Have you been feeling empty lately? You may be feeling some sense of loneliness, numbness, or even hopelessness. People experiencing emptiness often describe it as feeling detached or disconnected with their own mind and the emotions that flow within it. This emptiness has particularly been affecting us during this pandemic- where social distancing and self-isolation has taken a severe toll on mental health. This sort of internal “deadness” blocks out one’s ability to truly perceive emotions and makes them feel like they are not in control of their thoughts or actions. Emotional numbness, believe it or not, actually boils down to our bodies’ three evolutionary stress responses: fight, flight, or freeze. When you go through any event in life that is extremely taxing in an emotional or physical way, your body’s survival mechanism is activated and causes your psyche to go into the “freeze” mode. This blocks out the pain from negatively affecting you any further. Emptiness can also just be a feeling of general dissatisfaction or lack of fulfillment which leads to an inability to experience positive emotions. Although it may provide a comfortable escape for a little while, this type of depersonalization can be very harmful for the mind overtime. So with the goal of overcoming emptiness, here are eight ways to stop feeling empty inside.
1. Acknowledge & Accept Your Emotions
First things first. In order to stop feeling this lingering, unexplained emptiness, we must acknowledge it and accept it. As they say, you may not be able to control every situation, but you can control your attitude and the way you deal with it. Are you feeling lonely? As if you’re just watching your life go by? Do you feel disconnected and oddly numb? Allow yourself to feel the way you do (even if the issue is that you can’t feel). It is completely okay to take extra time in order to deal with such heavy emotions. You may have had a tendency to “bury” your distress and ignore or avoid confronting it, but you must be mentally prepared to truly break down and process your feelings so that you can take the first steps to heal. You may not even have a way to explain the way you’re feeling- but your feelings are valid no matter what.
2. Let Go of the Shame & Blame
In the process of reflecting and trying to better understand this lingering feeling of emptiness, you may feel a sense of shame. While struggling with this internal numbness, loneliness, or depersonalization, it is likely for you to have racked up layers of self-criticism and guilt with the inability to navigate your intense emotions. Psychotherapist and author, Imo Lo, states in her article with Psychology Today, that “It is important to remember that your numbness grew out of a place of pain and tenderness and was nothing but a desperate attempt to survive. Shaming or punishing yourself for becoming numb in the first place will only reinforce the destructive pattern.” Although it can be challenging at first, you will need to eliminate any self-blame so that you can move forward successfully. You don’t want the risk of carrying extra weight which can bring you down in the process of recovery.
3. Identify the Root Cause
They say to keep your friends close and your enemies closer. Your emptiness may feel like your inner enemy, but what better way to defeat it than by understanding where it comes from? Now that you have acknowledged the emptiness you’ve been feeling, it’s time to get down to the root cause. What exactly is bothering you? Maybe you feel fatigued from burn out from all the extra work hours you’ve been putting in. Maybe you feel lonely because you haven’t interacted with your friends or family in a long while. Or perhaps you feel numb from going through a recent hardship in life. Whatever the reason may be, identifying it will help you make greater strides in moving forward as you will know and understand the real trigger to your emptiness.
4. Notice & Appreciate What You Have
When you feel empty, numb, or hopeless inside, it can be really easy to overlook the positives in life. Take a moment to pause, reflect, and count your blessings. What are some things you are grateful for? What makes you want to get out of bed every day? What is keeping you going during these tough times? Maybe you’re thankful for having a supportive family, or a roof over your head. Maybe you’re thankful for your pet for always sticking around. Or maybe it’s the fact that your body is keeping you alive and running. No matter how trivial or insignificant it may be, take note of it- physically write it down or type it up. Visually seeing a list of all the things you’re thankful for, and everything and everyone that you care about and value, can really help you gain a more positive perspective and strengthen your mind to fight this dreadful feeling.
5. Create & Follow a Healthy Routine
Refocusing yourself can make a great difference in allowing you to give yourself the opportunity to get back on the right track again. It’s okay if you don’t have the motivation to do so, but this is where discipline and strong will power comes in. Create a realistic, balanced routine that can be achievable on a daily basis. A few important factors you should include in this routine should be some sort of physical activity, plenty of rest, ample hydration, and a nutritious diet. Don’t forget to make time for some fun too! You can organize this with the help of a planner, to-do lists, or even reminders/alarms on your phone. The little things can make a big difference, and being able to check-off everything you’ve accomplished over the course of the day can really give you a sense of achievement. Also remember that you may still have unproductive days, but being persistent with getting back up is what matters. When you give yourself some purpose to wake up to every day, you will be able to regain some sense of normalcy.
