Finding your own space during isolation would have seemed like a nonsensical sentence just a few weeks ago. Now though there are many people staying at home with the people they live with. Whilst it can be a great source of comfort to have some loved ones close, lots of people might be struggling with the lack of their own space and some quality ‘me’ time.
That time to yourself can be the equivalent of charging an electronic device. Just like those devices some people need more charging than others. In their usual everyday life people might take various steps to allow themselves that alone time to clear their head and energise themselves for the next social interaction they will face. Some might pull over in their car on the way home from work, to get maybe ten to fifteen minutes quiet time before they get home. Others may go for a walk at dinner time to get out of the office and be away from people for a while. A trip to the cinema, eating out, a visit to the gym or a game of golf by themselves might be to enjoy the film, the food, the work out or the game – but it may also be to have some time to themselves.
As soon as recommendations to stay at home came into place, a lot of people focused on ways to keep in touch and continue to socialise. Group chats and video calls have suddenly become a stable part of many people’s lives. Whilst people have also remembered that their phone has the capacity to make phone calls as well as all the other functions. One way or another many people are spending more time than ever communicating with their friends or family. The advanced state of communication technology has undoubtedly been a massive boost to many people, and it will be one of the biggest factors in getting them through this situation with their mental health intact. For others though the constant notifications from group chats, that people are always asking them to join group video calls and that people they haven’t spoken to on the phone for years are now ringing them every other day is making them feel worse and overwhelmed rather than better.
As well as all those people using technology to keep in touch with you, if you are isolating at home with other people then being around them constantly can be difficult for some people no matter how much they love those people. At times like this it is more important than ever that we understand ourselves and how each of us is different. Some need to be around people and communicating all the time like the ultimate party host that is always checking in with everyone at the party, others would be happy being a lighthouse keeper and not seeing another person for weeks, most are somewhere in between. It can be difficult for the party host to understand why the lighthouse keeper needs so much time by themselves, equally for the lighthouse keeper to get why the host needs to be around people almost constantly.
If you feel like you are a light housekeeper in a world full of party hosts, right now could be an incredibly difficult time for you. Getting through it starts with understanding your needs and how they might be different from others. Once you realise the importance of your own space and that you have been finding it for years perhaps without you even realising what you were doing, then you can set about finding it in these virtually unique times. The next step might be to explain to the people you live with just how important time to yourself is, and that they shouldn’t take it personal at all when you go off by yourself.
Mobile phones have changed a lot over a short space of time, but one function that has remained the same is turning it off, it is still possible to do that. It could be useful for some people to have a designated hour or so each day when they switch it off. Equally having a full day without it might have a cleansing effect on the mind and soul. If you are in group chats then you can mute the notifications and catch up on the chat if and when you feel like it. When an individual messages or calls you, just because you might no longer be able to pretend that you are out or busy, does not mean that you are obliged to reply to the message straight away or answer the call. You can always explain later that you are having some time away from your phone.
Taking advantage of the daily exercise allowance could be crucial for light house keepers. This could be the perfect quality alone time with no distractions. One pitfall could be that the party hosts in your household think that the daily exercise is another great chance for a group activity. This is when you can use your assertiveness to explain the importance of you taking some exercise alone. Assertiveness is not the same as aggressiveness, it should be a case of explaining your point so that everybody is left with a feeling of ‘I’m okay and you’re okay.’ For example you might explain that by having some exercise by yourself that you will be in a much better mood, and far more likely to join in with the planned family game of monopoly that evening and maybe even be able to enjoy it!
As well as literally getting out to some space of your own once a day, you can work on ways to create a feeling of having your own space whilst in the house with other people. If you don’t use any already it might be an excellent time to learn some mindfulness techniques. On top of that try to find some time each day to be by yourself, could be reading a book, watching something, using headphones to listen to something or simply lying down in a quiet room – if you have one in your house!
If people had kept turning up at light houses to start parties, the chances are many of the keepers would have found it unbearable. Just as a party host would not be able to cope with staying in the lighthouse by themselves for a week or two. This virus has highlighted one of many ways that people can be different, not better or worse just different. It’s totally okay to be a lighthouse keeper, without you boats would crash, and when the party hosts eventually run out of energy and crash themselves, you will be the one there to pick them up. They just need to understand how to help prevent you from crashing in the first place.