Solitary "refinement" - making the most of self-isolation when you live alone


During the COVID-19 crisis, it’s important to remember that we’re largely self-isolating because we care about and are committed to others. That’s not to say that it’s easy, however. Being happy, content, and productive when you feel largely isolated from other people is challenging. For those of us who have said, “I’m my own best company” we may now have to prove it.

When we’re home alone all day, the hours can go by slowly and we can feel like there’s no end in sight. Isolation and loneliness are an unhealthy combination, both physically and mentally. So how can we make the best of this difficult, albeit temporary situation?

  • Create a realistic schedule for each day and follow it. Go to bed and get up at the regular time. Dress the way you normally would.
  • Eat at regular times. Eat healthy and watch your alcohol consumption.
  • If you’re working from home, keep regular hours and try to create a dedicated work area, if possible, in an area you don’t normally relax in.
  • Mimic a walk to work in the morning. Go out for a walk before you start and again when you finish.
  • Get some exercise. Walk, run, work in the garden. Put on a headband and move around to some aerobic classes or music videos on YouTube.
  • Stick to regular routines and take this opportunity to create new ones. Set time aside each day to read. Reorganize your space, enroll in an online course, or take that instrument out of the closet.
  • Start a new cleaning regimen. Because you’re home more things are going to be messier. Clutter can create stress; a few minutes of cleaning can give you a greater sense of control.
  • Reach out in a positive way. Talk to close friends, Zoom with family members. Re-connect with people you’ve lost touch with.
  • Limit social media. The irony is that it can actually make us feel more isolated.
  • Do something for other people. When you go shopping, check with neighbours to see if they need anything. Offer to run an errand for someone. Clean out the cupboard and set things aside for donation.

Lastly, be open to the idea that this time can hold opportunity. Self-isolation presents us with the chance to get to know ourselves better. Author Mandy Hale offers, “a season of loneliness and isolation is when the caterpillar gets its wings.” Our happiness doesn’t have to depend on other people all the time. Give yourself a hug and appreciate all parts of who you are.

Right now we need to stand alone to stand together – and remember that it’s completely ok to need a little extra help getting through this. Though there are opportunities in our extended alone time, we’re also being asked to live in a way that’s completely unfamiliar and uncomfortable for many of us. If you are struggling, know that it's ok to reach out to a mental health professional for a little more support when you need it.