Developing the Antidote to Loneliness

How caregivers struggle with a similar issue

By Amy Sullivan, PsyD

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I had a recent mentoring session with a former student of mine, Dr. Carolyn Fisher. Sipping our coffee and talking shop, our conversation turned very authentic when we both admitted to struggling with a similar issue: loneliness.

Later that week, Cynthia Kubu, PhD, shared an article on loneliness with our engagement team that was written by our past surgeon general. I realized that this feeling is common and something we should explore.

In this article, Dr. Vivek Murthy shares that up to 50 percent of Americans feel lonely, particularly those in leadership roles.

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We live in a world with instant, social connection and information at our fingertips, yet experience extreme loneliness. We sit in interdisciplinary settings throughout our hospital, where we arguably spend more time with our work team than our own families, yet rarely interact on a personal supportive level.

Loneliness comes with physical, psychological and economic burdens that are important to address, yet the solutions are not as simple as happy hours and team-building exercises. They have to be deeper, more authentic.

The antidote to loneliness is developing relationships with people who share common values and eventually to feel supported by friends and colleagues.

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Building relationships takes time and effort and it’s risky. People are flawed and isolation is easy, but each step towards finding your work support system is worth it.

I invite you to say, “Yes!” the next time someone stops in your office to talk, or to be the engager and seek out a connection. I also encourage you to act bravely and be the inviter the next time you see someone in need of community.

It’s worth the risk and effort and will improve our physical, mental and economic health.