Before the pandemic, I didn't realize how much enjoyment and happiness I derive from alone time. (I've never really been someone who's needed huge swaths of time in solidarity to feel centered or grounded.) But as we're closing in on a year in quarantine life, the absence of having any real time to myself—to masturbate or even just, you know, be alone—has gotten to me. I don't live by myself, and I feel disconnected from myself. Given that I can't change this setup (quarantine is far from over, I expect), what can I do to feel more connected to myself, sexually and otherwise?"
While this is a sex column—and I'll get to the health benefits of masturbation in a moment—my interest in sexuality led me to explore mental health as a whole, so when I read this request for advice, I am struck most by the human capacity to know what one needs, feel the need so deep within, and yet feel unable to claim it.
The importance of alone time is a thing! And you know it's a thing you need—you are saying it over and over. This is often the hardest part of identifying our woes, and to be sure, your need is valid. Alone time helps us regulate our temperament, boost our creativity, improve our relationships, and, ultimately, it just makes us more empathetic. Having time to reconnect with our bodies and our minds is essential, but finding the time to tap into our sexuality right now, especially, can demand privacy
Having time to reconnect with our bodies and our minds is essential. But finding the time to tap into our sexuality right now, especially, can demand privacy.
As a married person who lives with a partner, I'm finding that I need to be far more intentional in managing this facet of my life in comparison to how I operated in pre-COVID-19 times because, well, we're both home all the time. Suffice it to say, I empathize with your question.
Now, let's help you actually carve out some of that important alone time you note that you need.
Even in quarantine, we can mark boundaries as a strategy to create personal space. Even if you live in a studio apartment with a friend, I am positive you can find a way to be alone. (I also wouldn't be surprised if your roommate felt the exact same way.) As a first step, try to determine how much alone time you need and how often you need it. For instance, do you need the whole apartment to yourself to feel sufficiently alone, or can you find solidarity in a pocket of a shared space?
Next, sit your roommates down and explicitly express your stance on the importance of alone time. Center your communication around your feelings, your needs, your desire, and then make the request, but frame it as an invitation to brainstorm together. Ideate together how you can each find ways to be alone, so you are creating a mutually beneficial situation. Can you commit to taking long walks in order to give each other at least X hours of alone time on Y days per week, for instance?
If you’re having this conversation with a partner or family member, you can follow the same plan—but just remember the nuances that this conversation might require. For example, things may be more sensitive if someone close to you hears you’d like to spend time away from them, so consider how you’d want someone to approach you with this same desire. Keep that perspective top of mind, and approach it gently, empathetically, and lovingly.
The overarching solution here isn't just about finding the time to masturbate. Rather, it's about respecting the importance of alone time and making it a priority in your life. And let me be clear here: Masturbation is important. It’s good for you in so many ways—reducing stress due to the release of endorphins; helping with discovery and communication of what you like; increasing the amount of natural lubrication you produce; improving your sleep, and more. And to find the best way to communicate your needs and desires, don't sleep on the value to be gleaned from listening to yourself.
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