Living alone in lockdown – tips and advice if you’re lonely

A photo of Meera Phull, Mental Wellbeing Nurse at Bupa UK
Clinical Collaboration Lead, Bupa Group Clinical
24 November 2020
Next review due November 2023

If you live alone, it’s completely understandable if you’re finding being on your own tough right now. Loneliness can be a difficult emotion to sit with, especially during the long winter months. And during a pandemic when we naturally want to seek comfort from others, it can be even harder to deal with this feeling.

Here, I share tips and advice on how to cope with a winter lockdown, and stories from other people living alone during a pandemic lockdown.

Stay in the present moment

If you’re having a difficult day, try not to think too far ahead as this can feel overwhelming. Instead, try to concentrate on the next step – such as getting dressed or making a nice coffee mid-morning. Take things one small step at a time.

You might find it helps to allocate different spaces in your home to different purposes. The change of scenery for different activities can help divide and structure time as well as reduce feelings of being trapped inside.

Ben, 28, used his experience of the first lockdown in March to build more structure into his everyday routine. He also found waking up early and starting his day doing exercise helped him to feel positive throughout the day.

Make a plan

Now that so many of us have been at home for months, the days can blur into one long stretch of time that feels difficult to fill. This can be especially hard over the weekends or if you’re not working. Breaking up your day can help make everything seem a little more manageable.

Some people find it helps to make a plan for the next few hours and write it down. So, if you need to, try taking things hour by hour, moment by moment. You might find it helps you remember that you might not feel like this for the whole day and that things will change. And sometimes a day can end better than it started.

Carolyn is 61 and has lived alone for nearly 10 years. She says that the key things that have helped her during lockdown are:

  • structuring each day
  • having a good breakfast
  • keeping fit

Set achievable goals

It’s good to keep to a routine and set yourself some goals. These don’t need to be huge goals like writing a novel or learning another language, but if you’d like to do those things, then go for it!

Lots of us may be finding it hard to concentrate at the moment, so set small achievable targets for yourself. This could include cooking a nice meal from scratch, clearing out your wardrobe or watching that film you’ve been meaning to see. This will give you something to do and promote a sense of satisfaction or enjoyment.

During the March lockdown, Sarah, who is 80, made the most of her time indoors by spreading out her cleaning jobs around the house. She also tackled clearing out one kitchen cupboard per day.

Express yourself

This could be a good time to connect with yourself on a deeper level. You may want to try writing your thoughts down as a way to notice how you’re feeling and what makes you feel happy. Or you could try expressing yourself through art.

Doing something creative can be a good way to take your mind off things, help you to relax and spend time doing something enjoyable. Give yourself permission to resurrect old hobbies or explore any new hobbies you’d like to take up.

Connect as much as you can

Make the most of video calls with family and friends. Try reframing social distancing as physical distancing – although you can’t be together in person, you can still socialise in other virtual ways.

When outdoors, make the most of opportunities for contact, such as saying hello to the postman or takeaway delivery person (from a distance). Or chat to a neighbour over the garden fence, balcony or doorway.

If you’re single, Ben acknowledges that this can be particularly difficult at the moment. He says: “A single man that I am, it’s tricky not being able to meet people or develop relationships. This is the hardest element for me. But this downtime allows me to improve certain elements of myself ready for when social distancing drops.”

Exercise daily and get outside

You’re allowed to leave your house to take daily exercise. Make use of this so that you get some fresh air and a change of environment. And, if the decrease in winter daylight is affecting your mood, try to get outside during daylight when you can. It’s also a chance to see other people out walking their dog or going for a run. It may help to physically see other people going about their day just as you are.

Carolyn agrees, saying that getting outside for daily exercise helps her to maintain positive energy. She cycles almost every day and goes for a walk a few times a week and finds this is helpful.

Practise acceptance

There’s a lot beyond our control at the moment and that can be difficult to accept. But if you can let go of what you can’t control and practise acceptance and self-compassion, it may help to free up energy and space in your mind.

It may also help to remember how resilient you’ve been in the past and that you can get through this too. Carolyn says: “I have dealt with various things during my life, which has found me favouring living alone for near enough the last 10 years. I prefer to be in control of all aspects of my life. I feel that this is a very positive way to live.”

Reach out for help

Whatever your situation, what’s happening in the world right now is a lot to process. You might find some days easier than others. If you’re feeling anxious, stressed or low, try and speak to someone you trust about how you’re feeling. If this isn’t possible or you’d rather to speak to somebody you don’t know, there are some places of support that can help you.

A photo of Meera Phull, Mental Wellbeing Nurse at Bupa UK
Meera Phull
Clinical Collaboration Lead, Bupa Group Clinical

    • Getting through the next few hours. Mind., accessed 5 November 2020
    • If you're worried about your mental health during the coronavirus outbreak. Samaritans., accessed 5 November 2020
    • Guidance for the public on the mental health and wellbeing aspects of coronavirus (COVID-19). Public Health England., last updated 4 November 2020
    • Seasonal affective disorder. Patient., last reviewed September 2016

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