Finding Personal Space During Shelter-in-Place

by Thaddeus Camlin, Psy.D.

Last week we covered five ways to cope with isolation.  This week we address the other side of the shelter-in-place coin – the challenges of finding space for oneself when sheltering with others.  Most of us live with people, and most of us can relate to the notion that enough time spent with anyone within the same set of walls drives conflict up to the surface like a thermal convection.  Below are five ways to find personal space while sheltering-in-place with loved ones.

1. Headphones

Noise cancelling headphones, ideally, but any headphones will do.  As anyone alive and awake in a city for the past 20 years will attest to, as the emergence of ipods and their corresponding iconic white ear buds proliferated through society every sidewalk and bustling street corner went from a public sphere of open dialogue amongst strangers to a collection of isolated nodes of individual human existence.  Point being, headphones signal to others ‘do not disturb,’ and most people adhere to the message.


2. Designate a Room

Make one room a place where people can go to get away.  Agree that people are not to be disturbed unless there’s an emergency.  No matter how much we love the people we live with, we all need some space, some peace and quiet, and a few moments alone with our thoughts.


3. Solo-Missions

Just because we are sheltering-in-place together does not mean that we have to do everything together.  Walk the dog alone, watch your own show once in a while, go on a solo-run, whatever, just make it a point do some things apart from the others sharing the same set of walls.


4. Read  

Reading is generally a solitary activity.  Sitting comfortably with a book is similar to wearing headphones, it signals to others that we are engaged in and enjoying some solitude, which makes it less likely that we will be disturbed.


5. Create

Being creative is the only item that makes this week’s list and last week’s list.  As it was stated last week – it’s not if we’re creative, it’s how we’re creative. Reconnecting with our creativity by drawing, painting, writing, dancing, singing, cooking, playing music, etc. are all ways to get some alone time and to clear our heads from all the chatter, and data, and headlines, and stressors that tend to inundate our consciousness.  

Final Thoughts

Finding some personal space can be particularly challenging while we shelter-in-place, and getting on the same page with the people we live with about the importance of time with oneself is probably a good thing.  Often, the ability to share silence with another comfortably is the greatest sign of strength and closeness in a relationship’s connection. Needing to fill every quiet moment with chit-chat can reflect significant, underlying insecurity.  Ensuring that we have some alone time and personal space actually helps relationships more than it hurts them, especially when the space is something discussed and agreed upon ahead of time.