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Bubble of One: Coping with Loneliness in lock-down

Posted by on April 2, 2020 at 6:05 PM Comments comments (0)

Bubble of One: How to Cope With Self-Isolating On Your Own

By: Karen Nimmo     Source:


Loneliness comes with life.” — Whitney Houston

“I can’t remember the last time I touched someone,” my friend messaged.

Single, she lived alone and — now — working from home, with weeks of social isolation stretching out in front, she was struggling. “This is not much fun by yourself,” she said.

She was sleeping badly and her mind wouldn’t shut down. “I don’t know how to get through this,” she said. “How are you supposed to cope when you’re a bubble of one?”

I wasn’t sure how to comfort her. Because it slapped me with the reality of social isolation for people who are on their own: that is, the increased risk to their mental health.

Most loneliness is temporary — but pandemic loneliness poses a different kind of threat because alongside the loss of meaningful physical connection, we’re dealing with an upswing in general anxiety.

People on their own are often spared from chronic loneliness by their friends or work colleagues, or random chats with their neighbours, barista or anyone who passes through their world. Even just SEEING other people is a means of connecting, of feeling part of the world.

But when they’re denied those little connections — not to mention the chance to download— they tend to internalise their thoughts and feelings. To worry; to ruminate. And that can lead to sleep difficulties, racing minds, cognitive distortions, physiological symptoms of anxiety or unexplained health problems and, ultimately, depression.

How to Cope in a Bubble of One

Loneliness is caused by the distress felt at a lack of meaningful relationships. We all experience loneliness from time to time, but think about what it’s like to be holed up at home, stripped of your usual social outlets or activities — and without someone to you a hug, make you a cuppa or listen to the ordinary contents of your day. AND when you go out for a walk, even strangers step aside to avoid you.

If that’s your struggle right now, here are some ways to reverse the tide, at least until lockdown is lifted. And if you know someone who’s on their own, reach out. Send a text. Pick up the phone. Smile at a stranger. Your kindness may also save a life.

1. Acknowledge it’s hard — even a bit sh*t.

You’re allowed to do that. In most cases, being on your own in a lockdown is harder than not. So acknowledge and have a little wallow in your loneliness, even if it’s only to yourself. But keep a boundary around how long you do it for. And when time’s up, go do something.

2. Know what your day holds when you wake up.

Wake up at random times and “go with the flow” at your peril — more often than not, it’ll leave you feeling lost and flat. Instead, sit down every evening and make a plan (list) for the next day. Include the usual components of your life: work/emails, leisure/fun, learning, chores, exercise, catching up with friends or family. Then, your day has a framework: from the moment you get up, you know what to do. Even if you’re tired, follow the plan.

Scheduling is even more important during lockdown because it anchors us, gives us focus and allows us a tiny sense of achievement at the end of the day. And it stops us from being led entirely by our feelings which is risky when you are feeling low.

3. Don’t be a slave to work.

Create a dedicated work space and work there. Break your work into manageable chunks. Schedule and take breaks. When you’re on your own it’s tempting to keep working in the evening. You can, obviously, but having work on a drip is not healthy. Have a way of “marking” the end of your working day. For example, close and tidy away your laptop, get changed, go for a walk.

4. Sing or dance. Preferably both.

Music is great for uplifting your spirits. So find a way to involve it in your day — somehow. If you dance at the same time, take a double tick: you’re also achieving your exercise goal. And it may help you sleep too.

5. Don’t get lured into the comparison trap.

Social media is the biggest and best of them. Spend too much time there and you’ll wind up feeling like EVERYONE who “has someone” is doing better in self-isolation better than you. They’re not. They’re arguing, they’re stressing, they’re bored, they’re worried. And, even if they’re not, you don’t need to think about that. Focus on making yourself feel okay.

6. Beware of snacking on coronavirus news.

Schedule your news views too — twice a day is enough. Constant checking for updates (which are usually just more of the same) will keep your anxiety humming.

7. Thrash your best self-soothing technique.

Do one thing every day that makes you feel good OR peaceful. Take a bath or a walk, hang with your cats/dog, meditate, do yoga or an online exercise class, journal or write, read, draw, paint, do crafts or puzzles, make things, listen to audio books or podcasts or music (see above). Avoid self-flagellation at all costs: if it doesn’t make you feel good or calm, it doesn’t count.

8. Catch up with one friend a day.

By Zoom or Houseparty, phone or even text message. Schedule catch ups with them if you can. Just aim to have one human interaction — and to hear your own voice — every day.