6. Practice Mindfulness
To practice mindfulness is to be in a state of complete presence and consciousness of living in the moment. We all have a vision that comes to mind when envisioning this abstract concept. You may picture a yogi in front of a waterfall or a calm Buddhist monk in the mountains- but you don’t need to be or do or have any of those things to practice mindfulness. So what exactly is mindfulness? To be mindful, you must choose to pay close attention and make a careful observation of your thoughts. But here’s the catch- you must do so in a reflective, and non-judgemental way. It can be a bit difficult in the beginning for the overwhelmed, modern-day mind, but a bit of practice every day can go a long way. The Seleni Institute highlights how mindfulness is exceptionally beneficial, stating that “Mindfulness calls us to notice when our thoughts have drifted to the past or wandered into the future, and when we are regretting, fantasizing, or worrying rather than engaging with what’s right in front of us.” Mindfulness can allow you to obtain better clarity, comfort, and tranquility in your thinking. Learning, practicing, and implementing the concept of mindfulness in your day to day life will truly be an extraordinary superpower which can help you ride the unpredictable waves of life.
7. Try Learning Something New
Depersonalization along with multiple other mental health issues get worse when the brain is being under stimulated and inactive. Various neurological studies have shown that learning new skills can significantly improve your brain’s competence and proficiency. It can allow you to revitalize your mind while giving you the opportunity to find a productive way to channel your built up energy (or regain the lack thereof). You could try learning a new language, playing an instrument, cooking up delicious meals with new recipes, taking up yoga, hand lettering, or pretty much any other productive activity- the sky’s the limit! When you don’t exactly have the motivation to even get out of bed to do these things, remember that being unproductive and sitting in your emptiness for too long can be more damaging to your mental health. Give yourself a chance to break out of your shell.
8. Reach Out for External Help
When self-help isn’t quite working out the way you had hoped, it’s always great to reach out to someone to aid you through this process of recovery. Internal battles sometimes need some external help and that’s perfectly okay! Reach out to a trusted, caring family member, friend, or even a professional. Having someone to talk to can really help you get a third perspective as to what you’re going through and how to overcome it. And if you catch yourself feeling ashamed to get help, just know that you are a strong person for making the decision to do so in the first place. It can be challenging to open up while going through emotional numbness, especially considering the fact that you’re having a hard time being true to yourself to begin with. Your emptiness has created a shield around the things that trouble you, and this is your chance to break past that shield and confront your obstacles head on. Making meaningful connections and asking for help can give you a strong foundation for a true inner transformation.
Lastly, here’s a friendly reminder that your journey to self-healing and revitalization will not happen overnight. Persistence and continuity is the key to recovery. Remember that every well intentioned step that you take to get yourself out of this emptiness is a step in the right direction. It could take multiple trials to find out what works for you, but the effort will always be worth it. At the end of the day, it’s all about progress- not perfection.
- Burns, M. (2020, November 26). Why You’re Feeling Empty and How to Fill the Void. Lifehack. Retrieved February 20, 2021, from https://www.lifehack.org/582113/feel-empty-why-all-feel-empty-sometimes
- G., S. (2020, January 8). A Blueprint to Healing From Depersonalization. NAMI- National Alliance on Mental Health Illness. Retrieved February 20, 2021, from https://www.nami.org/Blogs/NAMI-Blog/January-2020/A-Blueprint-to-Healing-From-Depersonalization
- Gilbertson, T., MA, LPC. (2014, November 12). ‘I Feel Empty’: How to Overcome Feelings of Emptiness. Good Therapy. Retrieved February 20, 2021, from https://www.goodtherapy.org/blog/i-feel-empty-how-to-overcome-feelings-of-emptiness-1112145
- Lo, I. (2018, October 31). Depersonalisation: Why Do I Feel Empty and Numb? Psychology Today. Retrieved February 20, 2021, from https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/living-emotional-intensity/201810/depersonalisation-why-do-i-feel-empty-and-numb
- Nuamburg, C. (n.d.). 6 Simple Steps to Being More Mindful. Seleni. Retrieved February 20, 2021, from https://www.seleni.org/advice-support/2018/3/21/6-simple-steps-to-being-more-mindful
- Ten Things You Can Do for Your Mental Health. (n.d.). University Health Service- University of Michigan. Retrieved February 20, 2021, from https://uhs.umich.edu/tenthings