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How To Cope With Empty Nest Syndrome

4 min read

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by Dr. Kurt Hong

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Empty nest syndrome is a term that describes the emotions of loneliness and sadness a parent experiences as their child moves out of the home. This feeling of loneliness stems from suddenly not being part of a child’s schedule and missing their companionship.

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The situation may seem difficult for some parents, but fortunately, there are plenty of ways to cope. From keeping yourself busy and productive, enjoying “me” time, or planning trips with your spouse, there are numerous ways to cope with empty nest syndrome.

In this article, we will discuss the top 7 tips to cope with the symptoms of empty nest syndrome, like loneliness, grief, isolation, or even anxiety and depression. These tips will also help you improve your well-being and quality of life. 

Signs and Symptoms of Empty Nest Syndrome

Empty nest syndrome is not a medical condition or clinical diagnosis. It is a set of natural feelings that any parent can face as a result of being separated from their child. It can arise especially if they are emotionally attached to their child or if it’s their youngest, eldest, or only child.

If the emotions remain for the long term, they can progress to depression or anxiety. Hence, it is crucial to address empty nest syndrome before it gets worse or advances to a chronic mental illness. It can last several months but generally improves over time.

The most common signs and symptoms of empty nest syndrome include: 

  • Feeling left behind and frustrated
  • Sadness
  • Fear
  • Grief
  • Loneliness
  • Feeling lost and empty 
  • Irritability
  • A loss of purpose
  • Marital stress
  • Excessive worry about your child and how they are doing
  • Depression or anxiety
  • Difficulty concentrating

How To Cope With Empty Nest Syndrome (Top 7 Simple Ways That Actually Work)

When we become parents, our lives tend to revolve around our children as we focus on their growth, studies, and well-being. 

But during the entire phase of parenthood, we often forget that it’s important to value and take care of our own well-being. Moreover, we should also have a personal routine and independent life that focuses on our solo selves. 

Remember, it’s never too late to start enjoying your life by engaging in activities that you love doing. As your child is about to become independent and begins exploring life on their own, it is the best time and an excellent opportunity for you also to start a fresh beginning that is full of new things, excitement, goals, and achievements.

Here are the top 7 simple ways that can help you cope with empty nest syndrome and live a productive and meaningful life:

1. Keep in Touch and Seek Support

You can stay in touch with your children with phone calls and emails. Invite them home for the holidays or plan for family vacations during breaks. In the age of technology, it is easy to stay connected via video calls, even if they are on the other side of the world.

2. Make an Exciting Daily Routine

The number one way to cope with empty nest syndrome is to keep yourself busy. Plan and schedule your entire day one night before. Think of exciting new things you can do that make you feel good. 

For example, you can cook your favorite meals, try out new recipes, bake cakes, and enjoy a candlelight dinner with your spouse. You can also invite your neighbors and friends for lunch or dinner. 

Other things you can do include gardening, reading books, watching your favorite programs, going for daily walks, doing some DIY crafts for home decor, stitching, teaching, or anything else you enjoy. 

Remember, it is crucial to schedule and set a time for everything you will do to give yourself an entire routine for the day. 

You can make a list one night before, so when you wake up the next morning, you have a complete schedule of exciting activities that keep you engaged throughout the day.

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3. Increase Your Physical Activity 

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Did you know that increased physical activity releases feel-good hormones in your body, like serotonin and endorphins that help improve your mood, concentration, self-esteem, and alertness? 

If you are suffering from empty nest syndrome, increasing your physical activity is one of the best ways to relieve your depression and loneliness and elevate your mood. 

Go for a brisk walk or jog every day, or enroll in a gym or sports club. If you are already engaged in a form of physical activity, you can increase the level of activity.  If you enjoy exercising with others, join a yoga class or a running/walking group. Make sure you engage yourself in some form of physical activity every day.

If you exercise regularly for one week, you should start noticing a positive change in your mood and mental health.

4. Increase Your Social Circle and Reconnect With Your Partner 

Increasing your social circle, making new friends, and reconnecting with your old friends is another great way to overcome the isolation you may feel when your child leaves home. This is also a perfect opportunity to spend more quality time with your significant other.

There are multiple ways to increase your social circle. As you go out for walks or groceries, you can talk to people in your age group, exchange phone numbers, and invite them over. This will help you make new friends and reduce loneliness. Moreover, in the age of social media, you can easily make friends or reconnect with people through the internet.

5. Create and Accomplish Goals and Practice Care 

In addition to increasing your social circle, it is important to create your own personal goals. Remember, in this busy world, no one will have time for you 24/7. So, it is crucial that you have your own routine and goals that keep you active and productive. 

Think of something you always wanted to achieve. It can be starting your own business, learning a new skill, building your career, or anything else. You can create small goals and accomplish them one by one by setting up small doable targets. This is a fantastic opportunity to set aside time to take care of your side and do things you enjoy.

6. Focus on the Outcomes 

You may feel lonely and depressed as your child moves out of the home. It may help to think about the outcomes. For example, imagine your child being so successful that they are able to give their family a dream life. Thoughts like this can excite you. Keep reminding yourself that this separation may be temporary, but the outcomes it will generate can be permanent and can affect the lives of many.

7. Seek Professional Help 

In addition to the tips above, you can also seek professional counseling that will help you recover faster and manage your emotions positively. Professional support may be necessary if your symptoms are persistent and severe.

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