Feeling Lonely in Lockdown?

If so, it’s NORMAL.

In Ireland, we have six weeks in Level 5 so while I won’t be missing my 45th birthday (wherever I go – or in this case, stay – there I am), I won’t be celebrating as hoped.

Still, we get to exercise within 5km of our homes and meet up to one other household away from our homes within that distance, too.

And this time, we ‘adults living alone’ get to join a SOCIAL BUBBLE so I can join another household.

This makes an enormous difference to me.

I am over the MOON.

The ‘Care hormone’

Oxytocin is a hormone we create with skin to skin contact.

Obviously, there’s less of that for a lot of people at the moment but it’s not the only way we can create it.

Studies have shown that even things like singing together – choirs and groups are practicing online and still benefitting – boost oxytocin.

The more we have, the more snuggly and secure we feel in the world. We’re more likely to reach out to ask for help or to offer support to others in need (ie humans).

Unfortunately, when we feel rejected or uncared for, we produce less and it becomes harder to reconnect. We become emotionally brittle and bat away friendliness and love.

If you’re eligible to join a bubble, PLEASE ask. Even if your first attempts don’t succeed (people have complicated lives and they may already be bubbly), know that it’s NORMAL to feel rejected and like you can’t be bothered to try anyone else.

The pain you might be feeling is simply your physiology trying to protect you but, as below, we need others to coregulate. To feel safe.

It’s soooo worth persevering.

If you’re reading this and you’re NOT a single parent or adult living alone, maybe you and your fellow household humans can talk about single souls who may well be struggling beneath their smiles or grumpiness.

Maybe you can offer becoming bubbly with them.

Spooky season is ideal for shadow work

Before finding out about the bubbles, I did a lot of shadow work on myself over the weekend after feeling quite bereft on Friday at the idea of (much as I love her) JUST being able to commune with Rainbow MagnifiCat.

I’m mostly healthy and happy and yet the idea of a stricter lockdown sent my mood plummeting.

Mental health is an enormous consideration with loneliness having been declared a public health risk (and not supporting healthy brain aging let alone healthy heart aging) long before Covid_19.

It’s incredibly sad to think of people who are already struggling having to deal with worse.

So I got curious about this ‘needy and desperate’ part of me that:

  • likes other people
  • that MISSES HUGS etc
  • that, while loving living alone, felt almost tearful at the idea of no one seeing my silly Hallowe’en decorations

I’ve never felt more normal in my life

When I shone that light – with as much curiosity and compassion as I could muster – on my shameful enjoyment of my fellow inhabitants of earth, I realised that these are very human needs and wants.

Nothing to be ashamed about at all.

We humans NEED other humans to coregulate (ie help ourselves feel safe enough to relax). It’s not the ONLY way but it’s an incredibly powerful way.

In trauma therapy, we know that trauma survivors who are able to connect with loved ones during or straight after do better in terms of minimising PTSD

Interpersonal trauma is more challenging to recover from than natural disasters because our fellow humans – maybe even loved ones we trusted / depended on – are the ones who hurt us.

But generally, we’re wired to relax around the humans we feel most connected to.

So many people are hurting again

Small businesses that had recently reopened are having to close again. People have lost their jobs. It’s awful.

Restrictions mean that lots of people are getting horrifying news alone. Hopefully, they’ll be able to meet a loved one right outside the hospital (etc) and coregulate then but, ideal world, they’d have that emotional support that does so much more, helping the whole nervous system find that place of safety, in the doctor’s office (or wherever).

Therapy works because we heal in relationship to another human. For some, that connection can feel impossible. Yoga therapy is wonderful because it’s body work people can do for themselves, getting some of the recovery and safety in a manageable way.

We are going through the collective trauma of a global pandemic

I feel sheltered from the worst of it – I don’t know when I’ll be able to offer face to face self care coaching, therapy and supervision again but am busy with the online sessions.

The people I know personally who’ve had Covid_19 have all recovered.

I know, more distantly, people who’ve not been so lucky (someone my own age with stroke like symptoms MONTHS later).

Personally, I’ve been incredibly lucky in that I only need to wear a mask in public and keep my distance from loved ones and strangers.

