Sunday, March 21, 2021

Avoiding Loneliness in Lockdown

Hello my loves, 

With my flatmate having lived with me for just over two weeks now, I thought I'd use my time this evening to reflect on the time spent living in the flat on my own, and how I coped, for just over 5 months. Without the current restrictions I most definitely wouldn't be writing a post like this, but the covid situation has brought a new meaning to the words isolation and loneliness.

It has certainly been a struggle for those living alone or without a support bubble, and with lockdown still in place, I hope this reflection may be a source of comfort for somebody, or at the very least something for me to look back on down the line.

How lonely did I feel?

To sum up rather bluntly, really fucking lonely. As a major introvert, and someone who normally relishes in having time to themselves, I didn't realise how much the small interactions of the day kept my social clock ticking. From an hour sat in a coffee shop, to a small study session in the library, even if I wasn't seeing friends, just being around people clearly meant so much to me. The final few months of lower restrictions before the new year was a time where I could go to work, meet up with a friend, attend some in person classes and actually have a structure to my day. When all that went away I found myself an absolute mess who slept too much and couldn't organise herself.

With miserable weather making going outside off putting, after the new year I rarely left the flat and allowed my already shaky mental health to plummet. Granted, I think I was already slipping into a depressive episode at the time, but all these factors combined led to no motivation to work, relapse, poor hygiene and an inverted body clock that had me sleep through most the day. I'd wake up to darkness and go back to bed in darkness. The one bit of structure I had left was flinging myself on a bus every Saturday to head to the big Lidl, but by February I could no longer afford the bus tickets in my budget and did my shopping at a closer one. Gotta love unemployment.

So looking back at how I was and how I felt these past few months, compared with my much more stable mental state now, which the lighter days, glimpses of sun and routine with my flatmate are most certainly helping, I have a lot of tips I could have done with giving myself when lockdown began, that may be of use to those still living alone.

1. Make a plan

To anybody who's pretty dependent on routine for their mental well-being like I am, this is an important one. Lack of routine really caused me to spiral into messy disorganisation, and that affected both my mental health and my ability to be productive, which as a uni student is rather important.

When the days so easily blur into one, just laying a few markers down can make a world of difference in maintaining structure. This could be something simple like having breakfast at the same time each day or making sure you go for a walk at a certain time. You don't have to plan your day out hour by hour, but assigning certain activities to break up the day and track time passing by will make you feel a lot more stable if you're spending most of your week in the house. 

2. Stay connected

By this I don't mean scroll endlessly on Instagram or Twitter (though you can do that too), rather making a real connection with somebody. If you have someone you can facetime or call, you may be surprised at how much that virtual interaction can help your mood.

I admit, even on the days I really didn't want to be talking to anyone, a call from my mum really made a difference. I am very grateful to have a family I can talk to, and as everyone is in the same boat with lockdown, I'm sure whoever you call will be grateful you decided to contact them too. Lockdown has been a great struggle mentally, and you never know how much good a simple text or call to check in might do. 

While I'm on this topic, don't take other's silence as nobody wanting to speak to you, again lockdown has been a real struggle mentally for most, and somebody may not be reaching out because they are in a dark place of their own. Try not to take it personally if your friends have been quiet, it may just take a little nudge to get them to also realise how good staying connected makes them feel too.

3. Stay in the moment

I am dreadful at ruminating and fixating on tiny issues till they blow way out of proportion, and by god has lockdown made that ruminating so much easier. When we are in charge of our own distractions, it's really easy to get lost in the things that don't matter. Allowing our minds to drift and dwell on the lows of the day is a recipe for disaster. So having a stockpile of distractions or tasks at hand can really help nip any exhausting unplanned lows in the bud.

One thing I've been doing is making sure I always have some background noise, whether that's Netflix, Youtube or (happy) music. I find it quite easy to zone out from this background noise and focus on the task at hand, but when I'm not doing anything and starting to focus on the bad, being able to turn to a funny video or entertaining tv programme briefly distracts me from those thoughts. Even if the distraction is only temporary, any time spent away from low moods is always a win. 

4. Allow yourself to feel unproductive, tired or sad

Okay I know this seems like a bit of a contradiction to the previous tip, but while distractions are great to take us away from excessive sadness or rumination, you absolutely must allow yourself to feel the effects of lockdown if they get overwhelming, nobody has remained unchanged during lockdown, so do not be disappointed or angry with yourself for feeling different, tired or inconsolable on some days.

Lockdown has altered our routines, normalities, and even identities drastically. You probably aren't going to be as productive or as happy as you would be usually - and that's okay! While I definitely encourage trying to make the most of a shitty situation, and doing all you can to lift your spirits such as getting outside and doing something you enjoy, sometimes we will just have to ride out the wave of shitty lockdown feelings.

5. Reach out for help if it gets too much

Right now the world feels like a scary and isolating place, some days will be easier than others but sometimes the emotions that come with lockdown may feel more severe, or more frequent. If you feel this way, you are not alone and you don't have to suffer in silence. There are people you can turn to outside of your immediate circle, which I will link below. 

Absolutely do not feel ashamed or embarrassed if you need to talk to someone for guidance or help,
this lockdown has been fucking dreadful, and you deserve any help you that you need to stay as happy as possible, even if that involves going beyond friends and relatives to other services such as your GP or a helpline. 

Links to support services

If you feel you are at an immediate danger to yourself or others, please do not use these services, rather dial 111 or in the case of an emergency dial 999.

If nothing else I hope this post helps at least one person who's still isolated right now, and that they know they aren't alone.

Brighter days are on their way, take care lovelies x

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