Updated: May 27
Living alone? For those of you living alone, this one is for you, for it seems, our shelter-in-place orders have a disproportionate impact on those living alone.
This subject has come up a few times with friends and colleagues recently, so I thought I would take a moment to feature this for those we love and care for.
Whether single by choice or by circumstance, those sheltering-in-place alone face different challenges than those who are on lock-down with spouses, partners, family, friends or roommates.
Solo-folk are fortunate to experience no bickering and no boundary issues, but there is a much greater risk of isolation and loneliness.
For those of you that know us, my partner Jeff and I are joined a the hip. We've been working from home together since mid-March and while we miss the pleasure of dinners out together, dinner parties, getting together with neighbors and friends, live music nights and community fun here in Eureka Springs - we still have each other (...and Kirby, of course.)
For others living on their own, the regular day-to-day of brunches, gym time, bevvies, a night on the town, seeing a movie, going shopping, and hanging with friends have been disrupted by COVID-19 and are an essential source of well-being.
www.statista.com says that as of 2019 there were 36.4 million single-person households in the US.
Of course, a person's comfort with being alone runs along a spectrum, and not everyone sheltered in place alone feels lonely. Solitude and loneliness are very different. But, at the same time, people who are flying solo seek different ideas for how to find joy. One can only take so much of a Tiger King binge-session, board games and baking.
Yes! Most would agree, this period of time is strange and stressful, but it’s not permanent. Consider spending it so that you’ll look back and feel satisfied with how you used the time for YOU.
FIND JOYFUL SOURCES OF TOUCH
For those living alone, the loss of ordinary physical touch can be one of the most painful aspects of this time period.
Psychologists call this "skin hunger," and it doesn’t relate to sexual contact, but to the simple forms of contact we engage with friends, such as hugs, a handshake, mirroring body language with an occasional touch, or putting an arm around one another. Touch reduces cortisol, boosts immune function, and stimulates the release of oxytocin, often known as the bonding hormone.
One way to cope is by having a pet. (Good Shepherd Humane Society takes in and adoptively transfers approximately 250 animals per year that otherwise would have been euthanized. The average stay for an animal at their shelter is just over ten weeks. Consider a pet to keep you company.")
Another is to engage in self-massage. Here's what I mean ... The other day, I took an extended soothing shower to allow time to give myself an intense face and scalp massage. It felt absolutely wonderful.
If you have a foam roller or massage ball - use it! If not, they're easy to get here.
Also, any physical fitness professional will tell you that exercise can help stimulate energy, vibrancy and much, much more. According to touch researcher Tiffany Field, exercise can even help stimulate the skin in a very similar way to the human touch.
I realize that these are simply some basic substitutes, but they are sure to help alleviate some of the touch deprivation being experienced during this time.
FIND A JOYFUL SOUNDTRACK
If you can't handle the silence that you're experiencing, create a joyful soundtrack for yourself. Consider creating a collaborative playlist with a few friends, which can help you feel more connected while you’re apart.
Tom Hanks' wife, Rita Wilson created her own playlist with the help of friends just days after Tom announced their test results back in mid-March 2020. Rita's list is called Rita Wilson's Quarantunes.
"I want to make a @Spotify playlist for people self quarantining," she wrote. "Something that might relate to isolation, perhaps? Can you send some song ideas that I can add? Also, what should we call it? Quarantine Choruses? This is what one does in quarantine. U think of stuff like this." -Rita Wilson
Also, take in the sounds of nature that surround us here in Eureka Springs! Lately, my Jeff has been diligent with keeping our bird feeders fully stocked. It brings on a chorus of natural sounds. Did you know that that birdsong and other natural soundscapes can reduce stress and increase relaxation? It's true. By stimulating parts of the brain that attend to external stimuli and quieting the parts that tend to brood or ruminate over problems sounds of nature can have a very favorable impact on a person.
Consider installing and maintaining a bird feeder. Having a hub near you for birds in your yard or patio not only increases the songs and chirps you’ll hear, but looking outside to see them winging around is another way to feel more connected to your surroundings, your world, your Eureka ... and, more importantly, it makes you feel part of something and less alone.
DO SOMETHING YOU’VE ALWAYS WANTED TO DO
If you regularly have hobbies you engage in, the extra time to practice them can feel like a gift. But if you’re not used to spending time in this way, try making a list of things you’ve always wanted to do, but never seem to have time for. This might include things like:
learn how to play the guitar.
pre-arrange your holiday cards waaaaay ahead of time.
start a collection.
re-read War and Peace.
or paint something to put on your wall.
In mid-April, I pulled out the Holiday card box, noticed that we had boxes and boxes of cards, leftover and unused. I addressed all of them on our list (both to and from), stamped them all and put them aside for us to complete later.
