Guide to living alone

‘6 tips for Home Alone 5 – pandemic boogaloo’

Living alone can be the best and the worst thing. You’ve got time and freedom like never before, but living alone in a pandemic? That’s a whole new ballgame.

I’ve lived alone before but living alone during the pandemic was a real challenge. It was during this time I picked up some tips and tricks, or rather, realisations that have helped me enjoy my time alone.

Talking to yourself – it’s normal! – Many people associate talking to yourself with mental illness or the infamous ‘hearing voices’. However, in many cases talking to oneself is actually a healthy habit to get into.

One benefit of talking with yourself is that it can slow down your thinking, engaging linguistic brain areas and forcing yourself to process your thoughts differently. Hearing them aloud offers new possibilities in interpreting them and can prove useful for problem solving.

Not to mention, it can be nice just to have a little running monologue as things happen. Learning to make a joke out of something and learning to laugh with yourself are two skills that can really help during times of solitude. Common Cognitive Psychological approaches view our cognitions (our thoughts) as integral to the development of mental health conditions. With negative cognitions and interpretations forcing the individual onto a dark path.

So, try chatting with yourself, learn to enjoy the conversation.

Nobody wants to hear it but – eat well. – I know if you’re anything like me you have been bombarded with healthy eating slogans and marketing from primary school all through to adulthood. It’s tiring and can make us feel guilty for eating anything other than raw salads and purified water!

Just try to provide your body with the right nutrients. Try and get some leafy greens, low fat sources of protein, Vitamin C rich foods such as peppers and vitamin D rich foods such as mushrooms into your diet. Add a touch of spice and once bland vegetables become all the more exciting. If mental health is a concern try looking up the Mediterranean Diet – studies suggest this diet can reduce symptoms of low mood, and depression. It’s well worth a try!

Most of us struggle with what to make, bored of the 5 meals you know how to cook, it’s dinner time again. If this sounds familiar, try looking up vegan or vegetarian recipes. By necessity, these recipes have to be inventive to add flavours and textures you lose when removing the meat, and as such they offer a new world of possibilities for you to try. And there’s no reason you can’t add meat to it if that’s what you fancy!

Even better, dark chocolate and red wine have been shown to reduce chances of blood clots, something we’re more and more at risk of the longer we sit at home unmoving. So, crack open a bottle and enjoy, knowing you’re treating your body to what it deserves.

The kitchen is the heart of the home and food is a universal comfort blanket, so don’t forget to take a moment to purposefully enjoy what you’re eating.

Stay connected! – Abuse of Zoom is peak lockdown one behaviour, with people joining group calls to speak to people they wouldn’t normally have seen either way, even without a lockdown.

That aside, it’s still important to keep in contact with others if you’re living alone. Social contact and support offer numerous mental and physical benefits. Even if there’s nothing left to say, a chat here and there can go a long way in the isolation.

Another option open to you is hotlines. Now you may have your reservations about contacting a hotline, but ones such as the ‘SHOUT’ text line I volunteer for is open to everyone. 

Avoid doom scrolling. – It’s easily done, you go onto your platform of choice – Twitter, Facebook, TikTok etc. – you read one post, then another and another! The next thing you know it’s 3am and you’re sat in the dark in your room shaking with terror at the sh*t show that is the world currently.

Sitting for hours looking at all the bad things in the world does nothing for the world, does nothing for you and doesn’t help you get through this tough time we’re all facing.

Find your muse. – Hobbies, particularly creative ones, give us the chance to stretch our creative minds and exercise our skills. Finding what’s right for you is down to you. Regardless of what you choose, hobbies provide psychological benefits that shouldn’t be ignored.

Additionally, the act of carrying out a hobby or interest alone like this teaches us how to be alone in a way unlike anything else. There’s no deadline, there’s no specific rules or demands that must be met. Many people, myself included, find cooking to be very therapeutic. Try not to see it as a chore but as an opportunity, a challenge, or a moment just for yourself to enjoy. Switch off your laptop and turn on some music, pour a glass of wine and get cooking. See it as a moment for creativity and experimentation, learning to appreciate the process can set you up to enjoying food more and feeling the sense of accomplishment when you create a culinary masterpiece.

Whatever you choose to do, enjoy your moment alone with your paintbrush, pencils, spatula, or saxophone!

