Lifestyle: Overcoming Loneliness When Living Alone

Now, I’ve never officially lived alone. During my second and final year at university I lived with some of the best housemates ever. After a summer flitting between both of our parental homes, me and W moved in together pretty quickly after we graduated. Something glinting on the second finger of my left hand seems to suggest I won’t be getting rid of him anytime soon!

 photo Dealing with Loneliness4_zpsechxyd4b.jpgBut I have spent a few good chunks of time on my own. During my placement year I had a rather odd living situation (I rented a spare room – with a lovely live-in landlady, her partner, three dogs and a cat) and would regularly have the house to myself for a couple of weeks. And, of course, this January W spent the month in Chile. So I’ve definitely had my fair share of living alone – and I’ve definitely worked out what makes it a not-so-great experience, and how to make it work.

Plan Something Fun

During my placement year, I saw W pretty every other weekend. Much as I hated our LDR, it gave me something to look forward to – and we always made the most of our time (no vegetating on the sofa for a whole Saturday…). Whether it was exploring a cute little village I’d discovered, heading to a new cafe or getting the train to Brighton, having something to look forward to made the lonely evenings worth it!

I remembered that when he was away, and made plans months in advance. Some fell through, but I was so grateful to spend the weekend with one of my best friends, and also another weekend with my Mummy. Both involved stuffing ourselves silly with pie. One involved homeware browsing and bargain coat-buying. The other involved a lot of cake and a theatre trip. Both were just what I needed to keep my occupied!

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Schedule in Girly Time

Now it might just be me, but sometimes I feel a litttttleeeee selfish when I have girly time when I live with W. Much as I love smoothing on a facemask, lighting some candles and painting my nails, there’s always something else to do! We love baking together, playing on the Xbox – even our usual messing around just isn’t possible during a pamper evening (wen you’ve seen the damage a tickle fight does to freshly painted nails you’ll understand!). Him being away gave me the excuse to have perfectly manicured nails, I used a facemask every other day and I danced to Taylor Swift every night.

Oh, and I was able to watch Bridget Jones, 50 First Dates AND Bride Wars without anyone whinging all the way through it. #Winning!

Have a Backup/Emergency Plan

Now, I’m quite accident prone. In fact, I’m really proud of the fact that I only had ONE accident during January (picked up a pan that had been in the oven with bare hands; 3 fingers and my thumb on my writing hand blistered…). But accidents like this aside, I made sure someone nearby had spare keys to our flat/block (because I was convinced I would lock myself out – I didn’t). I made W show me exactly where the fuse box/water supply bits etc were so I could ‘fix’ things in an emergency. I made a big effort to make friends locally so I had people I could rely on in an emergency.

As you can see, I’m a planner. I didn’t need to do that, I had no emergencies, but it gave me a massive peace of mind.

Batch Cook

Weirdly, I had absolutely no problem with cooking for myself every night at university. This January, however, I hated it. I would get home from work, study for an hour or two, then realise I had to cook. Quite often it was nearing 10pm before I sat down with some food. Trust me, the h-anger was real!

For the last few weeks I got into a routine where I’d prep a few things over the weekend (even if it was just chopping veg) and it definitely helped. There was less relying on pizza – and it’s put me in a better meal-prep frame of mind now he’s back too!

Background Noise

Normally I’m a lover of silence. I don’t listen to music. I work/study without any background noice. I rarely use headphones. However even I needed SOME background noise when in a house on my own. My favourite trick is to put the radio on, as the chit-chat at least makes me feel like I’m having a conversation – I had one study day where I didn’t speak AT ALL to anyone. Sad day!
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Get Out

It got to around 4pm one study day in January when I realised I hadn’t spoken a single word. I wandered to Sainsbury’s and it made me feel SO much better. Until I figured out that I’d used the self-service checkouts and still hadn’t spoken to anyone…

But still, just getting out and about will instantly make you feel a bit less secluded. I also found it a great excuse to bulk take photos for my Instagram feed – W hates me taking snaps of random houses, so doing it when he wasn’t amount (plus overcast January days work so well for outside photography!) worked out nicely.

