Raise your hand if you start feel anxiety thinking about spending a weekend evening (or day!) alone. 🙋🏼♀️
Well, at least I used to raise my hand. I think I no longer experience this anxiety for a few reasons — time and age, being so busy during the week that I don’t want to expend anymore energy by the weekend, having friends who feel the same way, feeling fulfilled by the time that I do have with friends, living with a partner …. the list could go on. The number one reason that I don’t feel this way anymore? Practice. (More on this later.)
I hear from clients frequently about an anxiety around being alone. Sometimes it sounds like it’s not actually about being alone, but more about being fearful of boredom, feeling a guilt over lack of “productivity,” and so on. People tend to be interested in spending time alone, but anxiety takes over and tells them things like “If you’re not busy and your social calendar isn’t full, you’re less than. It means you don’t have enough friends or you’re not popular…”
Spending time alone in a world that encourages us to be busy busy busy and constantly absorbed doing and being productive is hard work. That’s why I mentioned earlier that it takes practice.
Sometimes when we spend time alone, it feels glorious and liberating. I don’t need to check in with anyone else about this Saturday! I can be as flexible as I want.
Other times, it feels sad. It feels like we should be doing something “better” with our time, even if it’s reading a self-book on how we need to do better to improve ourselves (note that is not on my list.)
Time alone doesn’t need to be lonely. We can spend our time alone practicing self-soothing and self-compassionate ways of being that help us feel restored so that we can have the energy to spend time with our friends and be present when we do so.
In order to make being alone a practice, I also recommend incorporating self-compassion into your time. When anxiety starts bubbling up, remind yourself that it can be difficult to be alone, especially with anxiety, and that anyone might feel this way when they’re by themselves. Remind yourself that we constantly get messages that we should have extensive social circles and be constantly busy – it’s confusing when our bodies and our minds don’t need that but we’re “supposed” to want it or we “should” be doing that.
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Here are my favorite ways to practice being alone:
1. A walk through the trees – or anywhere accessible that has some water, some greenery, or pretty flowers.
2. Sitting in the grass + watching the clouds and sky – enjoy some sunbathing and practice mindfulness by watching the clouds. When your brain wanders, let it do so. Notice it wandering, then bring it back to the clouds and pick out the fluffiest, coziest cloud or one that looks like a familiar shape.
3. Browsing at a local bookstore – nix the “self-help” section and browse books that perhaps you’d never buy but you’re interested in the content. Flip through a book about a hobby so foreign to you that you don’t even know what it is.
4. Better yet, having a coffee and a book – I love having a warm cup in my hand and sipping slowly while letting my imagination run.
5. Volunteering to walk dogs at a shelter (or taking a friend’s pup for the afternoon!) – animals are known to be good for our mental health.
6. Nature journaling – this helps us connect with nature (also known to be good for our mental health) while also learning how to practice mindfulness and staying present.
7. A guilt-free nap – every nap should be guilt free, but in our busy “doing” culture we feel bad about stopping to rest. You officially have permission (no, you’re being instructed) to pause and take a nap.
8. Browse your photo albums (digital or tangible – doesn’t matter) for a trip down memory lane. Plan for when you’ll share your favorite memories with a loved one, or text your favorite pictures to a friend with a note about how much you loved the memory.
Connect with me on Pinterest or Instagram (@restorewithmegan) to tell me other ways that you enjoy spending time alone.