It’s okay to feel lonely while we’re encouraged to isolate, but it can be used to our advantage.
One of the most pivotal moments for teenagers-turned-young-adults is leaving home and beginning to live on your own. Whether it’s your first apartment, a campus dorm room, or even your first house, living by yourself offers a newfound sense of freedom in your life.
However, loneliness takes a new meaning when you’re living alone for the first time in the middle of a pandemic. We used to only worry about meals we have to learn to cook or how to do our own laundry. Now however, the biggest issue to face is the natural feeling of isolation which comes from living alone and the need to stay inside. The biggest piece of advice to share is to not let the fear of living alone overwhelm you.
At least for me, the routine I have found myself reliving every day is wake up, eat, sit at my desk for class, eat again, watch Netflix, and go to sleep. When I start to dwell on this boring pattern for long I begin to see my anxiety grow and the loneliness set in. Being in my first apartment this year, I have learned some things and have come to new realizations that could possibly help you fight off the feeling of isolation as well.
Socialization is important in so many areas of our lives, especially for mental health. If you’re living with roommates, I challenge you to befriend them if you have not already and reach out to them if you need someone to be with. Having dinner together, cooking meals together, watching movies, or doing homework together could be simple ways to grow closer as roommates and hopefully flourish into friendship. However, if you don’t have roommates or don’t particularly get along with yours; don’t stress. You don’t have to be best friends with your roommates in order to not feel lonesome. Virtual socialization can be just as comforting and fun as being with someone in person. Contact friends you have from home or friends you have living in the same city as you and connect virtually through Facetime, Netflix Party, or even going to a park together while practicing safe social distancing and following healthy guidelines. Remember, everyone feels lonely. As a matter of fact, UT has a loneliness hotline on the CMCH website which can help you deal with the anxiety that comes from isolation. It is natural especially when living alone to feel lonely, but don’t let it stop you from enjoying your time with you.
Living by yourself drives you to find yourself. I know it can be scary, but being alone has benefits as well. Loneliness can be a force used to encourage yourself to get your life together. Think of it this way: we have all the time in the world right now to focus on ourselves and come to terms with loneliness. So make the most of it. Make self-care important to you, and take time out of your days to do something for yourself. Sometimes when I feel lonely in my apartment I think, “what is something I could do to enjoy by myself?” By asking myself this question, I am learning more about who I am and becoming my own best friend. This leads me to switch up my routines or simply find new things I enjoy doing alone. One of my favorite new activities is buying candles for myself and lighting them in my room while I’m doing work or taking a bath. It is incredibly comforting to walk into your room and have it smell good. I asked a few friends what their favorite thing to do alone is and the common consensus is trying to be put together even though you’re not leaving your room. Cleaning your room or apartment can help you feel accomplished and comfortable in a huge way. Additionally, taking a shower, doing your hair, putting on some makeup, or dressing up cute can all be valid ways to make yourself happier and feel successful without leaving your home. Any small task or goal you set for yourself can make the biggest difference. Another friend who lived by herself for the entire summer said she found art as a wonderful escape and something that made her happy and less lonely.
One of the most helpful tips I have received is the importance of decorating your own space. Copious amounts of cash is not a requirement to do this either. Put the things that you enjoy in your space and it will help with loneliness or feeling out of place. I’m sure the new bed you’re sleeping in doesn’t yet have that comforting feeling of your bed at home, but you will get there. Being in a cozy environment gives a certain sense of purpose that dims the feeling of being lonely.
Lastly, I do want to encourage you to get outside if you can. My bedroom at my apartment has no windows, so I often feel low or discouraged throughout the day which leads to loneliness. Whenever I go outside however, I instantly feel better and more connected to the rest of the world. This can mean different things for whoever or wherever you are. Going to a nearby park and doing classwork, getting up and going on a walk in the morning around the place you live, or even taking a walk through campus are all good ideas to get you into the daylight. Being outside naturally boosts your energy levels and happiness. Free aromatherapy and a boosted immune system are also benefits of spending just 30 minutes a day outside.
Remember to take everything at your own pace. Living alone is terrifying to some and with the climate of today’s world where we are encouraged to spend most of our time indoors, there is lots of room for growth and development in yourself. So yes, you need to learn how to cook, clean, do laundry, and set a routine for yourself, but the good thing is that you have all the time in the world to do it. Finding a groove that works for you takes time. If you feel extra isolated right now please don’t tear yourself apart trying to fix it. Small goals are a big help. Talk to friends, cook yourself your favorite meal, take a bath, paint a picture, or anything else that makes you happy with yourself. If you do feel extreme isolation or loneliness, never hesitate to reach out to someone. However, use this time of confinement and the feeling of aloneness to challenge yourself and learn things about yourself that you might not have seen before.