Don’t Watch Scary Things

Now, I’m a huge fan of Silent Witness. I love it. I think it’s one of the most realistic crime dramas about, the acting is excellent and it’s pretty much true to scientific detail. Some of the episodes in the 2017 season were some of the best I’ve watched, and that in itself was a massive, massive problem. The first story was about a human trafficking ring, and I watch it the first weekend W was away. It had some pretty horrifying scenes and despite not being overly sensitive it really affected me. Lesson learnt, only watch nice things!
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Make The Most Of It!

For me, having W away meant I could be hugely productive. I could get up at 6am and exercise. I could study for a few hours after work, come home and still squeeze in a few hours of blogging. Those few weeks meant I managed to catch up on my study plan (events over my Christmas holiday meant I was quite a bit behind where I wanted to be), and I got a shit-tonne of blog posts drafted up and scheduled. Oh, and it helps to stockpile your favourite chocolate too!

It also meant I could starfish in a king-size bed. Not have to keep putting the toilet seat down. Eat mushrooms and seafood. Have cushions and blankets covered the sofa.

And it all that fails, get a dog!

(I’m joking with the last one. Obviously only get a dog if your circumstances are right. But I definitely would be getting one if W had to go away regularly!)

Do you, or have you, lived alone? How did you deal with the loneliness? 

Life: Feeling Low

I normally get a little low in the dark and dull days that come after the New Year sets in. With a whole host of birthdays in December and early January, it’s always a little bit of an anti-climax when they’re over. And pretty much a good pep talk from myself, a bit of forcing myself to think happy thoughts, and everything is right as rain again. So when I sat in a pretty deep depression last week, it came as a little bit of a shock.

 photo 2014-09-13150354_zpsb756f772.jpgRegular readers will have noticed that only two posts went up. Colleagues noticed I had retreated into my shell. There were a few tearful nights, a few moments where I was perhaps a little short-tempered. But what worried me most of all was my lack of motivation. I didn’t want to do anything – not blog, not work towards a university deadline, no knitting, no cooking, no baking, it was even a no to online shopping. I pretty much just sat on my bed and was miserable. Luckily I have a great support network, and I was also able to recognise that I needed to do something quickly or it would only get worse.

I’ve started making an effort to get fresh air on my lunch break, which is easier now the local park is open again. On Monday I sat in my coat, in brilliant sunshine, eating my sandwich and reading a book. I then wasn’t tempted to nap at my desk, and I came home, cooked soup and was suitably productive.

A recommendation from his darkest days at university, my boyfriend told me to put the radio on if I’m feeling lonely. Surprisingly so much more effective than just music, I find myself feeling less alone even if there’s no one about.Still a student at heart (and remembering that’s what I will be again next September), I’m trying to learn that a little treat now and then isn’t bad. Whether it’s ingredients for my favourite meal, or even just a coffee on the way to work, little treats can really perk up my day. I treated myself to a hazelnut hot chocolate, topped with cream and marshmallows, last Friday. Best thing I’d done all week.

Helping others feel happy is also something which seems to give me a real buzz. The thanks I get when bringing a fresh batch of cakes into work puts a huge smile on my face, and it’s having double the effect this week as we’re raising money for a fantastic cause (you can read a bit more about our campaign here). 2014-09-28 10.14.21A fry up makes everything better. Fact. I went home this past weekend and had one both mornings. Bacon, eggs and toast are my staples, black pudding is a regular addition, though this weekend saw the return of a new favourite. Mushrooms fried in bacon fat. That size 8 dress I was dieting to fit into? I changed it for a 10… (in defence, it was tight on my hips which are stubbornly bony).

I’ve also tried to put less pressure on myself. Its not easy, as I’m such a perfectionist and I’ve never let myself off. Getting less than perfect marks? I’ll beat myself up about it for years (I can still get tearful about my A-Level results, and they were far from bad!). I forced myself not to type out a blog post I didn’t have the heart for. And to be honest, nothing bad happen. My views dropped by probably 20 a day, which is miniscule in the grand scheme of things. I still gained followers. So now I know the world doesn’t end when I don’t push myself to my limit, I can relax a little more. Have a long soak in the bath instead of rushing back to my laptop. Stand and cook a risotto without thinking of my to-do list. Eat a greasy fry-up without thinking of my hips…

 photo 2014-08-30143507_zps857050c4.jpgI’m now feeling much more happier having made some time for me. Sleep is coming slightly easier at night, though it would be great to not see midnight most nights. I’m still convinced the dull, dreary weather doesn’t help (if anyone wants a natural light box reviewing, I’m your SAD girl!) but making the most of my days is definitely helping keep me cheerful. I’m sure my laptop is grateful for the rest too…

What do you do when you’re feeling a little down?