Incidentally, here's another tip that we've done for years. When it comes time to pack for our annual Thanksgiving trip to my parent's home in Leominster (Boston), Massachusetts, I pack all of our holiday cards in my a carry on (pre-addressed and pre-stamped and ready to go.) When our in-flight cocktails arrive, I pull out the cards, and we each go back and forth and sign every card while 33,000 feet in the air. It makes a great use of time while in-flight.
Then, before we depart Boston, we stop at the historic Charles Street post office, nestled in the beautiful brownstones of the Beacon Hill neighborhood of Boston (usually, all flocked in white snow in November) and we mail them out to everyone just in time for the start of December. It works great every year.
This year, I truly hope we can fly to visit family with all of this going on. Nevertheless, getting all of this pre-arranging done during our shelter-in-place time will pay off as we're waaaaay ahead of our schedule in preparing holiday cards however we end up sending them out this year.
Ultimately, if you’re not sure what to pursue while at home, aim for something that brings you joy and that doesn’t bring pressure to you. Also, do something where you can be fully immersed into it while doing it.
Whatever you choose, pick something that gives you a sense of doing something bigger, or being a part of something bigger. Do something that you feel you haven’t had time for in your former normal routine of life, pre-COVID.
DO THINGS YOU CAN ONLY DO BECAUSE YOU LIVE ALONE
When you live alone, you’re free to do the kinds of things you might hold back from with others around, yet these things can be quite joyful. If I asked everyone I know to send me a list of what this means for them, I can only imagine what I would get.
When I find myself all alone at home, it means goofy dance routines in my underwear, leaving craft projects spread out on the dining table, long baths with long books, playing the same song over and over on repeat, even singing LOUD while I cook.
One of the things people are doing quite a lot of during this time is interior decorating.
While it might be tempting to wait until you’ve found a someone to share it with, try to refrain from doing this. Give yourself this time and make the choices you want to make for YOU about how you want things to look and feel. This is Healthy Selfishness.
The reality is that decorating your space not only helps create a haven to support your personal well-being, but it helps you define your style and identity, which will gives you a springboard to creating a joyful space with a partner down the road when the time comes to do so.
LASTLY, GET TO KNOW THE MOST IMPORTANT PERSON IN YOUR LIFE:
You've already recognized that this pandemonium is temporary. Check!
Now, instead of thinking about this as a time of forced isolation, instead think of it like a special retreat for you to deepen your relationship with yourself.
What aspects of yourself are you curious about? Consider a morning ritual of journaling during this time. This is an excellent approach to self-discovery. By the end of quarantine, you’d have the solid beginnings of a memoir, or just a much stronger understanding of who you are and what matters to you.
The 5 Book: Where Will You Be Five Years From Today is an excellent way to pass the time while getting to know yourself and setting goals. It's funny to think that whoever may have used this book in 2015 had no idea it would turn out like this, eh? 🤣
Whatever you choose to do , take these weeks as a time to be sheltered from the world’s judgments and opinions. Devote the time that had once been taken up by commuting or other social obligations and use it for practices that reinforce your own enjoyment of yourself.
EXPLORE UNCONVENTIONAL WAYS TO CONNECT
Ugh! This one.
Well, at the moment, video calls are coming out on top as the best way to stay connected but please know that they're not the only way to create connection.
Consider these as well:
Follow celebrity gossip
Take up gaming
Write detailed cards to friends and loved ones
Send and share photographs
Participate in a virtual book club or cooking club
Attend a virtual concert or stream
Watch Latigo and the crew at Chelsea's entertain the masses using Facebook Live (stream.) Hilarious at times!
Or maybe it’s to spend some personal time scrap booking or organizing your photo collection into memory albums. Maybe it's as simple as commenting on others’ social posts that gives you that sense of belonging that you’re craving. I say, if that's the case, take on a joyful tirade of 👍👍👍👍👍👍👍👍👍👍👍👍👍👍👍👍👍👍👍 👍 all over Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, whatever...
Keeping all of this in mind, you're human and you're not alone. Most importantly, this, too, shall pass.
Hey, we're all like gas tanks. Different activities fill up our tank on a regular basis. Previously, your tank might be filled with daily interactions with the same coworkers at work and three times a week with your yoga class ... now take this time to challenge yourself. Instead of trying to replace those interactions with band-aid solutions that don't fulfill you, consider getting creative and come up with a unique palette of activities that is special to YOU and that bring you joy.
Hopefully, when all is said and done, you will feel a sense of progress or accomplishment — and best of all, you personally found ways to enrich life for yourself.
This time will be much more fulfilling for you (in hindsight) when you look back a few months from now and say, "WOW! I did all THAT by myself, for me?" ❤️