with you on strategies that will help you feel more normal again.

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Put your focus outwards

One way that people pull themselves out of the rut of feeling empty is by helping others. Even if you feel like you have nothing to give, there’s always something small that you can do to help someone else. It can be something as formal as a volunteer placement at a local library or pet rescue center, or something as simple as picking up trash around your neighborhood. You’d be surprised how much better you feel afterward.

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Jan 16, 2019