Over the coming months loneliness and isolation will be a big issue while we all strive to cope with the full impact of the Corona Virus. The government have acknowledged that the measures we have been instructed to take in order to keep numbers of new cases down, isn’t a trivial undertaking, though we must all take necessary action to stem the spread of this virus by staying at home. Some of you may be living alone, others will be separated from everything familiar and for many of us it’s very unfortunate this will include staying away from family, loved ones and friends for the time being.
If you are finding this new way of life difficult, especially living alone during the lockdown stage, some of the suggestions below are food for thought while we strive together to help each other pull through to the other side.
Online Connection – Finding people and communities over the internet
There are plenty of communities and forums developing over the internet either offering support for those in isolation but also friendship too. If you are technically savvy you could always ‘Skype’, ‘Facetime’ or ‘Zoom’ love ones. Similarly a variety of other apps are on the market that provide the visual connection necessary for a virtual face to face all the way up to a whole orchestra of people making sound together. Also, many of the clubs and events that have disappeared from our every day lives seem to be reappearing in some shape or form online which is definitely worth investigating.
Bolster an existing relationship and make contact with long lost friends and family
Loneliness during this time of change might feel overwhelming at first but reminding yourself that it will not last forever will be a comfort during this difficult time. Connecting with family and friends is an important first step to coping, so a surrounding support network of trusted people consisting of friends and family are crucial. The pandemic is a great time to nurture existing friendships, also contact long lost friends or relatives and reconnect for company. Remember they are only at the other side of a phone or computer screen. Many charity organisations have started telephone befriending scheme so worth a try if you could do with a new friend to help you through a bad patch. Call people regularly and remember those special days like a birthday or significant anniversary. Do it as often as possible because the sound of a familiar voice is reassuring. Pets can be similarly therapeutic at a time like this again chiefly to provide another source of emotional investment in your home.
Activities can be done alone
Another approach is to plan ahead something fun to cover the times of the day one is emotionally vulnerable. Schedule in activities or set up a routine so that the day is broken up into manageable segments. There are so many activities one can do alone which are just as fulfilling and exciting without company. Developing a favourite pass time can bring joy during this difficult time. You could make a list of possible things you are prepared to do during the day e.g. a puzzle (i.e. a quiz or a word search), playing on your phone, crocheting, quilting, watching a favourite film, art or writing – whatever you are into. It might be fun to pick up an old hobby you have forgotten about – maybe play that long-lost musical instrument again you had hidden in a cupboard! However, it is equally important that you do not put pressure on yourself. Don’t feel guilty if you feel you are being unproductive, we all have different ways of coping with time alone.
Kindness pays off
Kindness counts! Small acts of kindness can do much to stave off depression and other mental health difficulties under what are understandably challenging circumstances. Some of us have volunteered to support the vulnerable and our magnificent NHS but there are things you can do at home too. Alleviate pressure of the Corna Virus by sending kind messages to everyone you know with encouraging thoughts etc. Be there for someone who is having a hard time of it. It all adds up in the end and will give some solace that you are making a difference. Showing you care enough to know when a friend is struggling, could be the cue to offer a helping hand should they need it, or find time to listen to someone’s life story, which for more our elderly friends will help them make sense of the present predicament we find ourselves in.
Moving the body to keep fit
Engaging the mind with distraction is important for good wellbeing during long periods of time alone. However, engaging the body is just as important to good health. There are plenty of gentle exercise you can do around the home without having to be outside when you are self-isolating. Once you have found something you are able to do, make it part of a routine, even if it is something as light as stretching first thing in the morning. With mobility issues, gentle exercise sat down will equally do the trick but particularly if it is done regularly. Certainly, pace yourself and celebrate achievements. If they seem small at first, you can build on them as time goes on.
Learn how to be alone
Enjoying your own company is a learning experience when it is something you are not used to. By being gentle to yourself there are many ways to develop coping strategies for good wellbeing. Feeling positive with an accepting attitude about the future counteracts some of the more negative emotions such as anger and resentment which will lessen in time given the right perspective. In any case, living alone is not something we are compelled to feel badly about. Loneliness is an emotion and like all emotions more than likely to slip away once we are able to allow it to. Finding a way to talk about your anxieties to family, loved ones and friends is a positive step. It’s better to be open about how you are feeling as we are all in this situation together.
Mindfulness and noticing the things that count
There are many different reasons for being ‘mindful’ or living in the moment which modern psychologist are constantly encouraging us to practise. Briefly taking note of your environment right now could help reduce worries and anxieties in the future. By taking notice here and right now there is at least the possibility of a well-deserved break from all the rigours of a solitary life instead of thinking negatively about what could go wrong next. Reflection on these experiences can make challenges seem less daunting, to be less inclined to anticipate bad news leading to a more positive frame of mind. Limiting your news intake to certain times of the day may be a way around the anxiety caused by overload of speculation and negative analysis of the current situation.
All in all, stay safe, stay at home and connect by phone or online.
Here is a useful website from Colchester Borough Council outlining Support for communities.
Find help on accessing food, information on key community contacts and mental health support services.