isolation and living alone

There are only so many times a living-alone-Single-extrovert can hear the words ‘isolation’, ‘social distance’ and ‘cancelled’ before the weight becomes a little too much to carry and it has to leak out of my eyes! Yesterday I had a significant ‘moment’ (think tears, snot, a few little hiccup-y gulps and one or two audible groans!).

Last month I shared a post how long ‘til the realise I’m dead? and it seemed to resonate. Single people commented repeatedly “This is exactly how I feel!” and married responses repeated the sentiment “I’ve never even thought about this before.”

The same people who worry about not being discovered to have died are bound to be experiencing an additional layer of anxiety in the face of these shut downs and measures of separation to responsibly manage the movement of COVID19 and it’s impact on our health care system and to protect our most vulnerable.

CHECK ON THEM!

Social media is being flooded with posts from Introverts saying this is their idea of heaven. From what I understand, the cancellation of social events and being ‘forced’ to stay at home are the stuff their dreams are made of! 🙂 HOWEVER, even the most introverted of introverts could acknowledge that, as much as they love being alone and are personally energised by that time to recharge, there’s also the reality that without the interruption of exchange with others there can be an un-health that shapes their thought life. As much as they can do without social interactions, the circuit breaker of other people’s engagement in their thought processes and internal dialogue is a healthy and necessary thing.

CHECK ON THEM!

As organisations (like mine!) move to working from home (can we just pause for a praise break that we live in such technologically advanced times – so many opportunities to stay working and connected through online platforms!) while this is a fantastic provision – it’s also a socially isolating move. Many living-alone-Singles rely on the accountability and regular interactions of work life and will struggle without it. As churches move to streaming their services, be reminded that it’s not just the sermon or worship our congregations will be missing (in fact, these things have been out-source-able for a long time now) it’s the connection to one another, a sense of engagement in something bigger than themselves, the opportunity to keep regular relational accounts with one another – to give and receive prayer and encouragement.  (My church has set up an online/phone prayer service to facilitate this – what a great initiative!)

CHECK ON THEM!

For those of us living alone who have the love language of physical touch – this experience has another layer of impact. The social distancing protocols don’t apply within your households. You might sleep closer than 1.5m to your spouse. Go ahead and TRY convincing young children not to invade your (or each other’s) personal space – that’s not happening! So, even in a time of physical disconnection you’re experiencing some connection. In my regular life I can go days without physical touch and now, it’s mandated! In my little ‘moment’ yesterday, this was part of my processing … how long do I have to go without any physical connection?

CHECK ON THEM!

I messaged my friends – the ‘her is ours now’ family referenced in this blog being family to those without family – and shared about my little meltdown and said “I decided you could adopt me, then if we need to isolate I’ll isolate with my ‘family’”. The response was, essentially, an affirmation that they thought I already WAS adopted, and that if we get shut in as family-units then my place of shut in is with them! “If ‘Her is ours now’ then ‘her corona is our corona now’ too!”

Of course, we’re prayerful that the measures our country are employing now might avoid a complete lock-down. Things are changing daily as we continue to track the spread and learn what we can from other countries (another praise break – how grateful are we for all the fabulously smart and compassionate people in our medical system?!) and there’s no real point in leaping ahead to worst case scenarios. Being sensible and caring in this moment is our best next step. If I came to know I was infected I would never intentionally expose them to the virus.

But, I can’t tell you the relief that came to me in my emotionally charged episode, to have my friends make it clear that I won’t have to be alone. It was such a circuit breaker for my fear, loneliness, overwhelm and distress. There’s a plan, an option.

CHECK ON YOUR LIVING ALONE FRIENDS.

If only to give them a safe place to process the emotions they might be feeling. Each of us will travel an experience like this differently as it’s shaped by our lifestage, personality, health status and other factors. Let’s do what we can to grow in our understanding and empathy for one another.

the power of the debrief


After living alone for several years a while back a friend moved in. The changes were immediate – both the super-fun and those more challenging as we navigated doing life together – but one of the more impactful ones was unanticipated.

Within a week of having a housemate I noticed a significant improvement in my mental health. I was sleeping better, I felt less ‘stressed’ and I was doing much better at switching off my work brain to enjoy my evenings more.

It was the power of the debrief.

Although we each led busy lives, there’d be some point after work where we’d get to chat about our days. Sometimes that was a quick touching base before one of us headed out to our evening commitments, other times it was more extended – her sitting at the kitchen bench chatting while I cooked us dinner. But in all of its forms it was powerful.

What happened today? Good stuff or bad? How’d that meeting go? What frustration did you experience? Did you accomplish much? Did you encounter any conflict? What’s on for tomorrow? What decisions are you facing? What options are you considering?

In the process of expressing those things out loud I found great release. It was like putting a metaphorical full-stop on that day, allowing me to set it aside to be picked back up the next. Freeing my mind to completely relax or to take on other thinking and processing related to my home or personal life.

It’s a consideration for us all but particularly for those who live alone. What steps do you make to give yourself a mental break? How do you get true separation or distance from work to let your brain process other things? How do you ‘switch off’ from one environment in order to be fully present in another?

SINGLES – how does this apply in your life? Do you have someone to debrief with? Is there a person at work that you can have a close-of-day chat with? Can you call someone on your way home? Is there a method of writing things down or symbolically marking your transition from one environment to another that you could practice?

EVERYONE – consider those in your family, work place or friendship group that might not have a default person to debrief with. Can you offer yourself to them to be a sounding board for decisions they’re facing, chat to them at close of day or invite them to call you on their way home?