Isolation and anxiety is not an issue for everybody who is going solo, but it is for many more than you might imagine. The clue is in the name “Solo”.
I love being alone. Some of the time. I can indulge my interests, get stuff done without interruption or interference. However, I am also gregarious, outgoing and needy. I love being in company. It’s all too easy to lock myself into my office, start working on projects and become entirely subsumed in my own world of isolation. This, in turn seems to promote anxiety.
I, typically, am not an anxious person. Most find me very laid-back. Recently however, I have discovered all sorts of things to make me anxious.
Podcasts. I listen to lots of podcasts. If I am travelling, or entertaining, then I get less time to listen to my favourite shows. A glimpse of my podcast queue can give me palpitations. What nonsense! I have a big queue, because I have been out with friends, laughing and having a good time. How is that worse that listening to a recorded show, which while fun, is frankly a voyeuristic experience? It’s crazy, but it’s real.
I am incredibly fortunate, in that I work from a dedicated space beneath my house. It’s my space, set up exclusively for me. I have a great view of the garden, a dog bed in the corner and if the weather gets hot, an air-conditioner. No traffic or commute. No stress. It’s perfectly possible for me to complete a productive week without setting eyes on another human being, or even hearing a human voice. I can communicate through the various electronic means, “hang out” on social media and still get stuff done. In fact, I get to the point where I dread actually interacting with people. I was only half-joking when I titled an 1857 episode “Becoming a sociopath and other Self-Improvements.”
I find that I have to have rules to combat this.
1. Face to face. I build some contact into my day. At the very least, Facetime or similar.
2. Speak to a friend. Call someone.
3. Get out. Walk in nature. I start each day with a walk.
4. Limits. I stop myself working. At 6pm, I stop and I leave the office.
It has taken me a long time to learn that sometimes, the most productive thing to do is to stop working.
Anxiety, isolation and mental health are very real things. Be self-aware. If you are feeling isolated – talk to someone about it. If necessary get help. Recognising that you are struggling is not weak, it is a sign of strength, a sign that you are on the ball.