A few weeks into lockdown by myself in France, I put together this article for Tim Challies.
Source: Locked Down Alone – Tim Challies
One third of the world’s population is now in lockdown. Across the globe, people everywhere are staying at home with their families and trying to find a new normal behind closed doors (while trying not to drive each other crazy)! But what about those living alone? They are dealing with the lack of physical touch for weeks on end and have no one to keep them company in-person. If you or someone you know is living alone and is about to go into lockdown, you’ll benefit from hearing wise words from those who have been living alone in lockdown for 10 days or more. From strict lockdowns in the Middle East, to tiny apartments in Paris or Rome, here are some thoughts about how seven single believers are handling this reality. My thanks goes to Lauren Moore (in France) who took the lead on interviewing others and compiling these pointers.
Do Not Be Afraid
While anxiety around COVID-19 is all around us, the idea of going into lockdown also provokes fear in many who live alone—the fear that they will face a deeper kind of isolation. And yet, 10 or more days into lockdown, despite a few ups and downs, lockdown is not proven nearly as bad as most had expected, (even for the extroverts!). Jason, (on lockdown in Rome, Italy), says “I think as a single person, depending on how long you have been single, one may already be somewhat well-equipped to handle the isolation aspect.” If you live alone, you already have many of the tools and skills necessary to deal with the isolation that comes with lockdown. So do not be afraid. You’ve got this!
Allow Yourself to Adjust
In France, lockdown was announced at 8pm on a Monday night and was in effect by 12 noon the following day. In the Middle East, one believer shares that grocery stores were initially open and then with less than 24-hours notice they were closed indefinitely. There is often no time to mentally prepare or even properly plan before a lockdown. And so that first week in lockdown is when all the adjusting happens. Be kind to yourself, digest the changes and give yourself permission to slow down and adapt. At first, you might hold onto the end date of lockdown as a “life raft”. Taylor (in lockdown in Trent, Italy) says “The most crucial thing for me has been to consciously accept that this is the new normal”. Lockdown is a new life rhythm, albeit temporary but open-ended. It will take time to adjust.
Routine and Exercise Are Vital to Reduce Stress
Being disciplined and developing a routine, even for those who are not naturally self-disciplined, is key to staying sane during lockdown. Days and evenings spent alone can be long, so breaking the day up by putting a routine in place can help a lot. Catherine (in Marseille, France) tries to continue getting up at the same time every day, Hannah (in Capbreton, France) tries to keep to a similar (but adjusted) weekly schedule for her ministry (now online), while Rachel (in Paris, France) recommends wearing “real” clothes to trick your mind out of “vegging mode”. Lauren adds that being tidier and cleaner than usual is helpful. You’re stuck in your apartment all day every day until further notice, so no one else will notice if you’re wearing your pajamas to church under that sweater, and technically only the bookshelf in your Skype background needs to be tidy. But disciplines and routines serve to create a safe environment and decrease stress.
Speaking of stress, exercise is crucial to combating it. Several of those interviewed do jump rope on their balconies, others take their ID cards and official outing form to go for short runs, and others follow some online high-intensity interval training. Exercise means you can enjoy more of those lockdown snacks you’ve been rationing, but it also eliminates stress. In addition, without the physical touch of hugs and handshakes, those living alone need to find additional ways to reduce stress.
Start a new hobby. Learn to speak the language of your migrant neighbours. Master the art of breadmaking. But don’t go overboard with a million new hobbies! Catherine reminds us to be realistic and keep the pressure off: “No, I won’t read all the books on my shelf during lockdown, and I won’t be mistaken for a native speaker after lockdown. And that’s ok.” Listen to music, have your own dance party. Get all dressed up just because you can! Lockdown is the gift of time, so don’t feel guilty about having downtime even though that mile-long To Do list you made isn’t finished. And yes, Netflix (in moderation) does help some of the time pass. (After all, it’s not like we can play board games!) But also be doubly conscious of how what you’re watching affects your thought-life—this includes how much news you read and watch.
Remaining in contact with people has never been easier. Most of us living alone have actually felt more connected with those near and those far away. Suddenly everyone has become conscious of our mutual need for connection and also more aware of those who live alone and away from family. Since lockdown happened, we’ve all been in more contact with friends and family “back home” more often and local believers are connecting more outside of church time. If you’re an introvert you might find yourself needing “alone time”, even living alone! So turn off your phone occasionally and connect above all, with the Lord.
Above All, Press into the Lord
Above all and by far the best thing about lockdown has been time with the Lord. There is a lot of practical and fun advice everyone could share, but almost unanimously, whether in the Middle East, Italy or France, being alone in lockdown has been a precious time to draw closer to Him. We are no longer a time-poor people. We have more freedom to spend time in His Word, in prayer and just simply with Him. This is more important than getting overwhelmed with the plethora of church services and worship sessions now available online. These are great blessings especially when you’re overseas, but as Catherine reminds us “we need to be careful not to let that replace personal study of the Word and personal, humble, searching prayer before God.”
Taylor sums up beautifully what the Lord is teaching many of us during this season: “Lockdown has been the ultimate experience of relinquishing control over my life. And an excellent reminder that despite all the chaos and uncertainty, God is sovereign and faithful. My trust in him has grown so much through all this.”
No one should waste this opportunity to press into the Lord, to grow in relationship with Him and to increase in the knowledge of His Word. As a believer in the Middle East puts it: “Take advantage of this sweet time to be with your first love as much as you can. It would be a waste coming out of this season feeling tired and dry in our souls.”