While we wouldn’t dream of publishing one of those blogs which romanticises isolation and shames you into feeling bad for not taking up the accordion and learning a new language – we believe it’s entirely possible to use this time positively, whilst still taking care of your mental health.
Although these are unprecedented times, and we are looking to each other for guidance – isolation is not a new concept. What we can learn from astronauts, athletes, hostages, submariners and POWs…is massively important in our quest to stay sane during self-isolation.
“One day at a time”
Let’s look at Tony Bullimore – a British yachtsman who spent four days in the freezing Southern Ocean beneath his capsized boat. Your living room doesn’t feel quite so bad in comparison does it?! And what did he cite as his reason for surviving? “Doing all I could to deal with the situation and trying not to think about what’s coming.” A stoic and pragmatic response from the ‘British Bulldog’. Can you relate? Have you been taking life a day at a time since being in isolation yourself? We agree also with the same ‘day at a time’ sentiment tweeted by Coronavirus survivor, Tom Hanks – once Castaway on an island himself with only ‘Wilson’ for company!
By focussing only on the next 24-hours of your life, you can help limit feelings of anxiety and overwhelm. Try breaking the day down into 30 minute bite-size chunks and fill them with tasks for the day as well as things you enjoy – a workout, a nap, a walk or a project. By adapting this new skill to your life post-Covid-19, you’ll learn that by breaking your day into manageable segments, you’ll be more productive and positive and help manage any negative feelings. Give it a go.
Form a routine
Another legend of our lifetime, Terry Waite – taken hostage and held in solitary confinement for 5 years. What can we learn from this expert in isolation? He said “My guards thought I was mad when, in the first week of captivity when I still had my own clothes, I placed my trousers under my thin mattress at night to press them. That was my way of not letting myself fall apart.”
Being home all day can make you feel demotivated and lethargic. Routine and self-pride is key. And by that we aren’t suggesting a regimented itinerary. But set a morning alarm, shower, get dressed, have set mealtimes, exercise times and bedtime. Start your day by dressing in something smart and comfortable and pop on some make up or have a fresh shave. Don’t try to import an unsuitable pattern into such a strange time like this, let your own rhythm guide you and make adjustments as you go. But take control of your physical appearance and your environment and your day will be more sustainable and enjoyable.
Build a crew
Former astronaut, Chris Hadfield, tells us we need to shift our perception and think of the people that we are living with as our crew – just like on a spaceship, “I have a crew, I have a spaceship, we have a common purpose and a common enemy and we need to adjust what’s happening to emerge out of this victorious.”
He tells us that often the people he lived in space with were not always characters he would choose to spend six months of his life locked up with! Even as families, we are still individuals. As a husband and father, you may enjoy your own company and a simple way of life. But a wife and mother may need company, conversation, stimulation.
Your children, your housemates, your friends, your relatives may not naturally get along. But just like a space crew, you have to find a way to thrive under these strange and unnatural circumstances. Chris says, “Having that sense of common purpose is really important in order to maintain your psychological wellbeing.”
If you’re isolating alone, here’s what we can learn from another astronaut, Scott Kelly – who spent a year on the International Space Station.
“Even with all the responsibilities of serving as commander of a space station, I never missed the chance to have a videoconference with family and friends. Scientists have found that isolation is damaging not only to our mental health, but to our physical health as well, especially our immune systems. Technology makes it easier than ever to keep in touch, so it’s worth making time to connect with someone every day — it might actually help you fight off viruses.”
He goes on to say, “I’ve found that most problems aren’t rocket science, but when they are rocket science, you should ask a rocket scientist.
Especially in a challenging moment like the one we are living through now, we have to seek out knowledge from those who know the most about it and listen to them.”
So, there you have it, how to stay sane during isolation by the experts. We hope you can take something from the stories of these incredible people who have used their time during isolation positively and productively.
We will continue to share our thoughts and insights with you and help you through isolation in any way we can.
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