9. Look strangers in the eye.

When you go for a walk (as you should) smile or wave at — or say hi to — strangers. Some people won’t smile back; for some reason, infectious diseases make some people suspicious of everything and everyone. But eye contact is contagious — in a good way. It’s a way of making a human connection. If the stranger doesn’t “catch” yours back, shrug it off — they might be having a tougher time of lockdown than you.

10. Know one bad day doesn’t have to lead to two.

Everyone’s having the odd bad day at the moment — days when the kids fight, the house is a mess, their anxiety spikes, they can’t find what they need at the supermarket, they get NOTHING done. You’ll have them too. But it doesn’t have to mean the next day will be bad too. So when you’ve had a rough one, reset your plan, get up and keep trying. Tell yourself you can make it okay again.

11. Tap into the upside.

It may be hard to do this on a bad day, but there are benefits to being in a solo bubble. You can do what you want — when you want. You don’t have to keep everyone around you calm or positive or doing schoolwork or entertained. You don’t have tidy up their crap or do their dishes. You can have popcorn for dinner. You can play your own music — and sing and dance without critique. You can watch your favourite shows all night. The only fight you’ll have is with yourself. And, even though comparison is a dumb idea, it’s worth remembering a lot of people would give an awful lot for that.


Posted by on March 29, 2020 at 8:35 PM Comments comments (0)

These are unprecidented times and the future is uncertain.  While it is a fact that this terrible situation will pass (eventially the virus will be contained or extinguished, or a vaccine created that protects humanity from it's deadly impact) we don't know when, and to what extent our lives will be effected.

A generous resource has been created by a group of people with close knowledge of panic, worry and emotional/mental disturbance in Australia, made available to us all in the hope that some of their hard-won knowledge offers support, reassurance and a path out from under the crippling effect of panic or worry.  I have included the whole document in my "Resourses" section, under "personal wellbeing".

I am available for support through this time, offering appoinments via skype or zoom.  Get in touch if you are interested in this, via email at <> or text me on +64.21.834413

Stay safe and stay connected (while maintaining physical distance from those not within you bubble).


How do I get my kids motivated?

Posted by on June 26, 2017 at 6:05 PM Comments comments (0)

Much of what we are required to do in life – including a huge amount of what children are required to do – cannot be described as "enjoyable" or "exciting". Study, chores, being quiet, not picking your nose or not picking on your sister – where’s the fun in those?

To do these behaviours requires extrinsic motivation – a motivation that comes from outside the person. Sometimes that extrinsic motivation is avoiding a negative consequences like penalties or disapproval from a parent, at other times it will be a reward that makes the activity worthwhile.

A key question that comes up for parents around "extrinsic motivation" is do we have threaten and bribe our children all their lives? No! Fortunately, children can ‘internalise’ motivation. Over time the motivation moves from outside the child to inside their head.

If a child comes to agree whole-heartedly with the reasons for the task, they will perform in a self-motivated manner, even if the task itself is not very interesting or pleasant. They are motivated because their behaviour has some value to them, or it fits with their values, or is part of who they are.

For example, if a child believes tidying up is a good and right thing to do, and they see themselves as a ‘tidy’ person, the behaviour no longer requires some extrinsic penalty or reward – it has become internalised. They do what is required because they truly want to do it, even if it is hard or boring.

So there’s the tip – connect children with the value behind the chore – “Listen to you practice – that’s beautiful music you are making.” “Wow, this room looks so good when you’ve cleaned it! You must really enjoy being able to make it look this good”. “Thanks for helping with the shopping. It’s great that we are a team.”

Source: Hot Tips, The Parenting Place

The dating list

Posted by on June 26, 2017 at 5:50 PM Comments comments (0)

If your teenager is beginning to date it could be the time to make the list.

Ask them to write down the attributes that would make a potential boyfriend or girlfriend a good match for them. Do they value someone with a sense of humour? Someone who thinks of others, or who has clear goals for the future?

Encourage them to be crystal clear about the kind of person they’re looking for, and also about what constitutes a deal-breaker for a relationship, such as someone who puts people down or is unhappy with them doing thier own thing. The list can help them make a reasoned decision when mixed feelings create confusion.

Source: Hot Tip from The Parenting Place


Wardrobe wars

Posted by on June 26, 2017 at 5:45 PM Comments comments (0)

Whether it’s clothes, electronics, make-up or music, teenagers can be extremely territorial about their stuff, leading to spectacular bust-ups over who raided whose wardrobe or didn’t return something that they borrowed, and didn’t even have permission to borrow in the first place.

