I am in all ways an extrovert, my energy is drawn completely from other people.
I find myself naturally gravitating towards people and, much like a cat or dog, I don’t always do this to communicate with them or interact with them in any way; often I simply feel most comfortable just being in the same space as another person rather than alone.
The recent outbreak, and isolation that has been implemented as a result of it, has put me in a position where I am now living alone. This means not only is there no one else in my house but, due to restrictions around leaving home, I don’t see anyone else at all day to day.
This is a situation many people around the UK – and globally, are finding themselves in.
Each day, seeing no one. It can be a debilitating situation and easily cause an individual’s mental health to spiral downwards, even in situations where mental health has not been an issue in the past. Some form of relational contact and nurture from another person is vital to a person’s mental health and their personal development.
It’s essential to have this in some form. And despite being alone at home, and physically alone in life, through simple decisions each day I have been able not only to survive but thrive.
You can too!
So how do we build relational contact, maintain relationships, and nurture ourselves in that way when we are physically alone?
Here are the things I do to ensure this is happening.
5 Ways to Cope When Living Alone
Have a Clear and Structured Routine
This is something I never truly saw the value of until recently. My colleagues would make lists of things they wished to achieve that day and key times they wanted to do them, whereas I would simply turn up and decide moment by moment.
Entering each day, however, with a thought out plan of what I would do and some frame of how and when I would achieve these things proved to give a new sense of purpose to each day and meant my productivity and sense of fulfillment was drastically increased.
Throughout the week I maintain this clear structure, waking up as if I were going to my workplace (or place of education) at the time I would usually do that.
Following the normal morning routine, as I started work from home, I would then spend half an hour deciding what I would fill my day with. Which key tasks did I want to do? What was important for that period of time?
This could be something which remains the same each day, if you are studying in school, for example, you may decide that every day of the week you will do one subject in the morning and different one each afternoon. It’s important that it works for you, but having this plan for the day written down and available for you to see each day is a great way to maintain it and not give up with it.
This plan can also include any non work-related activity. You could decide that you will spend this time of the day doing exercise, the next time reading – it really can be anything you make of it.
Structuring your day not only gives you a clear sense of what you’re going to do, but it also helps you feel a sense of achievement each time you complete something in your plan.
This has a great effect on the body and means that you will physically feel more positive. Additionally, when you then do take a day off, for example at the weekend, you feel much more comfortable not having such a rigid plan. It feels ok to just go with what you feel for the day. I feel much more relaxed at weekends because I’ve given myself such a clear purpose during the week.
Communicate with someone
We live in a great time when we have the ability to speak face to face with people over the internet. This is a key way to combat loneliness.
Again, structure within this can be good. I speak with the same one person at the same time each day. Sometimes this is the only conversation I have with another person directly each day.
It feels good to know every day that no matter what, I will at least have that one conversation. This person is someone I’ve been friends with for a long time. However, we have found that as a result of doing this each day, our conversation has been more meaningful and direct than ever before. It’s a great way to nurture relationships, even ones which are not currently that strong. People across the world are all in need of some communication and it’s a great time to make new friends or reconnect with old ones.
Another great way to communicate in a new way is to write a letter. I’ve found that sometimes I simply don’t have the capacity to talk with people over the internet and writing has been a good way to not only manage my time and energy and give myself more control over when I talk to someone, but also to get creative.
Writing to communicate forces you to think differently about how you talk and can often inspire you to see some amazing things that have happened in your day as you are forced to think deeper with no opportunity for small talk.
Diet and exercise
What you put into your body and how you maintain it directly has an impact on how you feel. Some foods, though instantly satisfying, take energy from you in the long run. It’s so key in this time more than ever to self-care, and this is a vital part of that.
It doesn’t mean altering your lifestyle completely, small changes are often much more impactful than big ones. It can be as simple as going for a walk each day or cutting out one unhealthy snack. I have a really strong sweet tooth and often eat a lot of sweets and chocolate. Rather than cutting these out completely, I have cut down and now decide on one I would like to eat each day more than any other sweet treat.
This is also a great way to build some structure into your day, deciding that each day at a certain time you will do some exercise gives at least one thing to aim for each day. I love to start the day with exercise as I then already feel I have achieved before I even sit down to do anything else.
If you are self-caring effectively it gives a great starting place for good mental health in your life.
Relax and take time for yourself
It can seem strange that you would need to actively take time for yourself when you are living alone in these times. I have found, however, that I often still have a lot to do and don’t then have the energy to interact further some days.
In order for me to look after my mental health, I have to allow some time for myself – to do something I love and to put some boundaries on the access people have to me.
It’s not healthy to give all people access to yourself at all times. After 7 pm each day, I will not use my phone except for a few key people in my life. During this time I do things that relax me such as watch TV, read, and meditate.
Purposefully allowing specific time for this makes it so much more valuable and helps me manage the time I am alone. As I mentioned, being alone is not my first choice. However, being purposeful about it means that I am expecting it each day during that time I have set aside for it, and then I look forward to it. Look forward to relaxing!
This is always something at The Lily Jo Project we encourage people to do. Sometimes life is just really hard, and it’s ok to feel like that – I often do.
During these times, opening up to either someone you trust or reaching out to a service such as Shout is so important. You don’t even have to discuss all your deepest darkest secrets for this. It can be as simple as saying to someone that you’d like to just have a chat or see someone’s face. You can even say that you’re bored or feeling a little down.
Small steps once again are often more important. Just that process of reaching out can open your mind to remembering that there are people out there who love and care for you and stop the downward spiral that is so easy to get into. There are people who love and care for you who not only will be there for you, but would love to hear from you as talking to you brings them joy too!
It’s easy to feel alone when you physically are alone. In these times, engaging with your purpose, having structure, looking after yourself as well as you deserve (really well), and opening up to people and communities available to you will ensure that emotionally you won’t be alone.
It’s a tough time, and that can feel overwhelming and scary – and self-caring is key. You deserve to feel emotionally and mentally well. You are worth it!
About the Author: Peter Bonnebaigt
Peter Bonnebaigt or “Pete” is a Manchester-based sound engineer and tour manager. Over the years, he has done shows and toured across the UK, Europe, and globally. Pete is passionate about mental health and currently serves as The Lily-Jo Project’s operations manager. If you ever need to get in touch with us, Pete is often your first point of contact and is always happy to make a new friend!