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Living Alone and Our Mental Health

Many of us are anxiously awaiting the day our children turn 18 and leave the nest. While we certainly love them, we are ready to have the freedom and time to do more of what we love. We look forward to our children starting their own lives and making their own choices.


Others are nervous, unsure of whether we will be able to handle life without the busyness that children provide us. We may have spouses or partners that we have not been alone with in years. Perhaps we focused so much on the children’s needs that we forgot our own and are unsure of what to do with ourselves when they are gone. Regardless, moving towards an empty nest can be exciting, terrifying, and anxiety producing. Preparing ourselves for what’s to come and understanding some best practices can help make the transition easier.


Common Fears and Hopes


The most common fear for empty nesters is the fear of being bored and lonely. What will we do or talk about all day when there are less bodies in the house? We may also be anxious about being alone all day with a spouse. Perhaps we have not worked in many years and are thinking about going back once the responsibilities are lessened.


If we do not have a strong sense of identity and purpose prior to having an empty nest, the transition will be more jarring. Mothers or fathers who have been helicopter parents may not know what to do when they are no longer in a caretaker role.


For other parents, the newfound freedom is an exciting change that is more than welcome. The opportunities are limitless. Younger parents may be excited to go back to work, travel, take on a new project, or join a group. Others may be excited to spend more time alone with their spouses or partners, away from the kids.


Many will be excited while others will be afraid, but these emotions can change once the actual transition occurs. Living in an empty nest may not be exactly what you expected, and that’s o.k. All we can do is utilize some best practices to ensure our mental health is strong so we can take it in stride.


Best Practices for New Empty Nesters


The best thing you can do as an empty nester is to find or secure your purpose. What is it that you want to do, or like to do? What can you do now that you couldn’t do before? Focusing on the positive opportunities that await you will lessen any anxieties. Perhaps you spent a lot of time focused on the kids and not on yourself. That’s o.k. You can have all of the time in the world to find yourself. Try new things. Meet new people. Go to new places. It’s never too late to find yourself.


Don’t pretend that your relationship with your spouse will be the same. It won’t be. It’s not that it will be better or worse; just different. Remember when you first met him or her and how the two of you interacted back then. It wasn’t always you and the kids. Find exciting or interesting new ways to rekindle the relationship and move into a new pattern of living. It may take time, but you can maintain and strengthen your relationship.


Prepare to feel lonely, anxious, or depressed at times. It’s a big change and it's o.k. to feel sad. If sad or depressed feelings continue for too long, consider speaking with a therapist who can help you cope. Contact someone who knows what it’s like to experience an empty nest and can offer you tips and/or medication to decrease your depression.


Do you struggle with loneliness, anxiety, or depression? If so, please contact Straight Talk Counseling at 714-828-2000 or visit our website at straighttalkcounseling.org. One of our professional counselors would be happy to speak with you.


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