- Living alone during periods of social isolation can be an emotional roller coaster.
- Prioritizing healthy relationships is essential to maintaining optimal emotional health.
- Following healthy eating habits and regular exercise can help combat stress.
- Learning new skills or developing hobbies is a great way to protect your mental health during COVID-19.
No matter where we live or who we live with, the coronavirus pandemic and subsequent stay-at-home orders have put pressure on all of us. Although there are some benefits to living alone during this period-such as not feeling the emotional burden of caring for young children, or avoiding the intricacies of interpersonal relationships that share small spaces with other people 24/7-but being isolated from others without others A series of unique challenges are presented.
Those who live alone may need to plan their days very carefully during this time, taking responsibility for themselves in ways they may not be used to, because daily life is left behind.
Signs you might be struggling
- Potentially problematic behaviors such as drinking, smoking, drug use, overeating, online gambling or excessive shopping have increased
- Excessive focus on tracking news or social media, and mood changes drastically based on the content viewed
- Exhibiting poor sleep patterns (Persistent poor sleep or excessive sleep are red flags.)
- Feeling unmotivated to respond to calls or messages from friends and family
- Loss of all awareness of daily life, which may include not maintaining basic hygiene (shower, brushing teeth, washing hair) or housework, such as laundry, washing dishes, and sorting out clutter
- Repetitive and uncontrollable negative thoughts
- Feeling helpless or hopeless, including thoughts of suicide
Fortunately, if you take refuge alone, you can use some effective strategies to develop a healthier mindset.
Get advice from the VigorTip Mind podcast
This episode of The VigorTip Mind podcast hosted by LCSW’s editor and therapist Amy Morin shares how to deal with pandemic-related anxiety.
Nurture your existing relationship
Perhaps the most effective way for people living alone to maintain optimal emotional health—whether in good times or bad times—is to cultivate their friendships and family relationships.
“More time at home can give you more time to talk, write, and video chat with your loved ones. Consider weekly video conferences with large families from all over the country, and/or connect with friends to enjoy online happy hours and exercise Courses, book groups, and various creative activities,” suggested Lorna Hecht, a therapist in San Diego.
Lorna Hecht, MFT
Humans are social animals, and they absolutely depend on emotionally healthy connections. In addition, talking to others about your fears can help them see them in perspective and help others alleviate their worries.
— Lorna Hecht, MFT
These virtual or online chats can be one-on-one or small groups, or more people. If you find that you don’t have many people to ask for help, Hecht recommends arranging a telemedicine meeting with a therapist who can guide and encourage you, and is also a reliable person with whom you can talk as needed.
Now may also be a good time to consider establishing new friendships. You can do this through online forums or even virtual volunteer opportunities in the community.
Take care of your body
When curled into a ball on the sofa, it can easily melt into a batch of creamy macaroni and cheese-and in moderation, this is perfectly acceptable. But also try to take care of your body by eating well, exercising regularly, and sunbathing every day. This can not only improve your mental health by creating structure and distracting you from the noise of the overwhelming news cycle, but it can also benefit your physical health.
Dr. Catherine Smalling
Regarding exercise, it may be as simple as taking a walk every day, or it may be as simple as exercising with friends through FaceTime. To keep yourself accountable, keep track of your workouts, have a “responsibility partner”, or even consider a friendly game with your friends.
— Dr. Kathryn Smerling
There are many online free exercises (YouTube and Instagram are excellent resources in this regard), and many on-demand exercise services also reduce or waive monthly membership fees during this period. If you are a frequent visitor to a local gym, check to see if it offers on-demand options or online alternatives.
In terms of nourishing the body, try to make cooking a fun exercise; the behavior itself can relieve stress and distract you. If you hate the idea of cooking for one person, either make enough leftovers or even set aside one at your neighbor’s. Target natural and colorful meals and whole foods, and limit the amount of sugar, salt, and simple carbohydrates you consume every day.
Dive into a new skill or hobby
During this time, there is some resistance to the topic of cultivating new hobbies. If you don’t have the mental capacity or time to do so, that’s okay. However, generally speaking, exploring new creative channels or improving existing skills is good for your mental health.
Lorna Hecht, MFT
Mobilizing intelligence can strengthen the part of the brain that humans need to keep sharp and focused. In addition, intellectual projects can avoid boredom and spend energy on learning new things instead of negative thinking, feeling, and behavior.
— Lorna Hecht, MFT
This can be researching a new topic of interest, learning to play a new game, or delving into crafts such as cross stitch, one-line drawing or gardening. You can also try reading non-fiction books, writing poems, learning calligraphy, baking bread, or remembering the countries and capitals of the world.
Take some time in your day to learn more about the activity of your choice, and even consider joining an online group that supports the hobby.
Monitor your overall health
Although you are unlikely to be infected with the new coronavirus if you self-quarantine carefully, it is still important to monitor any potential symptoms you may have and tell them to friends or family.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) outlines the symptoms of COVID-19 as persistent dry cough, fever, and shortness of breath. Other symptoms may include sore throat, headache, body aches, and gastrointestinal problems. The CDC website provides a “self-examination” questionnaire on the website. If you are not sure how severe your symptoms are, it can provide you with guidance.
There are very few cases of serious illness or even death due to COVID-19-related complications. This is especially true if you are under 65 and have no underlying medical conditions. However, it is still important to pay attention to your symptoms. If you feel that you are experiencing symptoms, please let a friend or family member know and consult a healthcare practitioner for the next step.
What this means to you
The COVID-19 threat brings many challenges, and if you live alone, you may need to be extra vigilant when planning your time to ensure your mental health.
Stay up to date with the latest information, but limit your exposure to the 24-hour news cycle and social media. Take the initiative to contact friends and family every day, carefully consider what you eat and how you exercise, engage yourself in meaningful activities, and talk to remote therapists when needed.
The information in this article is current as of the date listed, which means that you may receive updated information while reading this article. For the latest updates on COVID-19, please visit our Coronavirus News page.