Tips for Dealing with Lockdown Loneliness
Lockdown as a family can feel challenging and complicated, but the presence of close ones in times of uncertainty can be also a source of safety and comfort. It is a different kind challenge for those who need to self-isolate away from their partners and family. If you are one of these you might even have enjoyed the first few days of quiet and space. But as time passed, and you had enough time to read/clean/watch all the Netflix series you wanted to and so on, loneliness might have stepped in.
Trying to fight with the feeling of loneliness or to avoid it at all costs might not be in your best interest. Instead, acknowledge how you feel, with acceptance of the situation. Learning to be with the feelings, to observe your thoughts and feelings, to surrender yourself to the uncertainty and balance it with some actions that can benefit your wellbeing. The tips below might support you in this process at this uncertain time.
Here are my tips for individuals who self-isolate as singles, and tips for those who are in relationships but for any reason need to undergo the lockdown by themselves. You might benefit from reading all the tips regardless your relationship situation.
Tips for singles coping with lockdown loneliness (if you are by yourself):
1. You might be alone during the lockdown, but it does not mean you need to be lonely. Think about the millions of people in the same situation all around the world. They all share with you the challenges of this lockdown. Can you connect with them spiritually with meditation, or virtually by opening online groups for people just like you?
2. Create a social, daily routine via FaceTime and other video meeting platforms. Plan and schedule with family and friends specific times to connect. It can be a great opportunity to talk with mum more the the usual 2 minutes, or to call old and close friends you haven't seen for months. Maybe you will find out that several of your friends are in the same situation. By planning daily 'social' and connecting time you support your own wellbeing and mood.
3. Make sure you do something physically active: dance, sport or anything, as long as it includes movement and music. Movement and music both regulate our nerve-system and help us feel calm and positive. Joining a live online class can ass to the sense of belonging and connection.
4. Maintain a daily routine as if you were going to work. Decide on working hours and breaks. Leave some time for a hobby or two, sport, and connection with family and friends. When you have a clear routine it keeps you on target, gives you purpose, and keeps you busy!
5. This is an extreme world situation. If someone had told you two months ago that this will happen; no schools, shops, restaurants and so on, you would never have believed it! These times offer us an opportunity as well. What is it that you always wanted to do and never had the time? Knitting, sewing or learning coding? This is the time! What is it, that in 10 years time, you will look back and say 'thanks to the lockdown I ..'? Find the opportunity here and take advantage of it. I say, something you do today, you will miss doing when all of this is over.
6. Remember, this time will pass. Like anything in life, even the most challenging times pass. Experience each day as it is, accept the situation and practice letting go (of control, expectations, planning ahead and so on). It will pass. And you are going to be OK.
I wish you and yours good health, be safe, keep physical distance but social connection.
Tips fo coping with lockdown away from your partner:
1. This is a great opportunity for some self reflection. Use the time and space to think about your relationship, your strengths as a couple and areas where you would like to improve. Write down your vision for the relationship: how are you with finance? Intimacy? parenting? fun? extended family? Make a vision and a plan. You can invite your partner to do the same and then share with each other on a Facetime call.
2. Being by yourself does not mean being lonely. Schedule FaceTime with friends and family, but mainly with your partner. You can keep the connection even with social distancing. Some couples can be really triggered by the presence of the other, so such a distance can even improve your communication and attunement. You will notice that you listen more deeply and have longer conversations via phone or video calls. Even in between calls send each other funny photos and clips. You can send a sex text and other games to spice up the tense situation. You can actually do many things together via video-call like talking, dance and sport.
3. Tell your partner what you need from them at this time. Maybe it is to call you four times a day and be online for 20 minutes each time. It might be to take care of something you are unable to do now, or just to do the visual exercise with you. Whatever it is, verbalise it in a positive way and be specific.
4. Each day make a list of things you appreciate about your partner. Make it a habit to send it to him/her before they go to sleep. What better way to go to sleep than after a positive flood of appreciation.
5. Every time you have an idea of something you would like to do with your partner once all this is over, write it down and keep it in a box. This time will pass, and when everything is back to normal you can randomly pick up a note and do it.
If you feel that you are doing your best but still feel lonely, or that it is affecting your mental health, reach out for professional support. Most therapists offer online sessions to support people just like you. You are not alone. I would like to reassure you that this time will pass. And you will be OK. You might even look back and miss some of this 'alone time'. Take a deep breath and tell yourself everything will be alright.
This article was written by couples therapist and parental advisor Dr Kalanit Ben-Ari. With a doctorate in Psychology, Dr Ben-Ari has worked in the field for over 20 years and runs a private clinic in Hampstead, London. She is also an author, speaker, therapist supervisor and has been the Chair of Imago UK since 2013.