Sure, I sometimes (often) want to run up and hug them but I’ve been socialised to not do this. They’re safe.

Still, there’s something discombobulating about knowing that so many people have died and have really suffered with it.

Especially because we might not know we’re passing it on. Even writing this feels like the stuff of a Stephen King novel or something.

And the impact of the restrictions on mental health and wellbeing as well as people’s livelihoods…

There’s a surreal element to it all even now.

And it’s unlike anything most of us have ever lived through.

Everyone’s doing their best

For some people, being asked to wear a mask isn’t just about being asked to keep others safe from something ANY of us might unknowingly have.

Some seem to act as if it’s not a temporary measure for a few short minutes at a time for most of us but an apocalyptic hellscape that will last for the rest of our lives.

It seems to be triggering a deeper fear as if it’s somehow shameful (someone said something about how he might as well ring a leprosy bell).

As if wearing a mask mean’s there’s something WRONG with them rather than it simply being a bit like being asked to wear a seatbelt in a car.

Whether you’ve lost loved ones, are struggling to recover yourself or know no one who’s had it, it’s NORMAL to want to stamp our feet and / or fling caution to the wind and party and hug etc.

We can work with these shadow parts of ourselves – that feel selfish, afraid, scared, judgmental etc etc – and HEAL.

And the sooner we all pull together (metaphorically – social distancing obv), the fewer lives, jobs and businesses will be lost.

Help yourself

Last time, I wrote about ways in which we can hug trees, the earth, give ourselves Butterfly Hugs etc

I hope these additional self care ideas for making Post Traumatic Growth more likely help

When it hits, do what you can to take care of yourself – I hope these ideas help and you’ll find many more free self care coaching tools and mind body practices to help you manage the coronacoaster HERE

If you’d like a more structured approach, there’s the Call of the Wild ~ online membership programme

You can also do tiny little things that AREN’T the same as what we’d have gone for in February but will help ease things a bit now.

These include:

Making plans for the future – give yourself as much to look forward to as possible. It may mean meeting up with people (away from homes, in Ireland from one other household within 5k) or using technology in a way that feels good.

Have as many In Real Time connections as possible – they still won’t feel AS good as in person but are better (be it a phone call or video chat) than messaging back and forth, wondering if you were misunderstood.

Make choices that feel good, like supporting local businesses by buying online and by telephone so they’re more likely to reopen when safe to do so. In Westport. Co Mayo, Ireland (or wherever you’re based as you can potentially order online), the Support Westport Local Business page is worth a follow on Facebook.

Shine as much light as possible on whatever’s coming up for healing for you

It’s nothing to be ashamed of.

It’s simply information.

Younger Me would have dismissed the idea of missing humans as weak and needy and it would have bubbled away making me feel worse.

Instead, I quickly realised, ‘Doh! I’m a human being!’

Journal. This might be long, articulate pages of prose (or any kind of writing or expressive art) OR a simple Self Care Audit each day:

On one side of the page, write ‘What helped me feel better’ and on the other ‘What didn’t’ (or whatever words feel more appropriate for you).

Underline and draw a line through the middle.

Think back on your day. What did you do today that helped?

What made things worse?

You can do this every day to notice patterns and build a cohesive picture of the self care practices that help YOU the most – as well as getting to know (with compassion and curiosity) what you do to sabotage yourself.

It’s also a great time to consider talking to a therapist (talk to a few if necessary and find someone you feel comfortable working with).

You deserve support and fun

Until these latest measures were announced and the bubble specifically mentioned adults living alone, I’d felt bad for wanting to join a bubble and also spoiled when so many people (eg already housebound, older, ill, depressed etc) have it so much worse.

But self care is about prevention as much as recovery.

We’re going into winter and the more we can all do – while minimising the spread and following public health guidelines – to feel better, the healthier we’ll stay mentally.

If you don’t already have someone / a household to bubble with, ASK. Now is a wonderful time to reach out (again, metaphorically) and know that lots of people want to connect as much as possible.

With love,

Eve Menezes Cunningham self care coach therapist supervisor

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