We begin the summer with so many unanswered questions in terms of how the rest of the season will unfold. While it’s clear that summer will be different this year, how will we be able to safely hang out with friends with international borders closed to travelers, festivals canceled, and social distancing mandates still in place? Can summer still feel normal and fun, even if things don’t feel that way anymore?
Usually, we look forward to spending the summer with lots of people. But with many of us spending more time alone because of coronavirus (COVID-19), how do we prepare to spend these next couple of months by ourselves with an open mind and accepting heart?
“The first thing to do is accept that this pandemic is here for the foreseeable future, and we can either curl in a ball or adapt to navigate it as safely as possible, caring for ourselves and the ones we love,” Dr. Sanam Hafeez, a New York-based neuropsychologist, tells HelloGiggles. “Part of that adaptation includes modifying our expectations for this summer. So as you start thinking of how this summer will shape out, you want to come from a place of acceptance, knowledge of safety procedures and guidelines, and creativity.”
Dr. Hafeez says rather than get upset about how different this summer will be, it’s important to ask yourself: “What will this time with mostly myself enable me to do? Instead of thinking in terms of what this pandemic will have taken from [us] or prevented us from doing.”
If you’re feeling anxious about spending the summer by yourself, read on for more tips from experts on how to make the most out of the season.
The benefits of spending the summer solo
“The good that is coming out of this is that we’re learning to embrace time with ourselves and get creative in terms of what brings us joy,” Nicole McCance, M.A., C. Psych., a clinical psychologist, tells HelloGiggles. “I see so many of my clients think outside of the box in terms of things to do during the pandemic. Some of them are focusing on their physical fitness, learning a new skill, or focusing on self-reflection and goal setting.”
What to do when you aren’t used to spending so much alone time
Despite so many of us spending time alone over the last few months, it’s not easy, especially when we head into summer—the most sociable of the seasons. But even though it can be tough, it “helps to separate being alone [from] being lonely. Spending time with yourself can be a growing experience. For some, being with oneself is a spiritual practice,” says Dr. Hafeez.
One good tip is to lighten the mood, Dr. Hafeez says. “While COVID-19, isolation, and FOMO can weigh on us and make things look grim, finding moments to dance by yourself, explore your city, and dive into untasted experiences can be a medium for happiness,” she says.
McCance suggests making the time to sit with your feelings. “At first it may feel hard: You keep checking your phone and have the instinct to fill your time with social media, etc. My advice is to just sit with that comfortability,” she says. “It will pass, and what is on the other side is really beautiful…It’s you. Try deep breathing or journaling if you need something to do until you get comfortable with being alone.”
The best activities to do by yourself
Just because you’re flying solo doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be making the most out of your summer.
“Plan your day. When you wake up at any hour and mope around the house, you’re setting yourself up for boredom and loneliness,” says Dr. Hafeez. “Make a list of your goals, desires, or things you wish to explore, and schedule them into your day. Stick to your plan, and it will help keep your mind off of what you’re missing and more in line with the anticipation of what’s to come.”
If you’re struggling to discover how to spend your time alone this summer, Dr. Hafeez suggests the following activities that will make you feel good and bring value into your life.
1. Learn to be first on your list.
“As we go through our lives, we can often let some of our goals or wishes wait in the sidelines as we put our family, friends, or romance at the forefront. This summer, while our lives seem to be a bit more isolated from loved ones, friends, and prospective dates, we suddenly have time to learn to put ourselves first,” Dr. Hafeez says.
Of course, this doesn’t mean you should push loved ones away, since you should still be there for others. But, according to Dr. Hafeez, let it be on your own terms. “Take care of yourself and put your learning, creativity, career, and self-care before the other stuff. It is also better to give [to others] when our cup is full,” she adds.
2. Use this time to explore your creativity.
“The march and grind of everyday life can leave little time for the creative outlets that help us express ourselves. This summer will be a time with much uncertainty and continued restrictions or preventative guidelines,” says Dr. Hafeez. “Use your time alone to learn to channel yourself into creative endeavors. The arts can also help relieve stress and anxiety.”
3. See this as an opportunity to reinvest in your independence.
“Many people have trouble being alone. This is an opportunity for reflection and self-appreciation,” says Dr. Hafeez. “Time alone can be good for you when your mind is saturated with the expectations of others. Sometimes our own expectations of ourselves can weigh us down. So take this summer alone as an opportunity to learn to do things by yourself.” Dr. Hafeez suggests to take long walks, go on trips, read, and learn to look in the mirror and appreciate what you see.
4. Find ways to contribute.
“For all the value in learning to be alone, expressing yourself creatively, and prioritizing your wants, being of service to others can be uplifting as well. You may be healthier than most people or lucky enough to have a stable job, so find ways in which you can help your neighbor, your loved ones, or an organization,” Dr. Hafeez suggests.
However, make sure you’re healthy before you help others. “Remember, when we are giving of ourselves [to others] in our own terms, we are able to give our best and feel our best. This is important for our maturity, our self-esteem, and our sense of purpose,” she says.
What to do when you still feel sad or experience FOMO
No matter how much you try to focus on yourself and spend time doing the things that bring you joy, there are bound to be moments when you feel blue. McCance says this is perfectly normal.
“This whole thing is sad. It’s important to feel your feelings,” says McCance. “Some of my clients have told me that they will wake up in the morning and for a moment forget the state of the world—and then remember this new norm and feel very sad. We are all grieving over our old life. We are grieving over the things that we loved doing and the people we loved doing it with. The only way to overcome grief is to feel it,” she says. McCance suggests letting yourself cry or talking to a therapist if it fits within your budget.
Moments of FOMO might also come, because as much as you want to be okay with doing more things on your own to stay safe, you can’t help but feel envious of those who might be spending more time with others.
Dr. Hafeez says it’s also important to focus on the positive. “The fact that you feel FOMO does not make you superficial or ungrateful, but it does help to count your blessings. During a pandemic, where so many people are going hungry, sick, or exhausted, you can think of what the positives are in your life and how [you] can add to the life of others,” she says.