By Gwenn Voelckers
Well, so much for that longed-for carefree summer.
Just as we were getting a taste of normalcy, a fourth wave of coronavirus infections began to sweep across the U.S. And as I write this, we are seeing an uptick in cases.
While many medical experts and the CDC warn things may get worse before they get better, they also say this can be turned around by getting vaccinated, wearing masks and continuing to practice social distancing.
I’m all in. And hope you are, too.
In the past, I’ve shared lots of “do’s” to help people live alone with more success. Here are a few “don’ts” — some lighthearted — that may also help you on your journey toward contentment in what continues to be changing and challenging times.
• Don’t make isolation a habit. This is a tricky one, because the times we’re in have called for social distancing. Problem is, social isolation can slowly, subtly morph into social anxiety, which can lead to feelings of disconnection or, worse, depression.
What started out as an essential mandate to keep ourselves and others safe has, for some, turned into an unhealthy habit.
There’s no one solution to breaking the cycle of social isolation, but there are a few tips I can share:
• Take a look at your situation and notice if you’ve stopped reaching out; and likewise, if people have stopped reaching out to you.
• Decide to ease back in slowly and suggest get-togethers (ideally outdoors) that feel safe to you.
• Try to accept invitations when they do come your way, even if you don’t feel like it.
• Ask for help, if you need it, by letting others know that you fear you are becoming a hermit.
We humans are social animals; we’re meant to be with others. Solitary confinement is for criminals, not for people who live alone. Stay connected!
• Don’t make Fruit Loops your main course for dinner. Well … maybe on occasion. But as a general rule? No. Create a nice place setting, fill your plate with something healthy, light a candle, select a beverage of choice, and enjoy some well-deserved time to yourself.
A favorite magazine, book or crossword puzzle can make for a nice dining companion. Bon appetit!
• Don’t go on an online shopping spree to fill an emotional void. Your savings account will thank you.
• Don’t put too much stock in that dreamcatcher. If you find yourself wide awake in the middle of night worrying about COVID-19 or fighting demons, you might try meditation, journaling, or aromatherapy.
When I can’t sleep, I fill my diffuser with lavender oil and do some deep breathing while I repeat the phrase, “Sleep is healing.” If that doesn’t do the trick, I get up and prepare myself “Sleepytime” herbal tea. I return to bed with fingers crossed and eyes closed. If all else fails, consult your doctor.
• Don’t jump into someone’s arms out of loneliness. Feelings of desperation can make you easy prey for a suitor with dubious intentions. It’s a risky place to be. Getting good at living alone will build your self-esteem and improve your chances of meeting someone who values and appreciates your strengths, not your weaknesses.
• Don’t be afraid to travel alone. When the time is right, hit the road! Some of my best trips have been taken with my favorite traveling companion: myself. I create my own itinerary, go at my own pace, see incredible places and meet all kinds of interesting people along the way.
Even a small jaunt can boost your confidence. On your own, you’ll discover your own resourcefulness, ability to solve problems, and capacity to spend enjoyable time alone. It can be an enlightening adventure in self-discovery.
• Don’t act your age. You are free, unencumbered and on your own. What better time to spread your wings, be silly and otherwise express your glorious, awesome self. Put yourself with people who make you laugh. For me, that’s my sister Anne. So, keep your sense humor. Even in serious times, funny things can happen.
I just read about a study that showed that laughing — even fake laughing — can reduce stress, dampen pain, lower your blood pressure, and strengthen your immune system. Now, that’s no laughing matter!
• Don’t underestimate the power of gratitude. I have found the process of reflecting on and writing down those things for which I’m grateful to be a fulfilling, even healing, exercise.
Think back over your day. Identify those things or people or places that made an impression on you or that touched your heart. Great or small, it could be the sound of a breeze through the trees, a new assignment at work, your daughter’s decision to go back to school, or a stranger’s warm hello in passing.
Start every day with an open heart and with a view to see the positive and the possibilities in life. If you bump into an obstacle, try to appreciate the opportunity it presents to overcome it. When you focus on the wonderful things in life, wonderful things begin to happen.
It reminds me of the law of attraction. Your positive thoughts and energy can become a magnet and draw even more positive thoughts and energy in your direction.
• Don’t take these “don’ts” too seriously. You are in the best position to decide what to do or not to do — no shoulds, musts, or other people’s agendas. That’s one of the best benefits of living alone.
Don’t I know it.
Gwenn Voelckers is the founder and facilitator of Alone and Content, empowerment workshops for women and author of “Alone and Content,” a collection of inspiring essays for those who live alone. For information about her workshops, to purchase her book, or invite Voelckers to speak, visit www.aloneandcontent.com