Hello everybody, welcome to episode 66 of Optimal Living Advice. I’m your host, certified life coach Greg Audino. Today we’re gonna be hitting a couple of the big ones: living alone and doing so with loneliness and depression. Certainly right now, everyone’s wondering about them as we have to stay indoors for a bit. So let’s see if we can help the man who sent this question in and hopefully one or two others. Here’s the question…
QUESTION: “I live alone. What do you do to keep loneliness and depression away when you can’t work and can’t socialize, especially if you’re already prone to loneliness and depression and getting out helps?”
Listen to Greg narrate this post on Episode 66 of the podcast Optimal Living Advice.
Ok, great question. For anyone listening to this in the way future, do note that this question was sent in during the coronavirus, so if you find me alluding to what feels like abnormally long periods of time in isolation, that answers that.
In this time, I’ve gotta think that a lot of people will be facing the same feelings, especially depending on how long this goes on for.
You're Not Alone
The good news, now, for you, the asker of this question AND all of my other quarantiners out there living alone fighting the same battle is that this is, without doubt, the best opportunity you’ll ever get to confront these hardships head on. No, it’s not a support group, and no it’s not therapy (quite the opposite), but it’s a chance to really lean into the hard times when they may very well be piling on the most.
And for what it’s worth, in this way, you are very much not alone. You might be physically alone, but you might also find solace in knowing that this is a battle that you’re going through with many other people who have the same setbacks. You’re still part of a team, there are still people that understand and can sympathize with you.
With that in mind, let’s talk about what to expect and what to do about it.
What's your source of low confidence?
You could argue that the vast majority of hardship we all face is rooted in some form of low confidence. If there’s a major pain in your life, you’re not confident in who you are amidst that pain. It’s not to say the confidence can’t be rebuilt and it’s not to say that you should feel any shame whatsoever for this; it just is.
If you’re lonely, you’re not confident in who you are when not around other people.
If you’re grieving a loss, you’re not confident in how to live without the person you’ve lost.
If you have an eating disorder, you’re not confident in what will happen if you eat with moderation and thoughtlessness.
If you’re anxious, you’re not confident in how you’ll be able to function depending on the outcome of certain situations. The list goes on.
So a lack of confidence, where ever it may exist, is basically a detachment from your wholeness; a detachment from a certain part of yourself. You’re detached from self-satisfaction because you feel like it has to rely on this exterior thing – being around people, having your loved one back, eating in a specific way, controlling outcomes to situations, respectively.
Are you trying to fill the void of detachment?
If you’re lonely and depressed, and you’re saying that getting out and living your life helps you, it’s great that you take advantage of that ordinarily, but it’s ultimately a form of patchwork if there’s still an underlying issue when those things are taken away. It’s natural for everyone to feel a little extra lonely and depressed in this time, we all rely on socialization to different degrees, but any time our struggle spikes significantly when we’re absent of that which we usually rely on to help us feel better, we know that we’re sort of solving the problem in a paycheck to paycheck sort of way.
That’s the reason a lot of people are so bored right now, even when there's plenty of digital forms of entertainment at your fingertips. The more detached from who you are and the more you rely on exterior anythings to fill that void of detachment, the more bored you’re going to feel when those things aren’t there anymore and you’re forced to confront your identity for what it is.
How to Make Lasting Change
And now, whether it’s you facing your loneliness and depression, the bored people facing their boredom, or whomever, you have a very very good opportunity to make lasting change, like I mentioned.
It is in this period that I think two things are really useful.
1. Evaluate Yourself
First, is to evaluate yourself. Don’t think you can distract yourself through however long this quarantine lasts. Some distraction is fine, but a whole lot of reflection should come too, and it needs to come.
Take stock of your life. What have you been doing that you’re proud of, and how can it be maximized? Where could you pick up the slack, and how could you do that? How can you use this free time to come out of this thing better than you were before, and maybe better than you’ve ever been? In this reflection, hopefully you’ll also come to conclusions about what you might be doing to perpetuate your loneliness and depression, which would be a great discovery.
Think about your actions and their repercussions and you’re likely to find how you might be prolonging this pain in ways you don’t realize. That would, of course, be one of the areas in which you’d ideally start picking up the slack and making changes to your behavior.
For you, this might mean exploring the causes of your loneliness and depression and maybe journaling about them, reaching out to people you’d like to forgive and hearing what they have to say, and making lists of all the people that love and support and what they add to your life specifically. Whatever technique sounds helpful to you, now’s your golden chance to do it.
2. Focus on Your Values
Amidst your evaluation, you should also make a point of honing in on your values. If done correctly, that will springboard you into the second practical use of your time, which is to maintain those values and experiment with values you’ve not made time for by getting a little curious.
Try new things that sound fun and you think could add value to your life. Also, hammer home the things you do like in a way that’s fashioned for the quarantine. If you like learning, then spend a lot of time reading. If you like socializing, arrange group calls with friends. If you like exercising, create some freaky deeky bodyweight exercises. That’s what I’ve been doing and I’ll tell ya, I feel great.
Here’s the thing: the more you get in touch with the tough parts of yourself during this time of limited distraction, the better your long-term relationship with these parts of yourself will be.
When you practice self-affirmation, it lifts your spirits and is a form of self-control against a negative state of mind.
Living Alone: Bottom Line
You can still indulge in doses of the things that usually make you feel better, but you’ll still have plenty of time with just you.
That’s how you optimize this quarantine, which we should all definitely be doing. For those of us who fall short, however, and come out of this thing thinking they could’ve done more, things still aren’t that bad, because we’re all getting the test of our lives right now. There is a lot of hope to be had for when this thing is over, because there will be newfound strength in being alone and spending time with ourselves. If loneliness is your battle, I’m sure it’s linked with your depression.
You’re going to come out of this quarantine with a 99.9% chance that you’ll never have to endure this much loneliness ever again, and should you stay mindful, the individual nights at home alone when there’s no one around that have triggered your feelings up until this point – they’re going to feel like a cakewalk, and you might even find yourself being grateful knowing that you’ve endured much worse and come out of it just fine.
And there ya go, my dear friends. Thank you so much for tuning in today. I hope we were able to help everyone understand how to maximize this time indoors. I really can’t stress enough that it’s a great opportunity and there’s a lot of blessing amidst all this pain and confusion.
Anyway, I hope you’ll continue sending questions in as they arise for you. We love hearing what you have to say, so email us your concerns at advice AT oldpodcast DOT com
We’ll take your questions there and do our best to answer them here on the podcast. Stay safe everyone, I’m happy to have you all in my life. Now go make the most of everything. Talk to you later.
1. Society Register: Coronavirus COVID-19 disease, mental health and psychosocial support
2. Winter, R. (2002). Still bored in a culture of entertainment: Rediscovering passion & Wonder. InterVarsity Press.
3. Schmeichel, B. J., & Vohs, K. (2009). Self-affirmation and self-control: affirming core values counteracts ego depletion. Journal of personality and social psychology, 96(4), 770.
Listen to Greg narrate this post on Episode 66 of the podcast Optimal Living Advice.