Solitude During COVID-19
Human beings are conditioned to be social animals. We plan and look forward to social gatherings, parties, weddings, anniversaries, holidays and graduations. There are less than pleasurable social events that we also attend such as funerals, work related conferences, court dates, riding in coach on airplanes, or waiting in line. We all have been taught that being with others is good and we should do it quite often. Well, all of this has been stopped, due to a virulent virus causing worldwide great fear of either becoming seriously ill and dying, or passing on the virus to a vulnerable loved one. For now, solitude is the status quo.
What to Expect
It is unclear when the “all clear” will happen. At first, we thought 1 week, then multiple weeks, now possibly months before we can slowly return to the pack mentality and resume social behaviors. During this time of transition, this imposed monastic lifestyle, could bring out character flaws and personality traits that may only exacerbate the current situation. We may choose to cope in an unhealthy fashion through greater negativity and restlessness, fear-based reactivity, irritability, financial worries, excessive alcohol or drug use and generally feeling sorry for ourselves. These reactions to our current situation does not require much effort, and narrowing our attention to our “poor selves” may only make a bad problem much worse, and our outcomes are most likely going to create more distancing from others, even resulting in isolation. Solitude is NOT isolation (That is a topic for another article)!
How to Cope with Solitude and Uncertainty
Being aware of our situation and some of the tendencies to regress to petulancy is the first step to change. Here are 7 coping strategies to better cope with this uncertain time of solitude:
- Keeping to a regular schedule. Be careful not to fall into the temptation of being a couch potato. There can be much to do, so schedule what you want to do around the house, show up on time and complete the task.
- Noting birthdays and anniversaries of friends and loved ones and extending well wishes to them. Make an effort to list all the birthdays and special dates for those you care about and let them know you remembered them on those dates.
- Hold yourself accountable to practicing kind gestures towards yourself and others. Try to avoid being harsh on yourself, and expecting others to join your “pity party.”
- Be charitable. We know the more we focus on those who may be in worse shape than us, helps both them and us. It helps our outlook on life when we give of our time, money and other resources in the benefit of the greater good. Offer to cut your neighbors’ lawn. Donate to a local food bank. Smile at a stranger in the grocery store. There is much to be gained walking around with a smile, rather than maintaining a frown during solitude.
- Spend some time of the day in meditation or prayer. Taking as little as 3 minutes to develop a practice of meditation, mindfulness or prayer. This could be an excellent way to reduce stress, clear your head and increase awareness of the situation and realize what you have control over and those things you don’t. There are numerous Youtube videos, books and apps that could assist with the basics of a meditation or mindfulness practice.
- Start a new hobby, or continue with an established one. Engaging in meaningful activities, such as gardening, music – vocal or instrumental, planning for future travels, or sharpening your cooking skills are all ways to enjoy the moment, while remaining in the home and following the CDC guidelines to flatten the curve of contagion.
- Finally, to remain hopeful. We know one thing in life is true, and that is – the inevitability of change. What has brought us to this solitude will also change before you know it. I don’t believe we should be imagining returning to the past behaviors, but allow this experience with the coronavirus to transform us into a more thoughtful, charitable and skillful (through hobbies) individual.
If you, or someone you love, has an issue with an alcohol or drug addiction, please contact us today at www.providencetreatment.com.
Peace and stay well!
William J. Heran, Ph.D., LCSW, SAP CEO/Co-Founder Providence Treatment Philadelphia, PA