Those that prefer or require solitude can usually get stigmatised as being lonely, depressed, strange, some people might even get offended by another persons need to be on their own, but alone time can be healthy however it can also be problematic.
Problematic alone time occurs when someone isn’t necessarily choosing to be alone for their own benefit, instead they are choosing to be alone out of fear or to avoid places, people or situations. Mental health disorders such as anxiety and depression usually play a key role when it comes to choosing what we do in our spare time. Anxiety and depression are the two most common mental health disorders and they can make many aspects of our lives difficult, one of those being how we socialise/interact with others.
When you have either or both of these disorders, social interactions are extremely draining and they use up a lot of our energy, which is something we are usually lacking in the first place. Whilst out socialising, the disorders can create negative thoughts such as ‘I don’t fit in here’, ‘No one here likes me’ or ‘I can’t be myself around others’, which then of course makes us feel as though socialising is a negative experience that will only make us tired and feel like shit, so then our disorders create these fears in our minds that we don’t argue against because all evidence seems to back it up.
Another form of problematic alone time is when you actually fear being alone. Depression is usually the leading cause of this as it can continuously create negative thoughts in our minds about ourselves and when we are alone, it is harder to ignore/distract ourselves from those thoughts, which then leads to some truly awful alone time experiences and it’s those experiences that create this fear of being alone.
During my earliest teenage years (back when I was in high school) I feared being on my own, as my depression and PTSD were at one of its highest points during these years, even when I wasn’t alone, I was still trying to fight against the thoughts and how I was feeling/acting, there was always a constant battle. Any alone I got I would usually spend crying, drinking or doing some other form of self-harm (Alcohol & Loneliness).
I still had this fear of being on my own in my later teenage years (when I was in college) but at the same time, I also needed a lot of solitude to regain some mental energy. I had to go for naps on my dinner breaks and as soon as my lessons were done for the day (I lived on site so this was possible) due to my anxiety. I was so mentally and physically drained during my college years that I slept through most of the free time that I had, but also during my free time, I would drink and cry whilst alone in my room till I fell asleep again. Alone time was not a good experience during these couple of years.
But then there is healthy alone time and this is when someone chooses to be alone because they know it will benefit them. Alone time has been proven to improve:
- Creativity. When you’re on your own it is easier for your creative juices to get flowing and go wild.
- Productivity. People tend to perform better when they have some extra privacy.
- Improves empathy. When you are constantly surrounded by people, you create a ‘we vs them’ mentality towards those that might not fit in with your social circle. Spending time on your own helps build compassion towards those that might not ‘fit in’.
- Getting to know yourself. Surprisingly you can learn a lot about yourself when you spend some quality time on your own.
My alone time is incredibly valuable to me now and as I still fight some mental battles, me time is a necessity to help me maintain a mental balance and keep me going.
I’ve taken some time off work recently and I have spent the vast majority of that time on my own, as I was in desperate need of some peace and quiet. After you spend some quality time with yourself, you can see the signs of when you are in need of some more solitude. For me, I know I am in need of some me time when:
- I get overwhelmed by everything, no matter how big or small of a significance.
- My temper gets shorter and I snap at those I care about.
- I’m mentally and physically exhausted.
- I just want to hide away in bed, the bathroom or somewhere else safe and private.
- Nothing seems fun.
- I want to eat everything (I eat a lot more when my anxiety is active).
- I want to sleep more.
- I lose my focus/concentration easily.
Solitude is different for everyone and everyone has different reasons for needing/wanting alone time. How I spend my alone time all depends on the reason I need it and the amount I need, but alone time for me is:
- Catching up on sleep or just staying in bed
- Switching off my phone (would highly, highly recommend)
- Going for walks
- Spending time with Mary Jane
- Listening to music
- Cleaning (this is like therapy to me)
- Watching tv shows/films
- Going out for a meal
Going from not being able to cope whilst on my own, to now realising that alone time is necessary for me has been a big life changer, I know it’s not easy being on your own so here are some of my personal tips:
- Maybe start off spending time with someone who is calming for you. This way you aren’t actually on your own so your mind might not wander off with you as much, but you’re still surrounded by someone who helps you feel better, whether they realise it or not.
- Start off with just setting a few minutes aside for you. Alone time at first is pretty daunting and if you’re thinking like this beforehand then you’re not going to enjoy your me time, so instead, take yourself away somewhere to somewhere you feel safe and you have privacy (your bedroom, a quiet field or even the bathroom) and just spend a minute or so on your own there. By doing this you’re not overwhelming your mind.
- Try some form of exercise. We all know how beneficial exercise can be, but it doesn’t always have to be done for the sole purpose of losing weight or toning up, it can be done just to help you improve your mental health. Exercising helps me maintain control over my anxiety as it takes away that excess energy that anxiety can feed off, as well as giving me a dose of happy hormones to boost my overall mood.
- If it’s people you need a break from but you struggle to actually be away from people, trying listening to music, podcasts or the radio through earphones. Listening through earphones helps you to zone out a bit more from the real world.
- If your anxious thoughts get the better of you when you’re on your own, try and keep productive by doing something that you know you enjoy or that will keep your mind at ease. This could be anything from painting, singing, dancing, cleaning, sewing etc, whatever best suits you.
- Value your solitude because trust me, there will only be you who truly understands how important quality time on your own is.
I hope you’re all staying safe and keeping well,
Feel free to message me if you need to,
Sending much love to you all,