Being ordered to shelter in place doesn’t sound so bad if you are confined at home with your loved ones. Sure, there will be issues with space and boundaries, but there is also the opportunity to enjoy the kind of quality time that is impossible with typical work schedules.
For people who live alone, however, even those who usually claim to love the solitude and independence, can find the experience challenging.
Home Sweet Home or House Arrest?
We all know people who would rather stay in than go out. Some of them have lived alone for years, and would not have it any other way. Some are homebodies by nature, others work long hours and view home as a sanctuary, a place to escape the pressures of the day. For these people, having state and local governments announce public restrictions ordering people to stay at home in the wake of the COVID-19 outbreak was a dream come true. They did not need to be told twice. Safely sheltered in place, they are content, and comfortable — as long as their paychecks permit. But unfortunately, not everyone who lives alone feels this way.
While happy loners are occupied with teleworking, television, or transforming their garage into a makeshift home-improvement studio, some singles are miserable. For people prone to feelings of loneliness, even within a crowd, quarantine feels like house arrest. Reviewing past research, there is precedent for this perception.
Need for Social Support While Social Distancing
Maureen A. Cava, et al. investigated the experience of quarantine during the 2003 severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) outbreak in Toronto, Canada. They found that of the 21 participants they interviewed, common themes included isolation, uncertainty and coping. They concluded that public support should include not only a component of monitoring compliance, but also providing support.
For singles, even those not predisposed to feelings of loneliness or depression, support is available through remaining socially engaged while physically distant. Thankfully, there are currently many ways to enjoy faith, family and friends from afar.
Sharing the Great Outdoors
Many people who are taking regular walks or bike rides report never having seen so many pedestrians out and about, waving and greeting each other from safe social distances. Weather permitting, many people taking advantage of the great outdoors not only report feeling the health benefits themselves, the consistent exercise benefits pets as well, who are delighted to be spending so much time with their owners.
And people seem to be particularly outgoing when their social lives are curtailed. Walkers, joggers and bikers marvel at how approachable (figuratively speaking) other pedestrians seem to be during this challenging period.
With the proper precautions and sanitization procedures, people are encouraged to share resources. Ideally, by the time most people decide to play it safe and stay home, they are stocked up enough to be comfortable, but not overloaded.
Many experts reminded us that there was no need to buy 100 rolls of toilet paper, because stores are restocking, not going out of business. But if you already went overboard and find yourself overstocked, share with others in need. This is a welcome act of charity, and also gives you an opportunity to meet new neighbors and make new friends.
Sharing Virtual Space
Some people routinely conduct online meetings and conference calls in a professional setting. But on a personal level, even tech savvy singles are cautious, but curious. With almost every type of social group now offering online events, why not go? From virtual happy hours, to church services, to book clubs and exercise classes, there are gatherings and get-togethers every day of the week.
Some singles personalize the experience by dressing up for a virtual night out on the town and angling their computer screens to frame a carefully staged backdrop, in order to capitalize on first impressions. For others who are just dipping a toe in the water, audio-only options afford a method of easing into a new social group at a slower pace, using a well-designed, attractive avatar.
Savoring Surviving Solo
Social distancing does not mean flying solo. Although obviously, virtual company is no substitute for the real thing, the plethora of options today allows people to remain safe at home, but socially engaged. Singles who tout the benefits of living alone have the benefit of both worlds.
This column was originally published in Psychology Today.
Wendy L. Patrick is a career prosecutor, named the Ronald M. George Public Lawyer of the Year, and recognized by her peers as one of the Top Ten criminal attorneys in San Diego by the San Diego Daily Transcript. She has completed over 150 trials ranging from human trafficking, to domestic violence, to first-degree murder. She is President of the Association of Threat Assessment Professionals San Diego Chapter and an ATAP Certified Threat Manager. Dr. Patrick is a frequent media commentator with over 4,000 appearances including CNN, Fox News Channel, Newsmax, and many others. She is author of "Red Flags" (St. Martin´s Press), and co-author of the revised version of the New York Times bestseller "Reading People" (Random House). On a personal note, Dr. Patrick holds a purple belt in Shorin-Ryu karate, is a concert violinist with the La Jolla Symphony, and plays the electric violin with a rock band. To read more of her reports — Click Here Now.
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