Living by yourself isn’t an uncommon thing to experience in 2021. In the past decades, American households have made a huge transformation in their living arrangements. Now, nearly 30% of American adults live alone. This transformation in living alone has affected housing construction, homeownership, household income, consumption patterns, meal products, and now, mental health. The reasons people live alone can affect their likelihood of experiencing different mental health problems.
Some people truly do choose to live alone, but others do so due to circumstances beyond their control. Those who are living alone show higher levels of anxiety and lower levels of happiness than couples who live together but don’t have children.
However, it’s currently unclear whether this is a direct cause of living alone or a result of the factors that lead to living alone in the first place. It is important to prioritize your mental health, whether you are living alone or with someone else. The only difference is that some things take a little more effort when it’s just you.
Some of the challenges with living alone are things you might expect. When living alone, all of the household duties are solely up to you instead of splitting the responsibilities.
Other challenges are things that might not occur to people until they happen. For example, when you’re unwell, it’s up to you alone to peel yourself out of bed and hunt out the things you need. If things go wrong, you often have to reach out for support; it isn’t automatically there. Managing bills can be harder because it’s often cheaper to buy things in bulk.
Making big decisions can be tough, too. You might be desperate for someone to bounce ideas off and quickly develop decision fatigue. Employing people to fix things in your home can make you feel vulnerable when you’re the only person in the house. All of these things can negatively affect your mental health!
When you first start living alone, it’s worth having an open and honest conversation with those close to you about any early warning signs that your mental health is slipping and what you’d like them to do if you’re having a bad mental health day. Early warning signs might include actions like isolating ourselves, ignoring people’s calls, giving up on meals, or ditching any attempt at housework.
None of these signs should come with any judgment. Sometimes life happens, and housework doesn’t. Learning to identify these signs is a vital part of managing our mental health. Your communication could be as simple as texting a sentence or a meme to your friends. You might want your loved ones to respond by coming over and hugging you, asking their toddler to chat with you on the phone, or playing a video game with you that evening.
Once a system is set up, it’s far easier to let your loved ones know that you’re having a bad mental health day, and they’ll know what you want them to do about it. You won’t have to explain, and you don’t have to tell them what will help. They’ll know because you’ve already discussed it.
When you live alone, a strong support system is highly important. It may take a little more conscious effort to build compared to living with family or friends. Everyone needs emotional support at one point or another, whether that’s a friend you can call on a bad day or a sibling who knows how to make us laugh. You might need practical support. Friends or family members who know about car mechanics, are good at DIY, and have a knack for tracking down honest work can be invaluable. Sometimes it’s also helpful if you have someone who can do things like take a trip to the pharmacist and pick up a prescription for you.
For many people, a sense of community can help them feel at home. Your location affects how you build this community, but a good start is dropping in on your neighbors’ to introduce yourself. You may be fiercely independent, socially anxious, or have had your trust broken time after time. Maybe you’ve even been forced to leave your entire life behind. Trusting people can be hard, but no one can function alone. You need people around you. Slowly piecing together your support system is a vital part of your self-care.
Your mental health is important to monitor and nourish, whether you are living alone or with many people. Living alone doesn’t have to be a bad thing. You can always reach out to your family and friends when you are in a time of need. If they are not available to you, consider reaching out to your neighbors. Building relationships in your community can be a great way to help yourself feel less alone. If none of the natural resources in your life are helping you, it may be time to seek professional help. Places like The Kimberly Center are here for people just like you. We understand that spending too much time alone can make anxiety and depression harder to deal with. We offer multiple options for therapy that can help you or your loved ones cope with any problems they are having. Contact us at (855) 452-3683 to get more information on how we could help you.