The longer the current restrictions remain in place the more the different pressures we are facing become evident, but none so obvious as those craving alone time, compared with those, like myself, that are missing company so desperately.
I’ve recently been listening to ‘Alonement’, a fascinating pod cast by writer and podcaster Francesca Specter. In Francesca’s own words ‘the pod cast is dedicated to the most important relationship you will ever have: your relationship with yourself’.
‘Alonement’ is a word coined and trademarked by Francesca. It fills a much-needed gap in the English language, describing alone time that is positive and valuable.
Alone time is something that I used to struggle with, usually seeing it as second choice to spending time with others, but over the past few years I’ve come to really enjoy it. However, there’s a big difference between loneliness, and alone time. When I think back to when I wrote about loneliness in 2017, nothing could have prepared me for the amount of time that I would be spending by myself over the past year.
From the very first lockdown announcement in the UK last March, I was very aware how these restrictions could impact my mental health, but something I wasn’t prepared for was how social isolation can have such a huge impact on how you process your thoughts, especially when it comes to managing your inner voice. I’ll you give you an example; in the past if I’ve had something troubling me it wouldn’t take me long to shake it off. However, during Covid I’ve found that my thoughts have become a lot more inward, and it’s been much harder to work through them, or shake them off as I would have done in the past.
In the first lock-down it felt like people living on their own were forgotten by our government. Even now the ‘bubble’ concept doesn’t work for those living hundreds of miles away from their family. I had a choice when the bubble concept was introduced, to either have the option to see my family (who live 150 miles away), or have a hug from one of my friends that lives close to me. I chose to create a bubble with my brother’s family, but this has left me with no human contact for months on end, which is the same for so many. The need for a hug, or any human contact is so real, and something that I hope no one will ever take for granted again. None of the situations we find ourselves in are ideal, we simply have to make the most of life as we know it right now. Something I have to remind myself of daily.
On good days I feel grateful, as I know I’m lucky my siblings live really close to my parents, so I have been able to at least see my family when I stay with my brother. I feel incredibly fortunate that I live near the sea and that my brother lives on a farm. Both environments provide open space, which is something I’m very aware is a luxury to many.
Like so many, I don’t know where I would have been this year without the amazing support from friends and family. It really has been a year that has shone a light on the good people in your life, I’ve gained so much from phone calls and walks with friends and family members. A time to really connect and feel grateful, amidst the pain and suffering so many have experienced.
Although I was working remotely long before the pandemic, the lack of human connection due to not being able to use co-working spaces and the absence of travel and meetings have added to the feelings of isolation and need for time away from work. Although there are so many of us that are experiencing these feelings right now, it’s not new for many, with many charities like Time to Talk Befriending focusing specifically on this area. Sighting that ‘Evidence shows that volunteers are just as likely to positively benefit from befriending as those they connect with’. From personal experienced I’d recommend volunteering to anyone, for the huge benefits that it brings to everyone.
There are so many different parts of society that are genuinely struggling right now, parents have had a certain amount of focus due to the pressures of home schooling. Although I can only imagine how hard it must be to juggle work with home schooling, there’s certainly no ‘good camp’ to be in. Everyone is going through their own version of this pandemic, not one easier than the other and I think it’s important to remember that everyone’s struggles are real. There’s no guide book to how we all manage our way through this, we just need to be kind to ourselves and give ourselves a break!
I want to end on a quote by Shawn Achor, that resonates with me, ‘resilience is about how you recharge, not how you endure’.
I wonder, how are you ‘recharging’ right now?