Top Tips For Isolating… AloneBy amelia richards
What a weird – and sometimes wonderful – time we’re living through right now. For those of us lucky enough to be safe and virus-free, it can be a heavy time for introspection. This can be particularly true if you’re isolating by yourself. It’s not an easy or natural situation to find yourself in so we wanted to share some top tips for isolating alone.
In this bonus edition of our Top Tips For Isolating With… column, the wonderful Francesca Specter, who’s isolating alone in north London, gives us some brilliant insight into how to move through lockdown with nobody but yourself for company. Francesca is the founder of alonement.com and the host of the Alonement podcast. Read on for her top tips for isolating solo:
1. Value this time
It’s funny – people think self-isolating alone is the bum deal when it comes to lockdown. But have you ever considered that it might be a good thing? We’re so used to treating time alone as a fallback option – something that happens if everyone else is busy – that we forget how great it can be. Isolating alone is a prolonged amount of time to get to know yourself. When else might you ever get that opportunity in your life? Sure, it comes with its hurdles – but it can also be a blessing, if you treat it that way.
I speak from experience when I refer to time alone feeling like a ‘fallback option’. A year ago and a half ago, as an extrovert living alone for the first time in my life, isolating alone during lockdown would have been my biggest fear. Motivated by a new year’s resolution to appreciate alone time, I resolved to develop my ‘solitude skills’ (like social skills, but for time alone). I chronicled my journey on my blog, Alonement.com, and went on to interview high-profile guests like Alain de Botton about the time they spend alone, and why it matters, for my podcast, Alonement. I even coined the word, ‘alonement’, to mean the joy of spending time alone. Don’t get me wrong – I’m still an extrovert, and look forward to seeing my friends and family when I can. But I’ve learned that time with myself can be incredibly rewarding, too – and so I’m making the best of this time.
Equally, don’t fall into the trap into thinking that the grass is always greener; that time with other people would, by default, be better. So one of my top tips for isolating alone is to remember this. As anyone who’s been in a bad relationship or a claustrophobic flatmate scenario will know, sometimes hell is – truly – other people. Any difficult social situation is no doubt intensified in lockdown. Allow yourself to be a household of one – and own it.
2. Plan ahead
You can how romantic relationships often turn stale when you stop proactively planning out quality time for one another? Your relationship with yourself is just the same so this is one of top tips for isolating alone. If you don’t plan quality time to look forward to, alone time can quickly feel monotonous and unappealing – particularly in lockdown.
OK, there are limitations. Sadly, now is not the time to plan that solo trip to Japan. But – saying that – you can plan adventures closer to home: why not check the weather forecast for the weekend and plan an extra-long walk to your local park when it’s looking sunny? Or, you could get super creative, and try planning a themed evening. For inspiration: why not try a Paris-themed evening? Dig out your Breton-striped top, slice up some baguette, play some Edith Pief, spend time cooking yourself something elaborate and French like ratatouille or Soupe à l’oignon (now is an acceptable time to go heavy on the garlic) and then watch a great, subtitled French film on Netflix like romantic-comedy Un + Une.
With so many holidays and special occasions cancelled due to Covid-19, many of us are lacking things to look forward to – so it’s important to plan short-term things in their place. And this is just as feasible whether or not you’re alone.
Equally, it’s important you plan regular Zoom catch-ups with friends and family. Having this in the diary to look forward to can help prevent you from feeling lonely, and allows you to balance your valuable alone time with much-needed social interaction.
3. Keep a diary
OK, we all have a lot of feelings right now – as we navigate the strangest of circumstances. Pandemic or otherwise, keeping a diary is something I’ve always advocated to start a dialogue with yourself and maintain control and self-awareness in your life. The good news is that, when you’re self-isolating alone, you’ve got lots more time to do this – and build up your reliance upon yourself.
Journaling has been a huge help to me, personally, throughout the pandemic. I actually now keep three – one for the morning, one for the evening and a gratitude journal (although I certainly don’t beat myself up if I don’t stick to all three every day!). While I’ve definitely had some ‘bad’ days, keeping up my self-awareness through journaling at night has helped me identify the triggers and plan how I might make the next day better. Meanwhile, writing a page or two in the morning has helped me ‘seize the day’ and stop it from spiralling into something negative. Finally – gratitude journaling has really helped me appreciate the little things – including the interactions with friends and family that stop me feeling lonely.
4. Get out and about (within your allotted time)
Right now, we’re lucky enough to be allowed to go out for daily exercise in the UK – so make the most of it and head to your local park. While, as I’ve discussed, it’s important to value alone time, we’re social animals too – and it’s comforting to be around others at a social distance. In fact, a Yale University study found that being around other people boosts a positive experience – even if we don’t talk to them (any fans of going to the cinema alone will know exactly what this feels like).
Personally, it makes me feel really uplifted to see families playing together in the park – know they are likely getting more quality time than usual – or to pass others who are also on their own and exchanging a smile of camaraderie. Self-isolating alone or otherwise, we’re all in this together – and that shared sense of purpose is helpful to stop being alone turning into loneliness.
5. Practice self care
Now is the time for radical self-care – and you don’t even have to feel guilty about it. Are you heeding the words of your government and staying in your home? Great. Now focus on making that a positive experience.
As we collectively move through the fear and anxiety-inducing experience of a pandemic, self-care is more important than ever. This is one of my most important top tips for isolating alone. Globally, we’re more likely to acknowledge that we might be feeling a little down right now – and acknowledging the importance of the things that boost our mental health. And, without the noise of another person in your home (and the distractions that once came with socialising in other spaces), it’s easier than ever to tune into what you need, as an individual.
You might have once thought of self care in a more glamorous, commodified way, like going for an expensive pedicure. But now it’s more about what we can at home to make ourselves feel better. Sleeping well, exercising daily and switching off from the news cycle all count as valid forms of self-care. Try and observe what makes you feel good: do you feel happier completing a home workout before your working day begins, or do you feel more relaxed when you lie-in for an extra half hour? Now is the time to become more mindful than ever about your self-care needs – a process which will benefit you not just now, but beyond the lockdown.
It’s also the time to get into the habit of treating yourself in those little ways that a friend or partner might. This is one of top tips for isolating alone, but it is also something to practice more generally – especially, but by no means exclusively, if you live by yourself: warming your towel on the radiator while you shower, or buying yourself a bunch of daffodils during your supermarket shop. Because when the bigger things – trips away, barbecues with friends – are off the table, it’s time to acknowledge that little things mean a lot.