When you're alone in lockdown, it feels like your whole world has been reduced to four walls.
I know this because I am one of the one-in-five Britons who have spent the last three months alone.
My lockdown experience - my cabin fever, my yearning to adopt 12 cats - doesn’t compare to key workers in intensive care or those keeping our shelves full at Tesco.
I have been incredibly lucky in many ways. I have a very sociable job, I have internet access, I have been able to do all my own shopping and, most importantly, I am well.
But that doesn't mean it has always been easy. I'm 23-years-old and live in a three-room rented flat in Swansea. I don't have a garden or balcony and I am more than five miles away from all my family and most of my friends.(Image: Lucy John)
The Office for National Statistics released figures in June showing the impact coronavirus had on the well-being of Brits between April 3 and May 3. It found that the equivalent of 7.4 million people said their well-being was affected through feeling lonely.
Working-age adults living alone were more likely to be lonely “often or always”. This was also the case for people in poor health, in rented accommodation, or who were either single, divorced or separated.
For me, this is very relatable. For the first time in my life, I understand what it means to be lonely.
However, as the lockdown measures start to lift, I can look forward to spending time again with those who are important to me.
Everyone living alone has their own set of circumstances which make their experience of lockdown unique.
I spoke to five other people to see how they've found being alone for the last three months and how they feel as they regain some sort of normality.
Valerie's lockdown story(Image: Valerie James)
Valerie James is an 89-year-old widow who lives alone in Seven Sisters near Neath. She chairs the local old age pensioners group, so knows exactly how the lockdown has impacted some of the most vulnerable in the area.
"I have never lived through times like these. Generally I think the older people are managing a lot better than the young people - we have built up resilience," she said.
"But, where the older people are finding it hard, myself included, is that we are not spending much time with people our own age. We're not going to our old pensioner meetings or other clubs where we usually get that socialisation from."
Mrs James said though that while she has faced difficulties because of her age, she considers herself "very lucky".
She said: "I have been able to have meals delivered from my family. There are also local businesses delivering to people in the community. I know some elderly people who don't have children or family left and are having to rely on friends-of-friends to help them."
The mother-of-five has 10 grandchildren and 15 great-grandchilden. Some live within a five-mile radius, but others live further afield.
"Again, I've been lucky that I have family close buy so when they've dropped essentials off I've been able to see them in my garden through the window," she said.
"However I have other family who live further away and it is sad not being able to see them. Some of my youngest grandchildren might not know who I am when they next see me - I might just seem like an old lady, a stranger to them.
"I lost a family member and it was hard not being able to console those close to him like I'd naturally want to do. Grief is something that older people generally experience more than younger people."(Image: Handout)
She added: "There's also our health - we haven't been walking as much or exercising our muscles which is very important. Some people have become more confused because they have been inside for so long.
"I've struggled, for example, with something as simple as cutting my own toenails. I find it difficult to bend and I usually see a chiropodist to help with with that, which I obviously can't do now. I have had to find new ways to do things.
"It can also be harder to do work in the house, and of course nobody can come in to help unless it's a real emergency.
"When the clocks went forward, that was difficult. My clocks are high up and I usually have someone to help me with that."
Mrs James said she spends a lot of time doing her favourite hobby: knitting. However, this is not a luxury everyone can enjoy.
"I've kept busy because I enjoy knitting and crocheting and I can do that at home. But I worry about the older people who don't necessarily have hobbies they can do inside the home.
"For many, the television is source of comfort or company, and there isn't always much good on - a lot of it is quite negative too. I worry about the impact on older men who can't get out to play bowls in the community," she said.
"Mostly I miss having visitors and going to parks with my family on my mobility scooter."
- The struggles, strength and true stories of disabled people during lockdown
- How Welsh businesses feel about Brexit now we're in the middle of a pandemic
Dale's lockdown story(Image: Handout)
Dale Hugh, 24, lives alone in Cardiff.
