Loneliness NZ


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Making indoor routines work for everyone during COVID-19 bubble life

Stay at home is a significant focus of the Government’s drive for our physical wellbeing, and a substantial change to the routine of many of us. We are all sacrificing parts of our lives, so missing those parts is normal – people, places, hobbies, work.

We’re in this to save lives – so let’s continue exploring how to make an indoor bubble life the best it can be for ourselves and others. We want you to thrive, and that includes preventing you and others from becoming lonely, or at least lonelier.

We’re living in unprecedented times, with such wide-scale lockdown.

Some people will feel temporarily better connected, and some might experience loneliness for the first time.

Prolonged loneliness is harmful, particularly for anyone vulnerable, experiencing hardship or under strain.

Contents

Balance your routines

Building on these, when you get to the detail of developing what you fill your day with, there are five more aspects to balance.

There is a detailed section of each of these below. A quick summary is:

  • Keep what you can in your overall pattern that fits with your unique situation.
  • Be aware how your routines affect others, both those in your bubble and in other bubbles.
  • Be ready to adapt to changing Government alert levels, to support others in and out of your bubble, and to give yourself a better wellbeing experience.
  • Being mindful of how long you take for break, how much movement you have in a day, how productive your thoughts are, including the sound of your own voice,
  • Consider all activities as a challenge to shift your thinking to “I used to do this… SO INSTEAD HOW can I do that now?”

Familiarity

Keep what you can in your overall pattern that fits with your unique situation – some people’s work is another person’s leisure.
  • Keep to basics with waking and sleeping times, and meal times.
  • During working hours, work and be occupied – stay busy with tasks with a purpose, different to your leisure time tasks. Work usually involves mental and/or physical effort and there is a purpose.
  •  During leisure hours enjoy free time and relax. 
  • Be mindful of who else is working, and give them physical and mental space to work.
  • In your working hours routine, include anything from your usual job, learning and self-development, voluntary service from your home, cleaning and decluttering your home….chores.  If exercise is work, include that here. Think of this like your normal working time environment.
  • During leisure hours give your brain a different mind-set; enjoy exercise; find creative ways to be social with people you are used to mingling with at this time. Minimize chores; do activities that give you pleasure, and an opportunity to switch off from work; enjoy time with, and giving to, others.

Thoughtfulness

Our routines affect others, both those in our bubble and in other bubbles.

We are all used to the normal routine of who amongst our friends and families go out to work, school and morning coffee groups, where we get much of our socialising. And who we would socialise during those routines, and for the amount of time.

We now are blending our new routines staying in, which have a very different look to our work and socialising. 

To avoid disappointment, give realistic consideration how you combine your new circumstances with those of others.

We want our routines to work for everyone – in our own bubble (of one or more) and beyond.

Examples are:

  • You used to work out, your children were at school, and your spouse used to go shopping, visiting family and then do the housework, and cooking. Now everyone is at home, and your family still expects that routine of the spouse doing all the chores.
    • Helpful – Recognise an increased workload of chores, and engage the whole family to share chores, freeing up some time for your spouse to include more pleasure into her day.
    • How does this prevent loneliness? Sharing chores increases a sense of belonging, and your spouse feels valued not taken for granted.
  • You used to work from home using the computer all day; your children never used to be home all day so now they might also want the computer.
    • Helpful – Giving them an hour; and you taking an exercise break.
    • How does this prevent loneliness? Compromise enables them to feel heard, and you to value others.
  • You used to chat to your colleague most morning in the coffee room; and now it’s hard to contact him.
    • Helpful – Check in by email, saying you miss your chats, and has his new routine got time to fit in a catch up for 10 minutes, perhaps twice a week.
    • How does this prevent loneliness? Expressing your desire to socialise, while having realistic expectations that his job, his family situation, and how he structures his time, has become more complex.
  • You are a teenager used to keeping to your room whenever you came home from school; your single parent was used to going out to see her friends so now she might want to chat more.
    • Helpful: When you “change your game, reach a new level, get to a new chapter, need food” take a quality time break to talk.
    • How does this prevent loneliness? Engaging in a few short face-to-face enjoyable chats gives both of you a sense of deeper connection.

Flexibility

We have all seen how quickly life can change, and how we can adapt. Our routines will make us happier if we take the same approach, being ready to be flexible.

Regularly  

(a) reflect on your own routine and get a feel for how its working. Are you getting all that balance? How are others adapting to it? What are you hearing others want it differently? Are you putting too much expectation on yourself? And are others asking too much of you?

