How people living alone can support themselves, and what other people can do to support them too.
I’m not going to talk facts about the Corona Virus AKA COVID-19 AKA, do you need to be spelt in caps locks, it feels like you’re yelling at me? I’m going to talk about something that is freaking me out – the impact of being in isolation on people who live alone.
This concern started when my dear friend Facetimed me with her boyfriend to say they were going into isolation. I thought, ‘that is good and responsible, but also you’re not really isolated because you’re together.’
Actually having to isolate alone, without a spouse or a family or a housemate living with you, is, in my opinion, way scarier.
Mental health matters
The word isolate means to be separate from others. And being totally separate from real humans has a big impact on mental health – it’s another risk factor, apart from the virus, that needs to be talked about.
Right now, I live with my dad. I just went through a break up and moved in with him because he is chill and will never dump me.
Plenty of my friends do live alone though, and although living with your dad isn’t exactly the same as Netflix and chilling with a significant other, I still count myself lucky to have him lurking around the house.
But what about people who don’t live with their 69-year-old dad or housemates or family of five? These people are experiencing a uniquely difficult challenge, and it needs to be acknowledged.
Not here to tell you what to do (then tells you what to do)
If you live alone and are worried about the impact of being in isolation for an unknown amount of time, I want you to know that your feelings are 100% valid.
There is no template for what’s happening, and that makes it fucking scary.
What I do know is that being isolated does not have to mean being disconnected. So, reach out to the people who make your life better. Call them, message them, stay connected like your life depends on it.
Because, it kind of does.
What can friends do?
If you are friends with someone who lives alone and is going into social isolation, now is the time to reach out and check in on them. Even if it’s just a message, letting them know you care will mean the world.
If possible, try to contact them regularly. It won’t take much out of your day, but it will help your mate feel more connected to the world. Put an alert on your phone if you have to, so you don’t forget.
Now is a time when we really need to lean in and support the people around us. This is a small yet powerful way to do so.
Dealing with depression
I am an introverted person who has worked from home for about nine-years. I have also battled with depression and anxiety for as long as I can remember.
Thanks to a housing deposit worth of therapy and a CBT (Cognitive Behavioural Therapy) intensive course that made a big difference to how I take care of myself, these illnesses no longer rule my life.
Of course, they’re always in the background, waiting to come out and fuck with me. It’s easy for my mind to ruminate about bad things. Before long I spiral into a dark place, which gets stronger the more I remain in my head.
Depression wants you to stay insular, because that’s how it grows. So, if you’re isolating alone and this happens, how the fuck do you fight it?
Connection destroys bad thoughts
Reaching out is one way to make negative thought spirals go away. Doing something mindful for 5 minutes, like the dishes or having a shower, also stops bad thoughts in their tracks.
These little things have made a big difference to my mental health.
Even if you don’t suffer from depression, reaching out to people who you trust is crucial to your wellbeing right now. No doubt the person on the end of the line will be happy to hear from you.
If you’re not up for a phone call, then a message is good too. It’s about forging connection and reminding your brain that you are not actually alone, even if you’re physically isolated.
Do the little things
Sometimes, when you’re home all day on your own, it’s easy to get stuck in your head and become overwhelmed. If you feel like this, then taking small actions can help in a big way.
For example, if you’re having trouble getting out of bed, try just wriggling your toes or rolling over.
Instead of thinking about the day ahead or the big job you’re meant to tackle from home, think only about your morning ritual – even if it’s just making your bed, that is a win.
I often find it hard to wake up because I make my own schedule every day, so I trick myself by saying, ‘if you wake up and drink coffee, you can go back to bed for as long as you want’.
Once I am up I usually get stuck into the day and feel fine. These little tricks help me remain functional, and in many cases, I end up having a pretty great day.
Loving words from our Instagram heroes
Whether you’re prone to depression or not, being in social isolation, while living alone is scary and challenging. On Instagram last week, I asked people to share their tips for coping.
Here are some of the things they said.
- Get up, make your bed and get dressed. Wash your face, put on your eyebrows and stretch your arms and legs.
- Write a list and divide the day into small pockets of time. Focus on each moment before exploring the next.
- Make more phone calls to people and check in on them. Everyone is struggling right now, and sharing these feelings will make you feel less alone.
- Be compassionate with yourself.
- Watch a movie with a friend over Facetime. Make popcorn and drink wine.
- Embrace the yin. We live in a world that thrives on masculine yang energy, which is about doing and being productive.
- Now is the time to graciously surrender to the yin. Read that book you never had time to, draw, listen to podcasts, watch that series. It may feel uncomfortable to slow down, but there is power in doing so.
- Curate your social media by following accounts that lift you up and unfollowing people and accounts that freak you the fuck out.
- Take good care of yourself. Shower every day, even though you didn’t sweat. Spend time making a delicious meal for yourself.
- Don’t minimise what you’re going through. It’s important to acknowledge that what is happening is challenging and scary.
- If a friend can’t chat, call Lifeline. They have the training to speak with you in your time of need. There is no shame in calling them, they exist for your wellbeing.
Most importantly, don’t disconnect from people if you are in isolation – share what you’re feeling with people you trust. Speaking your frustration takes a little bit of the power away, and by doing so, you make others feel less alone.
Love Sarah and Jade x
Art by Jade Foo
Words by Sarah Robinson