As the parent you can:

  • mediate endlessly,  
  • lose your patience,
  • or encourage them to work out a plan that everyone is happy with.

A good message for tweens and teens is if the system isn’t working, be a part of the solution. Coach them in how to put together a written agreement containing their own individualised rules for how and when they’re allowed to use each others’ gear.

Source: Hot Tip from The Parenting Place

Dealing with Prickly Teens

Posted by on June 26, 2017 at 5:35 PM Comments comments (0)

In many ways I experience parenting as "a long letting go"... as my child grows older, I find mysel ever so slowly having to let go more and more of making decisions for her, being in charge of her where-abouts, and filtering what she is exposed to.  As children get older they move into more self-directedness, self-determination, and being guided by their own ideas and will...

Our job as parents reverts to one of guide, mentor, consultant, advisor..... or we get shut out and experienced by our teenager as irrelevant, "not understanding" or just "kill-joys"!   In my counselling practice with families and parents, this is often an aspect of the work we do together... Redrawing the lines and decision making processes parents and teens have within their dynamic.

The link below takes you to an article that briefly outlines five useful aspects to keep in mind when struggling with the frustation of trying to parent a teen ager.  It offers tips and suggestions for each, and timely reminders to keep perspective ourselves.  

Five methods explored are: Understanding Why Your Teenager is Moody, Redirecting Negative Behavior, Offering Positive Support, Taking Care of Yourself, and Noting Warning Signs of More Serious Problems

What is Counselling Anyway? How can it help?

Posted by on June 26, 2017 at 5:20 PM Comments comments (0)

Here in New Zealand, the national professional association for counsellors is NZAC (New Zealand Association of Counsellors).  As a professional body, it vets applications for membership against a rigorous professional standard.  Anyone looking for a competant, professiona counsellor can reasonably assume that a NZAC member will have a high level of training, be professionally competant and offer a safe, confidential and ethical counselling practice.   Like the Master Builders Association, look for NZAC after a counsellors creditials to enure you are getting the best!

Here's a video NZAC produced to introduce the concept of seeing a counsellor:

Counselling helps you explore and manage your emotions, thoughts and behaviour. It can help you plan and set goals and improve your relationships.

Counselling assists you to address challenges in your life, get to know yourself better and to develop new ways of thinking and living.

Counselling helps with anxiety, depression, grief and loss, life changes and stress, relationships with family, friends and work colleagues, trauma, abuse and bullying, domestic and sexual violence.

It works best when you’re ready to participate and when you and your counsellor are clear and realistic about your therapy goals.

It can feel a little uncomfortable at first while you’re getting to know your counsellor.

However, most people say they feel relieved to have started the process and to be able to talk freely with someone neutral and non-judgemental.

Talk to a counsellor in your area about what you want to achieve.

I was first made a full member of NZAC in 1997 and have contributed to the professional association in a range of ways over the years.  As an Auckland based counsellor I am very interested to meet with you and explore what you want to achieve.  Use the "contact me" link to be in touch.

Nigel Pizzini (NZAC) 

Connecting Teens to the World

Posted by on August 28, 2016 at 1:05 AM Comments comments (0)

We tell our children from the day they’re born; 'You’re special', 'You matter', 'You are so significant to me.' Our words are important, but on their own they’re not enough to make our kids feel it and believe it. As they get older, our teens also need to know how and why they matter.


Connections with groups that work for a greater goal, either in their communities or worldwide, are a wonderful way to foster a sense of contribution. Sponsoring children in other countries, getting your teens volunteering their time, or regularly donating to a cause they find worthwhile can all build this sense of purpose and meaning that reaches beyond self interest. 'You play a part' is a powerful and affirming message that builds bonds between our kids, their family and wider society.


Source: Hot Tip from The Parenting Place


Discipline = Consequences - Anger

Posted by on August 28, 2016 at 12:55 AM Comments comments (0)

It's a simple equation:  Discipline = Consequences - Anger.   But it's nowhere near as simple to execute in real life.

When children push our buttons and our boundaries, anger and frustration can be very difficult for a parent to suppress. Some words of truth to remind oneself of at such times, which can help in the heat of the moment are, "My anger might overshadow what I want to teach my child."