(b) have a conversation,  checking in with your family, your support networks and other members inside and out of you bubble. Are they feeling well supported? Are you giving them a good understanding of your needs? And is there anything they want different from you? Talk about how you can both adjust expectations to get a healthy balance for meeting everyone’s needs and wants.

You may need or choose to adjust your routine in a number of ways:
  • to do more alone (even with family around) so to not place too high expectations of others, who may be working, or need greater personal space.
  • to shift some of your exercise time to when a colleague can do it with you in their working lunch-break.
  • to work different hours so both you and your partner take turns looking after toddlers who used to be in day-care.
  • to factor in calling more of your family that now need more of your support because their own support system changed. ****
  • to shelve some of your own projects to contribute more to the community. ****
  • to do more exercise to relieve increasing anxiety and tension.

Mindfulness

Mindfulness means being aware of your present moment. Amongst others, these include focusing on your state of mind, your feelings, thoughts. Being mindful of these situations will help your wellbeing.

Breaks

Especially from electronic devices – need to be very regular. Homes are smaller than our external environments (eg office buildings, shopping centres) so bathroom breaks, making coffee breaks, go more quicker. Consciously add more time to your break.

Movement

Especially in small homes, needs to be conscious and active. You can use many of your muscles in small spaces – on your chair, while waiting for the kettle to boil, watching a television advert. Consider how much movement your external environment included, and do at least as much. Smiles are facial movements that we tend to use more around other people… so make a habit of genuinely smiling to yourself, moving your face.

Active walking and productive thinking

...have positive health outcomes, while mindless pacing while worrying “in circles” does not achieve the same health benefits.

Hearing the sound of your own voice

Especially if you are on your own, is part of our humanness. We are used to hearing people talking around us and we are used to speaking. So sometimes when you are alone, talk out loud to yourself… talk through a work problem, read out loud, and give some commentary on you being mindful.

Cooperation and time apart

...within the house, is crucial, Where space is cramped make particular chairs/corners/tables/rooms agreed spaces – like “leave me alone space”, work-space, exercise space.

Expressing gratitude

Your previous routines were so set, so were your expectations of each other… without necessarily consciously expressing gratitude. Now there is a change, more will be needed to keep households running smoothly, and people will take on different roles. Make every effort to respect each other – minimize things going wrong and maximise gratitude and kindness.

Creativity

We’re mindful that you are unique in personality, circumstances and need; and yet we have our humanness in common. So we are not prescribing specific activities for each of you. Rather consider these few examples of how to be creative using your normal routines to guide your new routines.

If you hear yourself thinking of an activity and then thinking “I used to… BUT I CAN’T …” before you give up on the activity or worse yourself,  shift your thinking to “I used to… SO INSTEAD HOW can I do that now?”

Shift your thinking to what will work to benefit you.

As we hear of more that might benefit many of you we will add to these…especially those that do not rely on other people or technology, and can be done indoors with small spaces.

What I used to do

Instead in my home today I’ll…

OR in my home I’ll…

Car-pool to work

Set up a “car-pool call” to the same people and chat on the phone for the length of the ride.

Walk walk walk – on the spot, listening to a radio chat show and making comments out loud.

Walk up the stairs to my office, and greet people.

Do “on the spot” step exercises “walk- knees up-walk knees up-smile-knees up…. and think positive things you would have been saying.

Use the stairs within your home… and cheerily greet people as they wake up in your home.

Chat to my colleagues over coffee

Have an agreed few people to call at. We keep the time brief and positive.

Phone an aunt living on her own I haven’t spoken to in ages.

Served people in the restaurant all day

Have an activity that keeps me busy, with similar energy levels… using your hands.. its a craft which gives me a chance to walk while glue is drying.

Upskill myself with online learning to stay in my same job (increasing my understanding of people); I also might explore changing jobs (understanding the management side of a shop).

Go to the gym with my brother

Call my brother and we do exercises using our small spaces and that also uses all our muscles. We chat on the phone about our technique. Beats only exercising my fingers using my devices :).

Accept my brother is now tied up with family, so find some online exercises that energise me, using a different range of muscles each day. I’m adapting and changing – but every day I’m actively doing.

Meet friends for dinner

Get us together as group on a video conference and we’ll have dinner together … and we agreed give each other space to chat.

Give my friends their space, and instead use the time to create a series of new recipes for me to share with them when we do talk during the week.

Play in a card group

Be creative, adapting familiar games for playing on the video conferencing using real cards….and we can chat online at the same time.

Enjoy some solitude, teaching myself new patience card games with real cards  – and mindfully build my tallest card tower.

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