7 Signs You're Suffering From Empty Nest Syndrome
And The Steps You Can Take To Regain Happiness
Have you recently sent a child off to college (or will you in the near future), and feel like you’ve lost your purpose? Do you feel lonely or bored in your life? Are you struggling with feeling unsettled or out of sorts? Are you looking for new goals and challenges, but don’t know where to start?
You’re not alone. In fact, the majority of parents experience feelings similar to these right before and after a child goes away to college.
After I dropped my youngest son off at college in his freshman year, the first thing I noticed when I returned home was how quiet the house was. But it wasn’t a peaceful quiet like you may expect -- it was an oppressive silence. My boys took up so much space in the house and had such a lively energy that the house felt completely different once they all left. It was so strange for them to be gone. When the reality that life would be completely different now, I was overcome with emotion and couldn’t help but breakdown and cry.
What I was feeling (and what many parents feel after a child leaves) is indicative of empty nest syndrome.
What is Empty Nest Syndrome?
Empty nest syndrome is not an official medical diagnosis, but it describes a transition period in which many people experience feelings of loneliness or loss. Although we as parents encourage our children to become independent and explore the world, the experience can be quite painful.
Empty nest syndrome refers to the feelings of depression, loneliness, and grief that parents feel after a child leaves home. This occurs most commonly when a child goes off to college, but can also occur when a child goes to kindergarten, boarding school, or gets married. Women are more likely to suffer from empty nest syndrome than men, and some have speculated that this is due to the fact that women go through hormonal changes during menopause around the same time.
7 Main Symptoms of Empty Nest Syndrome
Empty nest syndrome can leave us with a lot of mixed emotions. But these feelings are normal, especially after a life change such as this one. I’ve listed the most common ones below, but it’s possible to feel emotions outside of these:
- A loss of purpose, feeling unworthy
- Feeling lonely and depressed
- Being bored in your life, wanting new goals or challenges
- Feeling like something is just not right, but not being able to put your finger on it
- Feeling out of shape
- Hoping for a new future
- Feeling old
What Can I Do?
I was always told by women older than me that menopause and empty nest syndrome would be horrible, but what I learned is that it doesn’t have to be. In fact, it can be a very exciting time in your life!
When my youngest son left, I took a few days to honor my emotions and let myself be sad. But after just one week, I felt much better -- in fact, this was an incredible feeling. I didn’t have to be home at any particular time, I didn’t have to think about what to make for dinner, I could meet friends, and start pet projects I always wanted to get done.
Once I gave myself permission to be with my emotions, I was able to accept this change and move forward. Feeling strong emotions like these are completely normal as a result of a big change in someone’s life. It’s important to embrace this change and view it as an exciting opportunity, but sometimes we need a little help developing healthy coping mechanisms. Below I list some some tools you can add to your emotional toolbox:
- Try meditation. Meditation has been proven to improve focus, reduce stress, and provide a sense of clarity. In fact, 20 million Americans practice meditation on a regular basis, and some of the top executives at companies such as Arianna Huffington of the Huffington Post use it to maximize their brain health. Moreover, she encourages all of her employees to practice meditation and healthy living practices on a regular basis. They've even set up meditation classes and sleep pods in the office! To get started on your meditation journey, I recommend using a guided meditation app called Insight Timer.
- Get yourself moving again. It’s been proven that physical fitness plays a huge role in mental wellness. But, don’t worry! You don’t have to go to a traditional gym or personal trainer to start a healthy fitness routine. A great way to start is to reconnect with some of your friends who you may have lost touch with and go on walks together. You’re not only catching up with an old friend, but you also have an accountability partner for your new routine!
- Dream big (and write it down). One of the things I like to do when I first meet a client struggling with empty nest syndrome is to ask them to dream big. If I was a genie and could wave a magic wand to give you your ideal life, what would that look like? If you have trouble coming up with an answer, try this instead: what’s the one thing you’d like to bring into your life right away? Write this down on a piece of paper, keep it in your wallet, and say it out loud to yourself once every day. It might sound a little silly, but you’ll be surprised at how quickly your dream will become reality!
Often times we wear a mask to conceal what we’re feeling inside. What I’ve noticed by working with women in my area is that everyone experiences empty nest syndrome, but no one talks about it; keeping up appearances and having the image of a perfect family is much more important. But, holding these kinds of strong emotions in without having an outlet to healthily express ourselves can be detrimental to our mental and physical well-being.
I’ve created a special program to help women struggling with empty nest syndrome. It begins with a free assessment to determine which part you’re struggling with the most. From there, I can determine the best way to help you. Whether it’s creating a wellness program (fitness included), or learning how to cook for one or two people, I can help you regain your balance and teach you how to make yourself a priority again. Book your free 15 minute assessment with me today by clicking here!
Do you identify with one or more of the symptoms and want to know which stage of Empty Nest Syndrome you're in?