At the end of last year, I shared a blog with you all around chronic loneliness and social isolation (don’t forget there is a big difference between ‘feelings’ of loneliness and actual physical social isolation). For the first time last year I’d started to feel my wellbeing decline physically, cognitively and emotionally. I’d spent too much time with so little human connection and I’d started to feel it. Here I share some quick tips with you to help ease the isolation.
I am used to spending a lot of time alone – I even go away on holiday alone! I love alone time. But balance applies to everyone! Despite much of my alone time being forced upon me due to life changing physical health challenges 9 years ago, I learnt to embrace it. Finding gratitude in each day. Enjoying the limited social time I had and treasured time with special people I loved. When something you love is taken away from you, strength is learning to adapt, treasuring the small things and finding inner peace.
This year with the 2020 challenges we all faced, I felt all of the challenges I had faced alone all those years ago, come into full power. The change of social structure, lack of interaction with others, spending time at home when I wanted to be exploring, financial uncertainty and job loss, not being able to do whatever I wanted whenever I wanted – I’d had to deal with it all 9 years ago. And the process was long, lonely and hard. I didn’t have anyone offering support or understanding like we have collectively been trying to offer each other. Whilst this sounds harder (and I think it may have been but who knows!), I am so so thankful as it made me so strong. It prepared me to be unshakable this year whilst everyone else started to struggle with their emotions around me (which is completely understandable, natural and normal in challenges) because I’d been through it all before – I feel like I was trained for this year and what follows. Of course there were challenges for me this year – loads of them. But I didn’t have the added shock of life change to add to the process. Plus, my self care and emotional resilience is now my super power (pre-2011 I thought I was emotionally resilient. I was, but not like I am now). All because of what happened in 2011/12. See how you can be thankful for really painful times?
However, just before Christmas I finally felt the first emotional wobble around the COVID situation. I’d spent even more time alone than normal, with no conversations other than digitally. My Husband was out of the home more than he was at home. I’d started to notice a change in my overall wellbeing. So I acknowledged it, sat with it, communicated about it and made some lifestyle changes. Also, my husband took time off from working out of the home over Christmas so I had some company. Just having the energy of someone else here was just what I needed. It did me the world of good! I feel so much better all round and feel so lucky I don’t live alone as well as work alone (although I could have found a bubble and would probably have had more social contact lol!).
I promised some insight on my journey for anyone spending too much time alone and figuring out how to help:
⭐️ Make more of an effort to chat to loved ones on the phone. Texts and Whatsapp's are so nice but as a regular way to interact, you miss the real human connection through voice.
⭐️ Communicate to your close loved ones (in my case it was my hubby) and figure out a way to create some time to interact more. People who really love you won’t begrudge you a little time (I really don’t need a lot – that’s co-dependency. Not healthy, but not something to explore today.)
⭐️ Use the daily exercise to meet with your one other person people. Even if it’s just 10 minutes.
⭐️ Ask your close friends to try and make time to chat on the phone more instead of texts. I am guilty of never ringing many of my friends as they are always communicating how stressed and busy they are. But after a few chats with some of them, they really needed more chat time too. Like I said, 10 minutes to chat to a loved one who lights you up really isn’t a big ask here and then.
⭐️ Try to maintain a balance between holding space for others and work v’s actual shits & giggles with loved ones. Creating time for fun right now is so important for self care.
⭐️ Voice notes are amazing. If you are someone who is so so busy you cannot call a loved one (Can I just point out that is not good for wellbeing either. Short term for certain life situations is ok, but long term? You might need to consider changes too), voice note them. Whatsapp voice note is great. Hearing someone’s voice feels much more personal.
So the hubby has gone back to working long hours again and many of my daily walks are alone again (I am sure my home schooling mama friends would much prefer to be walking with me lol!), but that little dose of company has really invigorated me. Like a holiday. My wellbeing is back to top tip, super power state.
Human connection (even if it’s just voice) is so so important for health and wellbeing. If you’re alone, make a conscious effort to reach out to people you love. If you know of anyone you love living alone, or who spends most of their days alone with no conversations, make an effort to phone and chat occasionally (I've had some wonderful phone chats this week from people who did just that 🙏🏽). Texts are so gratefully received, but remember balance is key for everyone and everything. Even voice notes make a huge difference.
*Please note, I completely understand there are many people with learning disabilities or mental health issues that mean they cannot chat on the phone. This has not been written to add extra pressure into your life 💗.