...Answering life's difficult questions.
Q: I’m a thirty year old man whose sole focus in life is my work. I live on my own in a flat and I have been furloughed. I’m lonely and I’m struggling to cope with being at home all day with nothing to do.
A: These are unprecedented times and it is not surprising that you are struggling to know what to do, particularly as your normal routine is centred around work. It is very easy to get into a downward spiral of low mood and low motivation when we lose our sense of purpose and the more inactive we are, both mentally and physically, the greater the potential for mental health issues.
Whilst you live alone, it is important that you don’t lose contact with the outside world; as human beings we were not meant to live in an isolated state. Having time on your hands can be a great opportunity to maintain contact with family, friends and colleagues and there are lots of ways to maintain contact via technology. I recently heard a story about the police being called to someone’s home as the individual was thought to be having a party; when the police arrived, he was indeed having a party, but he was having it online with his friends!
I hope that you have the opportunity to take some exercise outside of your flat, but if this is not possible, there are lots of ways in which you can take care of your mental and physical health. Trying something new at this time can be fun and, you never know, you may end up with a new hobby for the longer term! Some people are discovering a talent for gardening and supermarkets appear to be increasing their supply of plants and flowers at the moment. Having a responsibility for something living can have a very positive impact on mental health, whilst also giving a sense of purpose and routine around caring for it. Making sure that your space is comfortable and nurturing can also help. This might be a good time to reorganise your home, introducing uplifting colours or mood lighting, or simply opening the curtains and window to let in light and fresh air, which may also help to lift your mood.
It is widely understood that physical exercise not only helps to boost our fitness levels and immune system, which is particularly important at this time, but it also has a positive impact on our mental health. There are lots of opportunities at the moment to join in various fitness or relaxation classes online, many of them are live and free and worth taking advantage of. Building regular classes into you week can give you both something to look forward to and an opportunity to develop some structure to your days.
A daily wall chart/planner/diary can be particularly helpful in creating structure; hang it somewhere visible and spread your various activity throughout the day. It can be helpful to note the time for getting up and going to bed; routine around this is helpful, as it is very easy to create bad habits around sleep, which are then difficult to break. It is also helpful to factor in regular meal times (and healthy eating habits); remember that food is fuel and if we eat well this is bound to have a positive impact on our general health. Limiting alcohol and avoiding other substances is also recommended; it is very easy to establish a dependancy at the very least.
I hope that you all able to cope well during this time of isolation, but if you continue to struggle and if it would be helpful to talk to someone outside of your immediate support network, then you may wish to consider the possibility of some counselling support. I wish you well.