When I married myself five years ago, it was to celebrate self love – to stop chasing the ‘happily ever after’ and start living the ‘happily ever now’. Since then, I’ve no longer felt the need to apologise for my single status and have found being a sologamist very empowering. I really enjoy my own company and find peace in solitude. So, last year, when the Coronavirus struck, I thought I’d cope with a solo lockdown ok, after all, I’m no stranger to filling my own cup!
However, it didn’t take long before I found myself plunging into despair. The months of isolation stretching ahead of me felt insurmountable and I started to question whether or not I could actually live with myself for so long. This past year, like so many other people, I’ve had to dig deeper into my reserves of self love than ever, and the experience has been humbling. It’s reminded me just how much self love is a journey, not a destination.
The pandemic has forced more people to spend time with themselves, reshaping and broadening the way we address our own mental and physical wellbeing. I think it’s really important that we hang onto the lessons we’ve learned and use these coping tools to deal with any lingering after-effects. After all, self love is for life, not just the pandemic!
Here are my top ten self love strategies for coping with the ‘new normal’:
- Be kind to loneliness
I often talk about how important it is to have self-compassion but then realised, over lockdown, that when I feel lonely I often deny it. I’m embarrassed by it. I find it hard to admit to other people and myself when ‘I am lonely’. There is, of course, no need to be ashamed of loneliness; we’re social creatures who need human contact to thrive and we all feel isolated from others at times, whether that’s physically or emotionally. I’ve found that sitting with loneliness and really understanding it has helped to loosen its grip. No man is an island; we’re all involved in mankind and we want to belong. When we feel lonely it’s a signal that we need to do something to make us feel reconnected.
- Empathy is healing
This past year has been awful on many levels; as well as being cut off from our communities, we’ve lived in fear of sickness and death. What’s so unusual is that it’s been a uniquely shared experience, like a world war. As well as feeling sorry for myself, I’ve felt sorry for everyone else. The pandemic has challenged everyone. I’ve volunteered for local charities and also made sure I check in on friends and family more regularly than usual and it’s made me realise how powerful empathy can be. When we acknowledge our greatest fears, we can recognise them in others and offer some comfort. This in itself can be a very healing process. Helping someone else, whether that’s practically or emotionally, can widen our perspective and make us feel useful.
- Conscious online behaviour
Although social media and networking apps can help us to feel connected and engaged, we need to be aware how easy it is to become over sensitive to other people’s opinions, especially when morale is low. Our cluttered feeds can trigger a host of negative feelings, particularly this past year, when there’s been so much bad news and heightened emotion. We need to be conscious of why we use certain online channels and how they affect us. When I’m starting to feel unsettled, I’ve realised it is time to turn away from the virtual world and do something grounding.
Our recent period of self-isolation has meant that many of us have had to tap into our inner parents and find ways to comfort ourselves. We all have different individual techniques of self-soothing, whether that’s listening to music, having a hot bath, doing exercise, lying under a blanket watching trash TV, or even having a cathartic cry into a pillow. The important thing is not to attach any guilt or judgment to our methods, as long as they’re helping us to feel better. I find that focusing on things that appeal to my physical senses – sight, smell, sound, touch, taste – really help to calm me down and bring me back to the present moment.
- Create a sanctuary
Having spent a mind-boggling amount of time at home recently has meant that I finally got around to doing lots of odd jobs that I’ve managed to procrastinate about for years. I’ve really enjoyed the process of making small improvements and adding pleasant touches to brighten up my space. After all, our homes are our own blank canvas, the one place that we should feel safe and happy. Taking pride and care with our immediate environment can help to make us feel more secure.
- Seek out nature
Often when we’re lonely, we yearn for human communication but, in the absence of that, nature can be a great substitute. Taking walks by the sea and across the countryside has been saving grace for me this past year. Being outdoors in a natural environment can bring a sense of companionship, and a connection to something bigger than ourselves. Even when we can’t access nature, we can bring it into our homes with plants and pictures of natural scenes, opening windows for fresh air and natural light.
- Keep learning
When our usual self-care strategies aren’t making us feel better, sometimes trying out something completely different can really shake things up. The very act of learning means we’re fully engaged with the task in hand and automatically take on a growth mindset; whether we’re discovering a new language, a new instrument, a new exercise, a new recipe, a new book, a new hobby etc. We can get a deep sense of satisfaction from doing what we’re naturally drawn to, even if we only practice it for a short amount of time each day. Improving our individual skills and pursuing our passions can really help to deepen our sense of purpose and give us a sense of achievement.
- Make space for solitude
As we move toward greater freedom, we mustn’t forget that, though isolation has not been fun, solitude remains very powerful. It is still important to consciously remove ourselves from stressful environments and societal pressures, make space for reflection, and embrace the JOMO (joy of missing out). Spending time alone is a form of meditation – on ourselves and the world around us. It means we can check in on our emotional state and make adjustments where needed.
- Simple pleasures
Social distance makes the heart grow fonder; one of the main things we’ve missed over lockdown is contact with loved ones – being able to sit and chat with family and friends. We’ve also been deprived of the very simple freedom of movement – being able to step outside our house and go wherever we choose. In the aftermath, it’s worth holding onto the gratitude we now feel for these basic pleasures and live more mindfully. All the other trappings of life pale in significance when we just stop and notice how good it feels to have the sun on our face or make a friend smile.
- Embrace your authentic self
While being deprived of human contact hasn’t been much fun, it has meant that we’ve had more time to experiment with our identities in private. Away from society’s gaze, many of us have taken the opportunity to go a bit feral, allowing our bodies to do their own thing. With salons and spas shut, we’ve neglected certain ‘beautifying’ routines, we’ve grown out hairstyles and dyes, we’ve worn what we feel most comfortable in – we’ve removed the ‘mask’ we wear in our public lives. For the first time in 15 years, I’ve allowed my silver hair to grow out and have been delighted to find that I actually really like it! It’s important to hang on to that sense of authenticity – embracing an aspect of ourselves because we like it, rather than worrying about how it will look to everyone else.
A little about me
Sophie Tanner is an author and sologamist living in Brighton, UK. In 2015, she married herself in a self wedding ceremony, demonstrating that self love is just as important as romantic love. Her first novel, Reader, I Married Me, published by Trapeze in 2019, is loosely based on her own experience and aims to inspire other people to live their own ‘happily ever now’. Read more about her story at www.imarriedme.co.uk or follow her on Instagram @TheSologamist.
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Erin shows overscheduled, overwhelmed women how to do less so that they can achieve more. Traditional productivity books—written by men—barely touch the tangle of cultural pressures that women feel when facing down a to-do list. How to Get Sh*t Done will teach you how to zero in on the three areas of your life where you want to excel, and then it will show you how to off-load, outsource, or just stop giving a damn about the rest.