Talking to yourself in quarantine? It’s nothing to worry about and you’re not the only one

Regina Henry knows how to hold a conversation — especially with no one else in the room.

Her two-week wait for COVID-19 test results was full of thinking out loud.

“After the first week or so when I still hadn’t gotten a fever and wasn’t feeling any worse, my self-talk was ‘If I do have it, maybe it isn’t bad and I have built up an immunity,’ ” said Henry, a 63-year-old Hamilton woman who lives alone with her dog.

The results came back negative, but that hasn’t stopped her from talking to herself.

“It’s a way of having somebody there with you.”

With people cooped up at home because of COVID-19, many are alone all day while others are looking for a spare moment to themselves in a home full of people. Either way, many need moments to sort out their thoughts.

For some, that inner monologue spills out and they begin taking to themselves. It could be a few words muttered to oneself or each thought in someone’s head said out loud — but experts say if the COVID-19 quarantine has you speaking out loud without anyone around to listen, it’s not a cause for worry.

It’s pretty common and there’s an explanation for all of it.

“In this situation we have a moment in time where, for many of us, that busy-ness has slowed right down and we’re experiencing much more quiet and we really have a chance to reflect and sometimes it’s out loud,” Allison Hallman, a registered psychotherapist and the manager of Student Wellness and Counselling at Mohawk College, said.

“There’s this thought that when we start talking to ourselves, ‘I must be crazy’ and it’s important that people know it’s normal.”

Can talking to yourself help?

While mental health concerns are becoming more common during the COVID-19 pandemic, talking to yourself is normal and can even be healthy if it is used to clarify thoughts and prepare for upcoming social situations.

But Hallman said it can become concerning if the person believes they are speaking to someone else or if the self-talk leads to a rabbit hole full of negativity.

“What’s important is to tune into what the baseline of that is for you and if there’s any changes there. In this situation where we have people at home, isolation is up, loneliness is up … if we tune into the conversation with ourselves that’s where we’re going to notice changes like increasing anxiety and a decrease in mood,” she said.

Randi McCabe, a McMaster University professor in the department of of psychiatry and behavioural neurosciences, said the stigma around caring for your mental health is shrinking. And talking to yourself can be a coping mechanism.

“Talking to yourself out loud can be very helpful for managing and expressing emotions,” she said.

“In addition to expressing anger, talking yourself through a challenging situation can help give you courage or motivation or reduce anxiety or distress.”

Normally, talking to yourself can be as simple as yelling at a TV when a plot twist ruins your favourite show, venting about the latest drama in your life or reminding yourself of what you need to buy before you speed out the door.

“Some people write lists of pros and cons, I do it in my head and envision those scenarios when I’m talking to myself,” Henry said.

“It could be in the hallway of my apartment building and a neighbour looks up and says, ‘Excuse me?’ and then you realize, ‘Oh, you said that out loud.’ “

Sometimes, she talks to her miniature poodle, Pearl, and Henry wouldn’t be surprised if others are doing the same with their pets.

“It’s like talking to another person, ”What do you think about this, Pearl?’ which is absolutely absurd,” she said.

“But it’s good stress relief.”

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