When I was young, I used to spend tons of time alone in my room. A combination of listening to and writing music, painting, writing short stories, and playing with my cats would keep me occupied for hours without feeling lonely. My bedroom was my own, isolated heaven, and at the time there was nowhere I would have rather been.
Nowadays, I find myself venturing out of my bedroom as soon as I wake up. I make a beeline straight for the kitchen where I hope to find the comforting presence of my girlfriend, coffee in hand. Unlike me, however, she’s a putterer, and often by the time I wake up she’s out in the yard pulling weeds, painting the fence, or putting up lights. And she rarely needs my help. And so I’m left alone to fill my time until my internship restarts in June.
I don’t know if it’s the passage of time, growing maturity, or personality changes due to my fight with cancer – many things have changed in my personality since that diagnosis 7 years ago. What I do know is that these days it’s incredibly hard for me to be alone for so long. And I’m certainly not alone. According to Statistica, about 34.05 million Americans live in single occupancy households. And many of these people aren’t dealing well with their newfound freedom from others. If you’re reading this article, you might be one of those people who needs a little help dealing with the loneliness of the new Coronavirus norm. So, as promised, I’ve put together a list of 5 ways you can try to deal the isolation until it’s safe to see your loved ones in person again.
Schedule Skype / Zoom Visits With Friends and Family
Okay, this one may be obvious, but it’s crucial if you really need to get in that social time to alleviate the Coronavirus blues. I thank the heavens every day that we have such an abundance of free technology that allows us to connect with our loved ones without putting ourselves at risk. I mean, imagine being stuck in your home in something like the 1918 Spanish Flu Pandemic – when something like the household telephone wasn’t even a thing.
I’ve found that a Zoom or Facebook video session with a friend boosts my mood 100%. Not only is it an opportunity to talk about whatever’s on your mind, but the video feature allows you to share what you’ve been cooking, painting, cleaning – heck, I regularly point the camera at my cats to give my mom a chance to visit with her grandchildren. And the value of seeing a loved one’s face can’t be underrated. Seeing the faces of loved ones causes levels of feel-good neurotransmitters in the brain to increase. Neurotransmitters like dopamine, serotonin, and oxytocin (which deepens feelings of attachment) flood the reward centers of the brain. This makes us more attentive, less cranky, and more motivated to interact with these people – thus perpetuating the feel-good loop should we decide to speak to them again tomorrow. These chemicals are especially strong when we look at the faces of romantic partners.
If you’re not familiar with videoconferencing technology, I highly recommend you start off by downloading the Facebook messenger app and connecting with friends that way. It’s super easy to just tap on someone’s face, then hit the camera button on the top right tool bar. Just one or two taps and you’re face-to-face with anyone in the world!
Rekindle an Old Hobby
If you have old paints in the closet you haven’t touched for years, it’s time to pull them out! Ditto for old workout equipment, model painting, sculpting, knitting, or working on your car. Not only will it keep your mind off of the isolation, but it will build skills that have been wasting away in the recesses of you mind while you’ve been plugging away at your job or school.
Don’t have a hobby? Now’s the perfect time to start one. YouTube has literally MILLIONS of videos for beginner hobbyists on everything from yoga to painting to creating your own yarn out of your pet’s hair. (Yes, I’ve tried this before. Sue me, I was bored.)
Here are some videos to get your started:
Beginner Yoga – Yoga with Adrienne
Painting a Simple Acrylic Sunset – Ahmad Art
Beginner Acoustic Guitar Lesson – Marty Music
Beginner Makeup Tutorial – Danielle Mansutti
How to Change Your Oil (Complete Guide) – Chris Fix
Part of the reason being isolated could be so overwhelming is that you’re stuck together with uncomfortable thoughts and feelings you’ve never had to deal with before. Mindfulness means that you are completely aware of the present moment. You’re in your body, experiencing everything around you as it happens without being caught up in to-do lists, plans for the day, ruminating thoughts, or anything else except your moment-to-moment experience. Meditation is exploring your own mind without judgement. It’s utilizing your curiosity to learn more about yourself and your present experience. Together, mindfulness meditation helps you “observe” your moment to moment inner and outer experiences with curiosity rather than with anxiety. You suspend the judgement of your inner thoughts in exchange for a small level of detachment that lets you realize that you are not your thoughts. You don’t have to be fused with everything you think and feel. It lets you greet your emotions one by one, experience them, and then let them go rather than fighting them.
Mindfulness meditation is a great way to calm anxiety and gain insight into who you are and how you work. There are tons of beginner mindfulness meditation guides out there, so here are a few (serious and non-serious) ones to get you started:
F*ck That: An Honest Meditation (EXPLICIT)
Build Resilience with Journaling
If you’re like me, you’ve got a lot going on in your head 24/7. Not all of that is positive, which means not all of it is helping you stay strong in the moment. Journaling is one way to both A) Get your negative feelings out, and B) Focus on the positive, so you can rewire your brain to become more resilient.
Over and over again, research has shown that neurons that fire together wire together. What does that mean for those of us who aren’t neuroscientists? It means that what we focus on in our minds and hearts tends to become ingrained in our daily mindset. If you’re constantly telling yourself, “I can’t handle this, this is too much. I’m overwhelmed and sad,” that will feed on itself because you’re creating and strengthening the sad, overwhelmed pathways in your brain. If instead you focus on telling yourself, “This is a tough situation, but I can make it through,” or “I have strengths that will carry me through this,” you’re much more likely to build positive and resilient pathways into the structure of your brain.
So, what are some ways to build resilience and positivity with journaling? Here are some great journal prompts to get your started.
Something that has really been getting to me while staying home has been the fact that, every day, I wake up and have to look at the same walls, same furniture, same curtains, same everything. There’s no way for me to just visit the store or anything for a change of atmosphere. But one way I’ve been getting around this is going outside and walking around my neighborhood and the nearby trails. I visited my mom in Florida for 3 weeks, and let me tell you, the amount of time I spent outside tripled. It was absolutely AMAZING for my mental health. Sunshine, fresh air, and a warm breeze just completely cleared my mind and helped me think more positively. Not only that, but it gave me the change of pace I was looking for while getting me out for some exercise.
Now that I’m back in Wyoming, it’s beginning to warm up. I’ve been trying to make a habit of walking around the neighborhood, and when the sun is out I’ve been lounging outside in the sun while my girlfriend works in the yard. Even though it’s not as sunny as Florida I’ve been enjoying wrapping myself up in a blanket and watching the clouds.
One Final Note
If the isolation during this time is becoming too much for you, please please please reach out to some of the below mental health resources. You are not alone, and there are people who can help. Please, if you are thinking of harming yourself, call 911.
Text: text TalkWithUs to 66746.