"I rent a flat in and I have lived there on my own for about a year. I have neighbours who I have gotten closer to and I am lucky to have a garden. I don't know how I would have coped without that," he said.
"I've been out there planting regularly and have been able to chat to neighbours while I'm out there."
Mr Hugh works in radio and said his biggest struggle has been knowing what to do from 5pm each day.
"The moment I finish work, I think 'what should I do now?'. I would often finish work and meet friends in town for a few beers and now I can't do that.
"I do spend a fair amount of time on my own anyway, but it's the fact I haven't had the option to see friends even if I wanted to.
"I was doing a lot of video calling friends at the start but that got old quickly.
"But that's when I started speaking more to my neighbours. That's something that's been a real positive - I hadn't really got to know them until lockdown and now we spend a few hours talking in the garden some days."(Image: Dale Hugh)
Something else that Mr Hugh is thankful for, is that he has been able to go out himself to get his essentials and do exercise.
"I feel privileged that I have been able to get out and get food. I am also lucky to have some members of my family living close to me in Cardiff. However, I didn't see my gran for three months and that was hard. But I did have a chat with her recently and that was really nice.
"I've been cycling every day - I'm very lucky to live by the Taff Trail. Sometimes I go for a walk before work in the morning to give me some exercise and normality because I always used to walk to work."
Though Mr Hugh said he has coped pretty well through lockdown, he is growing increasingly apprehensive as things edge towards a "new normal".
He said: "I'm nervous for when things start going back to normal. I plan to take things at my own pace and won't be rushing it."
Mr Hugh added: "[Lockdown] has been a bit bleak and boring at times, but the over-riding feeling is that I am very lucky. I still have a job, I have family who live nearby, I can get everything I need.
Paula's lockdown story
Paula Bennett, 57, is from Caerphilly. She is disabled and has spent lockdown shielding. She has found living alone in lockdown very difficult, but said she is now finally looking forward to the future.
"It was quite hard at the beginning, not being able to see anybody and not going out," she explained.
"I was quite upset and cried a bit, but I'm used to it now. It was hard not seeing my grandchildren - the youngest is 22-months-old and the oldest is 15. I couldn't see them at Easter to give them presents.
"The hardest thing was not being able to go out anywhere before the restrictions eased a bit."(Image: Paula Bennett)
Miss Bennett is diabetic and has very painful arthritis. She is also asthmatic. She said she has been out of work for two years because of her health issues and is also divorced.
"Before lockdown I didn't realise how dangerous the virus could be for people like me with diabetes and asthma. My friend bought me face masks and I have hand sanitiser here, but I had to shield and couldn't leave my house until recently," she said.
"I try to get out every week now for a stroll which is good. I also have a garden so I go outside sometimes when it's cooler. I've also been looking after my son's dog, Blue, for a few weeks and that has been really lovely. He has given me company, which I didn't have before.
"It was stressful - it's not that I go out lots anyway, but I usually have the option at least. Instead I video called my grandsons and if my son went on a bike ride, I sometimes saw them from my window."(Image: Paula Bennett)
Miss Bennett said that although she struggled though lockdown, things could have been even worse if she didn't have support from kind members of the community.
"My friend, Janice Goodswen, has been a godsend. She's been helping a lot of people around Caerphilly who have been isolating and are unable to get essentials. Throughout lockdown she has been bringing me essentials from the supermarket. She's amazing."
Miss Bennett said she hopes she can go on holiday in a few months time.
She said: "I am a bit anxious about going back to normality, but I'm also looking forward to it. I hopefully can go on holiday in September or October. We had one booked for May and that got cancelled."
Alice's lockdown story(Image: Handout)
Alice Gray is 28-years-old and lives in a flat in Cardiff. She is a science communicator and presenter who specialises in neuroscience.
Normally, Ms Gray shares her home with a flatmate, however, they left to isolate with their partner at the start of lockdown.
"It has been challenging mainly because of not having human comforts, for example when you've had a bad day or have bad family news," she said.
