As we continue our campaigning and research into the impacts of coronavirus on women, we asked our diarists who live alone how they are managing without contact with others. They described the lack of physical contact and social interaction as being one of the main challenges.

Working was mentioned by some women as a useful structure for the day:

When we went into lockdown, I’d been living on my own for about five months having left my partner. He had a temper… At the start I often felt overwhelmed, anxious, scared and tearful. I feel much better now and relieved that I left him when I did. Work often feels overwhelming but it’s also a very important part of my week as it gives me purpose and meaning and contact albeit mostly via video link. On days I don’t work I always think ahead to try and plan e.g. go for a run, have a shower, have lunch, do gardening, read etc.
Fortunately my current job is one where I can work from home, even though it’s a temporary contract. I’m making sure I work within set hours (adding more if I need to by either starting earlier or working later or both) I get up early and I’ve started going into my garden to stretch and breathe before I wash and get myself ready for the day. This amendment to my routine is helping enormously. My boss is also wonderful - we check in every day and she is really supportive and sensible. This is a direct contrast to my previous job which I left in February. I wouldn’t be doing well at all if I was still there.

Those not working mention other ways to find a structure for the day:

My health is good, I am physically fit and have been doing online personal training, online pilates and going for long walks once a week. These three things have been so, so important to me… Online pilates has got boring but it’s something to do, the classes are live and with teachers I know, so feels familiar and bit of contact with my real life.

I live in London, and since this lockdown began, I have walked one day of every weekend to the river and back… I love the walks, highlight of my week...I will buy take away coffee and sit on a bench.

I am recently retired… The main structure to my day are my exercise classes (Jazzercise and Pilates) which the tutors are now streaming through Facebook. I leap about my kitchen or stretch and flex in the living room knowing that all those lovely people who used to come to class with me are also at the other end of the wifi link. I do 2-3 classes a day.

Some have found ways to have contact with others:

My son lives locally and we agreed that when the weather was good he would pop round. I could let him in through the garage on the side of the house so that he did not enter the home and we sat in the garden 2 metres apart for a catch up.

But not being with people day to day can be very hard:

I am finding the unending aloneness very difficult. I find it hard to hear of families having these special times together when my experience is so very different...I function well alone but I love being with people and where people are...the aloneness is the most difficult part of this.
I am finding lockdown very hard. I live alone and do feel lonely. I experience the ‘coronacoaster’ with very up and down moods and where little things can knock you back because you are living with a certain level of anxiety and worry all the time. I would like to add the phrase 'coronalone' as that’s what I call what I am experiencing. I especially hate eating alone day after day. I am used to an active life with lots of friends and my family and, whilst I have never minded living alone, I now find it hard and depressing.
Lack of human contact has been hard… I do miss the social interaction and the physical act of hugging friends and family hugely. I miss affection and the presence of people physically.

And for some, it is getting harder as the weeks go on:

I wake each morning wondering if it is worth getting up, getting dressed and whether I can be bothered to go for my daily walk. Increasingly I have thoughts as to whether I can keep going. I miss the company of being with people, friends, volunteering, going on day trips to London, and other towns and cities… I still have nights of constantly waking up, numerous dreams, and waking up finally far earlier than I have ever done in the past. I am constantly tired… I miss my daughter dreadfully… I wonder when we will see each other again. I feel more and more isolated and depressed as the weeks progress and seem to weep more often.

We heard that the easing of the lockdown is helping with this:

The easing of lockdown is helping ease the stress as I can see more people. I will do a social distance walk with my niece. And go into the countryside on Monday and walk with a friend.

But this was not universal, as the approach to easing has been difficult for those whose options are more limited:

I am missing visiting my parents, they are around 90 years old, it scares me I may not get to see them again, they are outside of London… to get there I will need to take buses and trains and at the moment that’s not permitted...I feel angry about some of the new loosening...because it seems to favour the wealthy, the people with cars, golf hasn’t changed anything for me.

Last week we also asked the diarists who are living with others how they share the domestic load. Look out for a post on their experiences later this week.