First off people; this is not the End of Days. While toilet paper is scarce (for now) and Pinterest boards with canned beans recipes have never been more popular understand that our great Nation is ready for this. We will get through it. The decision to close major attractions, cancel big events and advise people to please stay the fuck home does not come from a place of panic or fear. It is an intelligent, carefully decide course of action that will help us all in the long run.
One of the best recommendations you may be hearing is the idea of self-isolation and social distancing. Only going out to public places when it’s absolutely necessary; grocery stores, drug stores, gas stations, hospitals etc.. If you have to go to work you are encouraged to avoid large meetings, take conference calls and work from home where possible (hello, bosses!).
Already I have started to see the “It’s day one and I don’t know what to do with my kids,” and “me, and my boyfriend, are repainting our apartment and are trying not to kill each other,” posts. Self-isolation, when you have a partner or family, will have its bumps but what do you do when you are single and live alone?
LET SOMEONE KNOW YOU ARE ALONE.
Your friends and family that are caught up in navigating this new reality may not realize that you are doing this solo and therefore might be scared or apprehensive. Tell them you may be bugging them on the regular with hilarious toilet paper memes. These people in your life will also be aware when suddenly you haven’t messaged in a while and need a check-in. While we may jokingly say we know which house we are coming to if things get bad, keep in mind this statement is closer to a truth than you think.
Being single and on your own can already be very isolating and for those who suffer from any sort of mental illness this time will make you especially vulnerable. Human contact is one of the most basic yet most important things people need and crave. When you don’t have someone around to get through this time with it can be especially difficult.
Here are a few things I have started to do to make self-isolation not so isolating.
Schedule regular FaceTime and Skype calls with friends and family.
Yes, you can text and message through one of the may social media apps but face-to-face, voice-to-ear contact is so important to keep you feeling a part of something. If you don’t have a pet you could quite literally go days without speaking so let people know you want to see their faces not just hear their voices. And, while you are FaceTiming…
Have a Virtual Dinner or Coffee Date
Instead of just chatting while folding laundry make a point to stop everything you are both doing and engage with the person like you would if they were sitting right across from you. Enjoy a coffee together or dessert and a glass of wine. Those parents who have their hands full with kids stuck at home from school for weeks will also be grateful for the face to face adult time that isn’t their spouse.
If you aren’t quarantined to your home make a point to get fresh air at least once a day. Being solo means you can keep your head down, avoid crowds but still get some exercise and sunshine. Even better borrow a friend’s dog. Fido won’t complain about the extra time out and you may be helping someone who needs a break themselves.
Stay Active Physically
A lot of gyms, yoga studios and exercise classes have been cancelled or shut down but these people still need to make a living. Find out which places have switched to online, virtual classes and participate in one or two. Not only will you feel good when it’s done, but you can feel better knowing you have also helped someone else who is greatly impacted financially during this time.
Stay Active Mentally
While I am all for Netflix and (literally) chilling, quietly turning pages of the latest bestseller or listening to a favorite album we still need to be engaged with other people. Podcasters are experts at talking to you like they are in the room with you. Same with audiobooks. Hearing another person voice talking directly to you helps you feel connected despite an empty room. Online games that connect with others is also a great way to stay engaged.
Share your Skills with the World (or just some friends)
Are you a really good cook? Can knit a scarf in a day? Know how to play an instrument? Reach out to your circle of friends and family or if you have an online community and see who is interested in learning any of these things. Schedule a virtual lesson on Facebook Live or Instagram or video conferencing. It helps more than just you.
Help Out Your friends and Family with Kids
Your best friend with three kids is probably about to lose their mind any day now. And your nieces and nephews are probably missing their favourite aunt or uncle as well. Engage with them from a distance.
Plan a scavenger hunt. Tell them over FaceTime or Skype that you will text them or their parent an item they need to find. They have to find it, take a picture of it or show it to their parent before you can give them their next clue. The fastest to find everything wins a prize (that you can decide on ahead of time with their parent). In an age where kids are all about technology and a virtual scavenger hunt should keep them busy for a least an hour. Make the items obscure or requires them to be creative or do research. Spread out the clues so they only get one an hour. You make the rules. They get excited for the next clue and you get excited for their answers. Mom and Dad owe you a case of wine.
Talk to a Professional
Despite keeping ourselves busy, social distancing can still be very isolating and tough on our mental health. Don’t be afraid to reach out to a professional. There are lots of therapists and counsellors who can provide online or over the phone appointments that work for everyone’s schedule. It’s okay to admit you are struggling and scared. They can help you navigate through this time the healthiest way possible.
While this time may be the perfect opportunity to watch those shows you have been missing, clean out your closet or catch up on your sleep remember that engagement with other people is one of the most important things we need in our live. And while social interactions may look different in this time of self isolation creatively we can still stay connected.