How to avoid loneliness when you’re stuck in isolation station
I spoke to a pigeon on my balcony today.
It wasn't something I even realised I was doing until it was done, and it made me think about our craving for face-to-face interaction at a time when we’re all confined to our houses.
Our Whatsapp groups are popping off, we’re catching up with friends we haven’t spoken to in years, our parents have upped the check-ins from weekly to almost daily and we’ve taken our weekend drinking sessions online, to apps like Zoom and Houseparty. If one good thing has come from this, it’s that we’re taking the time to connect with the people most important to us (barring a few DM slides) but it can still feel lonely.
Seeing your significant other (if you’re isolating apart) or best friend on a screen just doesn’t quite compare to the real thing. And while there’s some comfort to be found in the fact that everyone is going through the same thing, it doesn’t change the fact that you are home on a Friday night, staring at the wall instead of across the table from your favourite friends in your favourite restaurant.
We don’t have all the answers (if any) but we do have some advice on beating the blues and getting through this time in one piece. Or at least in a few pieces that you can hopefully glue back together.
ME, MYSELF AND I
It’s a Saturday… you wake up, make some coffee, tuck into your book. You wander to the window and stare vacantly into the distance. You wander to the mirror and stare vacantly at yourself. You decide to head out for your one piece of exercise for the day, and once you’ve finished, feeling somewhat refreshed, you look at the time: 10am! 10AM?
What to do with the rest of your day – you’re already averaging a book a week, your sock drawer is verging on alphabetically organised, you’ve spoken to everyone in your phonebook. Whether you want to or not, it’s time to get used to spending time alone. But, here’s the catch – put your phone away. Scrolling through your feed feeling envious of other people’s lives will only increase your feelings of anxiety. Watch a movie, start a puzzle, bake one of the 7000 cookie recipes you’ve pinned on Pinterest, up the ante on your nap schedule, take a bath. You don’t need to be productive, you simply just need to be. If that fails, take a leaf out of Beyonce's book and pour yourself a goblet of wine. Should do the trick.
TIME TO CONNECT
We’re all finding new ways to ‘spend time’ with our friends and family, whether it’s through group calls, facetiming friends while you eat your dinner (ever so gracefully) in front of the screen. On some days, you have lots to say, and on others, it’s just nice to have a presence in the room. Why not take it further and do an activity together: cook the same meal, do the same yoga video or watch the same film (Netflix has a function where you can start at exactly the same time).
I am grateful for how many friends I have reconnected with over this time, but also how many new friends I’ve made too. It’s as if social norms or filters have gone out the window and we can just be ourselves, bound together by the uncertainty of our shared future and – let’s be honest – boredom. I am finding that I am a better, bolder version of myself. I am myself after two glasses of wine, myself after a great week at work or an excellent date: brazen, carefree, unconcerned with the consequences of a message because we’ve finally all realised that we’ve got much bigger problems to worry about.
The other day, I jumped on a house party video chat with my friend who was speaking to 4 other people I didn’t know. We all got on so well and it was so refreshing that we were all able to let our guards down and enjoy the moment for what it was without any kind of weird social pressure.
What I’m saying is, send that message or join that video call, and just see where the conversation takes you.
TRY SOMETHING NEW
It is perfectly ok to have days where you want to do nothing other than work, watch your favourite series and go to bed. But there are also days where you are restless, and can’t quite put your finger on the anxious feeling in the pit of your stomach. Without friends, family or significant others around, there’s no one to distract you, so it’s time to distract yourself!
Try to challenge yourself in ways you haven’t before. It can be as small as starting a puzzle (kudos to anyone who has the staying power for this) or as big as setting up an art challenge with your friends (you each produce a piece of ‘art’ – a drawing, poem, painting etc – and have another friend judge at the end of the allotted time).
I’m not ashamed to admit that I’ve had some low moments while working from home. As our worlds get smaller and our stress levels higher, we all reach a tipping point where we want to be mad at someone, anyone, but instead we turn the frustration inwards on ourselves. Not only is it good to have an outlet – reading, yoga, your favourite form of exercise – but it’s also important to speak to people about your internal monologue.
It’s ok to feel exposed or vulnerable, and your friends and family are there to listen (it’s not like they’ve got loads going on right now!). Tell them how you’re feeling, and chances are they’ll help you to feel a lot better.
Sometimes a little silence goes a long way, and sometimes, you just need to turn that playlist all the way up. If you’re looking to keep your mind engaged while you’re going about tasks like cooking or cleaning, these are a few of our favourite podcasts.
How to Fail with Elizabeth Day – Elizabeth welcomes a few famous friends onto her podcast which celebrates the moments that haven’t gone right and what we can learn from them.
U Up – A podcast on dating by Betches founder Jordana. I love this one because it gives you the female and male perspective on various dating situations. Plus, it’s screamingly funny.
Keep It – Each week the Keep It team is joined by comedians, journalists, actors, musicians, activists, politicians and more to discuss the latest ways pop culture and entertainment are intersecting with politics and society.
My Dad Wrote a Porno – An oldie but a goodie. Jamie Morton found a script for a porn novel written by his father and he reads it out with two friends. The commentary will have you crying with laughter.
GET OFF YOUR PHONE
We’ve said this already and we’ll say it again. Too much screen time in a day can be absolutely detrimental to your mental health. Alot yourself time to scroll through instagram, some time to chat to friends and then put it away. Without the distractions, you’ll be able to fully immerse yourself in the activity you’re doing whether it’s starting the series you never got round to or settling in for your 5th nap of the day.
There’s no quick fix for loneliness, and there are going to be times when you feel overwhelmed. Try and take it easy on yourself – if today feels bad, you can always try again tomorrow.