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

Meera Phull, Clinical Collaboration Lead, Bupa Group Clinical
17 April 2020

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. And at a time like this when we naturally want to seek comfort from others, it can be harder still to deal with this feeling.

The following are some tips and advice on how to cope with the lockdown and some stories from other people who are living on their own too.


Stay in the present moment

If you’re having a difficult day, try not to think or look 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, says: ‘I’m really trying to enjoy what I have in this tricky time. As a person who usually has minimal routine due to the nature of my job, for me it’s really nice to explore building structure to my everyday living. I’m waking up around 7am and immediately working out which keeps me thinking positively throughout the day.”

Make a plan

Now that so many of us are now at home, the days can blur into one long stretch of time that feels difficult to fill, particularly over weekends or if you’re not working. Breaking your day up 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 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 are 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.

Sarah, who is 80, is doing this by spreading out her cleaning jobs around the house each day and tackling one kitchen cupboard per day to give it a good clear out.

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 explore any new hobbies you’d like to take up.

Chris, 64, has found new ways to spend his time: “I potter more in the garden, do odd jobs at home, read, and I’ve resurrected old hobbies.”

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.

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

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. 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 for her.

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 and you don’t know where to turn, here are some places of support that can help you.

Meera Phull
Meera Phull, Clinical Collaboration Lead, Bupa Group Clinical

    • Getting through the next few hours. Mind. www.mind.org.uk, accessed 16 April 2020
    • If you're worried about your mental health during the coronavirus outbreak. Samaritans. www.samaritans.org, accessed 16 April 2020
    • Guidance for the public on the mental health and wellbeing aspects of coronavirus (COVID-19). Public Health England. www.gov.uk, last updated 31 March 2020

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