Practical Tips for Navigating Loneliness After a Big Move

Practical Tips for Navigating Loneliness After a Big Move

How to Embrace Self-Love, Befriend Loneliness, and Recognise Your Bravery When Living Abroad - Christine Chen

Reading time: 4 minutes

It was nearing Christmas when the initial excitement of finding an apartment and settling down began to wane. Emotions I’d suppressed in the past few months started bubbling to the surface.

I just moved from Taipei to Los Angeles and had no family or friends in the city.

I was walking along Marina Del Rey when a little girl laughing with her parents walked past me. Oh, the joy of being around loved ones.

As I held on to my Trader Joe’s paper bag, I questioned whether the decision to move halfway across the world for a dream was worth it.

I told myself that being alone is fine. But the contrast of seeing others with people they love during a special season reminded me of how far away I was.

To experience the warmth and love that little girl felt, I would have to go on a 15+ hour journey across the Pacific and spend thousands of dollars. All this just to feel loved the way I was used to.

Loneliness is love with nowhere to go.

I was left with two options: change my perspective or return “home”. The latter wasn’t an option.

If you’re feeling this weight of loneliness, especially after stepping out of your comfort zone, here are three tips that helped me navigate through it.

1. Love Yourself the Way You’d Love Your Best Friend

It’s easy to turn on Netflix and numb our uncomfortable feelings. And while it might work as a short-term solution, the discomfort returns, as the root of the problem is still there. What to do?

Consider this: If your best friend were feeling the same way, how would you comfort them?

You’d likely shower them with love, both through words and actions.

Now, imagine extending the same kindness to yourself.

How can you love yourself today?

Acknowledge your loneliness and embrace yourself with even more love and care today.

Practical tip:

Grab a sheet of paper and jot down activities that make you feel alive and fit into your budget.

For example, some of my go-to activities include joining an in-person yoga class and ordering black tea from a Taiwanese bobba store.

Once you have created a list of activies, find a place for them in your calendar.

Schedule it, even when you feel like you don’t deserve it.

Learning how to love ourselves alone takes time.

Engage in these activities with purpose. Know that you’re doing them for your mental health.

2. Learn to Befriend Loneliness

What’s more frustrating than loneliness? The uncertainty of when it will hit you.

Loneliness manifests differently for everyone.

By recognising your personal triggers and understanding your unique experience of loneliness, you can gain mastery over it.

Instead of wondering why you are swiping Hinge again for the 100th time after you deleted it, know that maybe what you are feeling is loneliness.

Once you know what loneliness feels like for you, you can prepare for what you are going to do when you get triggered.

Practical tip:

Pause for a moment, close your eyes, and ground yourself.

Answer these questions: Where do you usually feel the loneliness in your body? How does it manifest? Maybe your chest feels tight, or perhaps there’s an overwhelming urge to cry. If it had a color, what would it be?

Cultivating this level of self-awareness gives you the steering wheel to your emotions instead of being dragged around by them. You got this!

3. Lessen Stressors

Instagram was a torment that Christmas night.

I remember getting sucked into people’s highlight reels, imagining that I had my family with me too.

I was involved in what could have been instead of where I was.

This gap between desire and reality bred jealousy and sadness, deepening my sense of loneliness.

If I could go back to that night, I would tell myself to greet everyone I love a “Merry Christmas”, turn off my phone, and enjoy my own company.

Practical tip:

Do yourself a favor and take care of yourself by removing unnecessary stress, including the potential for social comparison.

Social media is not bad, but you can get to a messy headspace when you start scrolling through people’s highlight reels while you are unwell.

What helped me was going straight to the DMs section and connecting with my friends there instead of clicking stories.

Peace comes in adding things that make you feel alive and removing activities that don’t.

4. Recognise You Are Brave

What do you do when nothing seems to work?

Let it go. You don’t have to have it all together every single moment.

Instead of forcing yourself to be okay again, see your situation for what it is — difficult as hell.

You made a big decision. Of course, you are uncomfortable.

Who can say they did the things you did?

It’s perfectly natural to feel the way you do after you took such a courageous leap of faith. Hang in there. I hope you nurture compassion towards yourself.

I am proud of you. You are brave.

Practical tip:

In Zen Buddhism, we practice the art of observing our emotions. See them for what it is, and let them dance. They will soon pass.

Find a quiet spot, and sit with your emotions. Watch them like clouds in the sky. Make space for them, welcoming them with understanding.

Cristine Chen

Cristine Zen, M.A., is a multilingual business and brand builder, TEDx speaker, writer, and registered yoga teacher.