Student Saturday: When University Isn’t For You…

This is a really difficult post for me to write. I originally wanted this up last weekend, but last weekend was far too emotional, I teared up when trying to write, so decided to hold it off a little. I’ve mentioned how I settled into university relatively well a few times, but I’ve skipped over the fact that my boyfriend simply didn’t settle in. I’m not talking a bit of homesickness, I’m talking far more seriously. I’ll tackle homesickness another week!

 photo 10464251_10201833358628057_7137741447011300528_n_zpsd691dd63.jpgHis halls weren’t particularly suited to him; very loud; very “going out” orientated. His university was pretty built up with a lack of green space. The town wasn’t the nicest. He buried his head in his course, kept going and came out of first year with an extremely impressive percentage for an engineering degree. He also came out a little depressed, although at the time I’m not sure either of us realised. Fast forward a few months and he moves into his second year house. Off campus, with friends, although the house itself was quite frankly disgusting. It was then he realised that university wasn’t really the best place for him to be, he actually wasn’t 100% sure about the subject, and he had to leave. It got hell of a lot more dramatic than that, but long story short within a fortnight he has arranged to defer his second year and moved back home.

My point of reliving this is to give those of you struggling at university some advice;

  • Get help, talk it through. It doesn’t have to be a counsellor or a doctor, not even a lecturer. Even ranting to a trusted friend can help. Don’t worry about upsetting them either – I’ve spent many times in tears talking things through with my boy, and yes it was upsetting, but it helped him to have his feelings in the open. Bottling things up is the worst thing you can do.
  • Keep people in the loop. Let your parents know how you’re feeling, let lecturers know. Chances are your work will suffer if you are feeling down, so it’s important to get consideration for this.
  • Consider other options. You don’t have to leave university to make things better for yourself. Look at moving accommodation, commuting from home, or even going home every weekend. Whatever works for you.
  • Deferring the year isn’t the same as quitting. Deferring isn’t always an option, but its useful if you aren’t sure about your course but don’t want to quite give up your place.
  • Find some form of enjoyable activity to take your mind off things. It might be a society, it might be a sport, it might be visiting a nice cafe during your time of lectures. Just make some time for you.
  • Don’t hide in your work. University is more than just study, and focussing entirely on your work will cause burnout at some point.
  • Don’t be embarrassed. You aren’t the only one to struggle with university.

I’m in no way suggesting that doing these will absolutely help you if you’re struggling with university life, but I hope that they will make things a little easier, and make you realise you’re not alone. If you are really struggling, really depressed then things like making me time, sitting down for a cup of tea, heading home for a weekend, these won’t really help at all – you’ll most likely need a permanent fix to the problem.

 photo 2014-03-12134046_zps1b70aa94.jpgAs for my boyfriend, he went back to university on Monday, doing the same course, but commuting in his new little car. He’s found living at home is far more sensible as, for him, the lifestyle at university wasn’t working. I’m not saying things are easy! He’s driving for at least two hours a day, and isn’t too taken with some elements of his course. Plus there’s parts of the university lifestyle that are just unavoidable – including group working with lazy partners! However things are infinitely better than they were in first year, and this weekend is far, far brighter than the extremely dark weekend we had 53 weeks ago. Here’s to the future sticking like this!

 photo 2014-05-09174211_zpsc2453d48.jpgAlso remember – if you really, really, really don’t like university, it perhaps isn’t worth putting yourself through it. You don’t have to be there, and if your health (mental and/or physical) is suffering, there’s likely to be a better option to think about. Read my Blog Link up post by Rachel for another view on this topic!

How did you settle into university?