"I'm asthmatic, and had some symptoms, so I took the lockdown very seriously, but I am lucky that I have a lot of friends who were able to drop essentials to me if I needed it."
Ms Gray said that living so long without the comfort of another person has been very difficult for her at times, however she still considers herself "very lucky".
"I haven't had a hug for three months, which is really hard to imagine - lots of people at least have had some sort of human contact," she said.
"In some ways I do think I have been really lucky - I've kept my job so I've been able to keep busy. I can't imagine how it would have been if I was in lockdown alone and furloughed.
"And when I could leave the house to get my daily exercise that made me feel better - it was really important to do that."
Ms Gray has found creative ways of working through lockdown to keep herself busy, such as setting up a green screen so she could record and present from her own flat.(Image: Alice Gray)
She is currently working on a project to explore how loneliness affects people and said: "Even without lockdown, it's a huge misconception that young people don't get lonely.
"Many have moved far away from families, live in cities without much of a community feel and live with housemates they might not be very close to. Lockdown has amplified this.
"For me, I don't know when I'll next see my family again. The five mile rule might be lifted in the next few weeks, but it's also about feeling comfortable seeing them because you just want them to be safe.
"I have family who live in England and it's hard to see them having different rules to me here in Wales - even though I agree with the gradual easing of the lockdown we have.
"I understand it, but seeing my sister going back to work is stressful because I'm worried about her safety all the time."
Ms Gray said she has missed going to the gym, so has starting running to stay fit.
"Exercise has been really important for me. I'm a weightlifter and it's a great stress reliever for me. Not being able to do that at the gym has been difficult," she said.
"I have started running and I do yoga, which has been helpful. Even though I'm not usually a runner, I've done a few 5ks and completed two half marathons while I've been in lockdown."
Though parts of her lockdown have been difficult, she said things have perked up for her since the Welsh Government announced people could see people in the flesh, albeit with a two-metre distance.
She added: "That made a big difference, even if we couldn't give people a hug. You can video and phone call as many times as you want but nothing actually beats seeing someone in person."
- Sign up for one of the WalesOnline newsletters
- Get the WalesOnline app for Welsh news and sport tailored for you
Sara's lockdown story
Sara Davies, is 33-years-old and lives alone in Bridgend. She is originally from West Wales and has been furloughed from her job in professional rugby.
"At the start, I felt really positive, like I had a plan to become super fit - I really wanted to make the best of it. That lasted for about eight weeks," she said.
"From there on its been much more of a rollercoaster. I've had some good days and some not-so-good days.
"I'm doing a lot of video calls and that has been really lovely, but it's not the same as seeing people in person."
Miss Davies said she feels as though she has it easier than many, since she is on her own. However that this is also part of the struggle.
"Being on your own, you don't have anyone to annoy or anyone to annoy you. I'm not having to look after a family or keep children entertained," she explained.
"That makes it hard in some ways because you feel guilty saying you're finding it tough when others have a lot more going on. It isn't as bad as some other people, it's just different.
"Even though things have relaxed slightly, I still haven't been able to go home because my family are in Whitland, Carmarthenshire. I have been able to see some friends in their gardens, but if they have family living close, they've obviously had to prioritise seeing them."
Miss Davies said she's taken time over the last three months to relax. She said she feels very grateful to have good friends who take time to ask her how she's doing because she is alone.
"I've dealt with it by making sure I have a plan in place. I get up, go for a walk which can take up one or two hours. I come home, have lunch, maybe do some personal admin and then I can relax and catch up on shows," she said.
"My friends have been great, always checking on to make sure I'm okay. We've still managed to have fun. I've video called them a lot. We've done things like cooking spag bol together and then putting our phones on our tables so it's like we're sitting at the same table together."
She added: "I'm looking forward to getting some normality as things start to relax. lockdown has been a rollercoaster for everybody - there's been no easy way to do it.
"My work is social and I am an out-going person. At least now it won't be too long until we start back again. There is a light at the end of the tunnel."