Rehearse it often; speaking it out loud if you have to. Sometimes we need to remind ourselves of the reason why we’re trying so hard to keep calm. In this case, it’s about letting the lesson reach our child’s heart without provoking their fear, shame, resentment or anger along the way.

Source: Hot Tip from The Parenting Place

9 Sneaky Causes Of Depression

Posted by on April 3, 2016 at 8:20 PM Comments comments (0)

By: Lindsay Holmes, Healthy Living Editor, The Huffington Post


"Depression comes in many forms. It can be mild and people can be functional, or it can be severe and debilitating," Josie Znidarsic, a family physician at the Cleveland Clinic's wellness institute, told The Huffington Post. "It can happen to anyone. ... A major life trauma doesn't have to occur to have depression. It's also not something that will just disappear if you ignore it."

Of course, there are instances where the mental health condition isn't caused by any external circumstances. Some people's brain chemistry, hormones and genetic inheritance from family members can also be a large factor. That said, there are times when an outside trigger can contribute to the development of the mental illness. Below are a few surprising contributors to depression.

1. Chronic illness

Dealing with chronic disease isn't just tough physically, but emotionally as well. People who suffer from a chronic condition like heart disease, diabetes and cancer are more likely to experience depression, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It's important to note that scientists have yet to determine which one may cause the other, but experts stress that there are specific ways to manage the mental health disorder while working through chronic illness.


2. Smoking

Here's a good reason to kick that habit to the curb: A 2015 British study found that smokers were more likely to suffer from anxiety and depression overall than non-smokers. Additionally, the study found that smoking may be a source of anxiety because of the feelings of withdrawal smokers experience after not having a cigarette, the researchers said.

"That 'high' you get from cigarettes isn't useful because it's destructive to your body," Cleveland Clinic's chief wellness officer Michael Roizen previously told HuffPost. "You want to figure out what will give you a 'high' that isn't damaging or contributes to disease. Do that by finding a passion you love, whether it's exercise, talking with a friend or cooking. That's going to help, particularly when it comes to depression."


3. Excessive social media use

Social media is just a glimpse of someone's life through a glass half full; it does not accurately portray someone's reality. But you still may find yourself stacking your life against theirs. This is subconscious process is what researchers call "social comparison," and it can lead to feelings of depression, according to a study published in the Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology.


4. Your neighborhood

Are you a city dweller or a country resident? It could make a difference in your mental health. Research shows that people who live in urban areas may be more susceptible to mental illness, particularly depression, Scientific American reported. While researchers say the underlying cause of why that happens is incredibly complex, they theorize that spending more time in nature can be a helpful antidote.


5. Diet

Your physicality and mentality may be tied to what you consume. Research suggests that people who have a poor diet -- think foods high in processed meats, sugar and fat -- also weremore likely to report symptoms of depression, the Mayo Clinic reported. A 2008 data analysis published in the Indian Journal of Psychology states that "nutrition can play a key role in the onset as well as severity and duration of depression."

This, of course, is cyclical. Depression also can result in a change in appetite, sometimes making it difficult for a person to have proper nutrition. Experts say that the relationship is complex, but it's still something to be aware of when it comes to your mood.


6. Too much sitting

The only avenue to a healthy body and mind is not only to prioritize what you eat, but how much activity you do. Research shows exercise can boost your mood. Not only that, the opposite behavior of too much inactivity may be linked to experiencing symptoms of depression. Time to move those feet.


7. A lack of sleep

Sleep deprivation is no joke. If you don't prioritize those Z's, you're not only at risk for chronic conditions like heart disease, you're also at risk for emotional conditions. Research shows severe sleep loss can mess with your mood. Depression also can impact your sleep, creating a vicious cycle.


8. Brain inflammation

Emerging research is finding that depressive symptoms may be due to a "neuroinflammation," or a natural response the brain engages in to protect itself. A study published in the journal JAMA Psychiatry found that brain inflammation was 30 percent higher in depressed patients. This may be good news when it comes to stigma, given that the common misconception about depression is that it's something a person can "just get over" or that they "brought it on themselves."


9. Not putting your needs first

If you prioritize others and ignore your own needs, that can take a toll on your mental health. "Too often people leave no space or time to take care of themselves," Znidarsic said. "If they don't have the ability to say no to people or things that don't nurture them, that can really leave someone drained and depressed."

If you feel like you may be experiencing depression, hope is certainly not lost, Znidarsic stressed. There are ways to manage it to help you get back into a better frame of mind -- because you deserve to be healthy.