Mindfulness. – You’ve probably heard a lot about mindfulness lately. Along with certain meditation and sleep apps there has been a real uptake in interest in such approaches to finding your zen space. There’s plenty to choose from and I’m not going to recommend any specific ones here, that is up to you! However, I do recommend looking into incorporating mindfulness principles into your daily life. Even better add meditation into your daily routine.

It’s worth a try and can really give you some peace of mind if you struggle with anxiety or low mood/depression.

So there you go, my tips and tricks for living alone. None alone are ground-breaking and none of them will suddenly alter your life, but each represent an opportunity to focus your time and energy on the positives in what can be a very drab and dull existence.

Good luck out there,

Joel x


Going back to normal – tips for social anxiety

For many of us the return to normality is an exciting prospect, but it also conjures up a mix of emotions. For many of us, lockdown has felt like an unending slog – nothing to do nothing to say.

The opportunity to go back to the pub, to wine and dine with our friends is an exciting prospect. But for many of us, while lockdown has been isolating and depressing, it has also offered us the opportunity to indulge the avoidance side of our anxiety.

Photo by Chris F on

For those with social anxiety there is a constant nagging desire to avoid situations that provoke our anxieties. Whether it be showing up to lectures, public speaking or something entirely different we always want to avoid the things that stress us out. Lockdown posed a unique situation in which we suddenly had all our triggers removed.

For a year now we’ve lived without the worries of our day to day life intruding as it used to. Yet now, with the UK opening back up many of us are facing a sudden and potentially uncomfortable reintroduction to life as it was before.

If you share this preoccupation with the anxiety of returning to life as we know it here are a few tips for if your anxieties makes an appearance.

1. Breathe

I always hate to see this ‘tip’, as it always seems like the most obvious thing. Mental health staff and resources love to say ‘take long deep breaths’ when you feel anxious. This may help. But what’s better is to focus on maintaining a full and relaxed cycle of breathing to reduce chances of anxiety taking hold.

2. Grounding techniques

If you feel your anxiety building up, try and engage in grounding techniques. Grounding refers to techniques you can use to distract yourself from your anxieties and prevent the cycle from reaching a full blown panic attack.

The details on grounding techniques can be found here. You can try apps for grounding or even name things you can see in the room. The point of these exercises are to show you that you can choose to divorce yourself from the wave of anxiety and focus on something else. Repeated use of these techniques can help ‘prove’ this to yourself and thus improve its effectiveness.

3. Tell a friend

If you’re going out with friends, talk to them about how you feel. If something in particular is worrying you about your plans, tell them if you can.

When I was anxious I would feel incredibly nauseous and developed a phobia of being sick in public. Naturally whenever I went somewhere it was the only thing on my mind, making the symptoms even worse.

Speaking to a friend made me relax, knowing they knew what was going on and that they understood if I needed to step outside or leave helped relieve my anxieties.

Which leads me onto the fourth tip.

4. Plan your escape route

It may sound dramatic, but often just knowing how to escape a stressful situation can make it more barrable.

When I felt anxious in lectures, I often got caught up in worries about how to leave without people noticing. This obsession of course led me straight to feeling anxious.

However, if you have a way of getting out of the situation that you have rationalised and know is safe, it can act as a comfort. I tried letting my lecturers know I may need to step out on occasions.

This can act as a comfort blanket, resulting in a reduction in overall anxiety.

5. Don’t go into situations expectant

In my experience, I often felt anxious when I went into a situation with high expectations and a high desire to control things.

In my head things ‘had’ to go to plan, i.e., I shouldn’t feel anxious and if I did that was the worst thing ever.

What’s more, I would go into situations telling myself I ‘had’ to be the most confident or sociable I could be, and if I didn’t live up to this I had failed.

The desire for control set me up to fail each time. Wanting to control everything and live up to my own standards made me hyper aware of how I wasn’t living up to these standards. Making me anxious about being anxious.

It’s better to be realistic. Socializing is not life or death. You can leave if you feel anxious, you do not need to live up to any standards – socializing is meant to be fun.

Paradoxical as it may sound, try to go into situations acceptant that things may not go to plan and they may go even better than if you try to make everything go perfectly to your pre-imagined idea of how it ‘should’ go.

Take it easy

Most importantly, try to enjoy this new freedom. Try not to be tough on yourself.

Rather than focusing on what you ‘should’ or ‘must’ do, try to think in terms of what you would like or prefer.

For more tips, look no further!