How to stay sane in isolation - Do’s and Don’ts
Updated: Aug 22, 2020
There is no denying that these are anxiety-inducing, uncertain times. Whereas we are all doing the best we can to keep ourselves and our loved ones safe and healthy, there is vast potential for a lot of misinformation to flourish and this can make us feel more anxious than we need to be.
For very many of us, being required to work from home can be a bit of a culture shock, and as most people aren’t used to this terrible habits can quickly flourish if we aren’t careful. Because I’m a “give me the bad news first” sort of person I’ll start with what NOT to do, followed by what to do.
Without further ado, here is a very short survival guide on how to retain our sanity during these trying times!
1. Stay in your pyjamas all day
Ahh… the relief of not having to jump out of bed at the crack of dawn, rushing to get ready, dragging ourselves out, bleary-eyed and coffee in hand to brave the throngs of people squeezing themselves into packed train carriages. That alone is enough to inspire us to stick a metaphorical middle finger up to all those rules and… just stay in our pyjamas all day long, because we can.
And besides, whereas we need to deal with all the responsibility, the work, the pressures and stresses that come with being an adult - there have to be some perks as well, right? Namely that no one can now tell us off for eating cereal for lunch and dinner and staying in our cozy sleep gear all day.
Ahaha, take that, world!
Obviously, the downside to this is that, whereas this decision will feel amazing at 10am, it will feel markedly less so at 7pm when it’s getting dark outside and we still have morning breath. It’s much less cute then, especially when we then find ourselves struggling to fall asleep at night because our brains have basically treated the entire day as if it were one long nap.
Take it from us long-term freelancers: that is only fun for the first half... of the first day.
Do yourself a favor and shower, get dressed.
If you treat your day like it doesn’t matter, it won’t; but if you treat like it does, then it just might.
2. Get all your information from social media
Ah, now there’s a mental trap if I’ve ever seen one. To quote the 1976’s movie “all the president’s men”: follow the money. What is the motivator behind the particular piece of content you’re reading? Is it truly to keep people safe, or does the link take you to a page laden with a thousand pop-ups and ads? If the second is true, then be very wary of what you’re reading - as the purpose of that piece may be less about keeping you informed and safe, and more about appealing to our baser emotions: there is a wealth of research out there showing that people are far more motivated to click to read content that taps into the emotions of fear, shock, anger, and disgust. Call that the dark side of the force in online content: Jedi content writers appeal to curiosity, whereas Sith writers will appeal to all that bad stuff.
Don’t. Give. In.
3. Let your circadian rhythms get out of whack
See above regarding the staying in your pyjamas thing - don’t!
Other ways we can let our circadian rhythms slide into the murky plains of waking-up-whenever is by letting go of our bedtime and wake-up routines. Whereas there can be a welcome adjustment to let some of our natural rhythms emerge (some of us are larks, others owls) and there is indeed some benefit in respecting our biorhythms a bit more, if not just for the lowered stress levels and all their wonderful side-effects including a slimmer waistline, and a boosted immune system - which we can all agree is something to strive for right now!
Aim for a regular bedtime and a regular wakeup time, ensuring you eat your meals at steady times also helps - it is not for nothing that one of the best ways to beat jet lag is to eat meals in the time zone that you are travelling to before arrival.
4. Allow yourself to be engulfed by Netflix
Yikes. As much as it’s fun to be able to finally catch up on all those box sets you had been meaning to watch, I spy with my little eye hoards of couch potatoes in the making, to the point where Netflix is lowering the quality of its streaming across Europe, and there have even been reports of streaming services being down!
There is more to life than TV. Really.
1. Keep a list of fun things / Distractions handy
It may feel ironic to be writing this, as a tech startup about to release our own app, but many app developers and companies are in the business of creating addictive products. This is so bad that some tech executives don’t allow their kids to have smart phones - when the cook doesn’t want to taste their own recipe it should raise some serious red flags. As useful as these things are, they are also and sometimes mostly, designed to be addictive.
Forgive me for again using Star Wars imagery: there are Jedis and Siths in the app development world too. Jedis are in the business of creating useful tools that become the go-to in any situation: a good low-tech example of this is how little time we spend in the morning figuring out what to clean our teeth with: a toothbrush is our go-to tool, but we're not addicted to the toothbrush, sleep with it next to our pillow, you get the idea...
Siths, however, are in a different business altogether: their currency is your attention, and they will resort to all sorts of tricks from the dark side of cognitive science to get it. So beware, unless you take active measures you will see the amount of time you spend on your phone skyrocket, in perfect opposition to the plummeting of your psychological well being.
Enter the Fun Things Menu: a list of enjoyable, relaxing activities, preferably done offline.
Here are some examples to get you started:
Make a drawing
Read a book
Play a board game with others… and more.
2. Keep your routines
As above, there is much benefit to keeping regular routines. As difficult as it is to continue getting dressed to the nines when you are working on your own, take a leaf from the book of people who have been working from home and find it useful to not let themselves slip into forever living in their loungewear. I have been working from a home office on and off for over 10 years and have found that a simple ritual really helped keep me focused: waking up, getting my body moving with a short workout, followed by my mind with a short meditation session, a shower, getting fully dressed (makeup included), and getting a little fresh air first thing in the morning. Of course in current times this last bit may be next to impossible, so perhaps sitting by a window wide open and taking some deep breaths of the fresh morning air, or sitting by a sunny window while you enjoy your morning coffee might be all we can do - but do it. Your brain, energy level, stress level, and to do list will thank you!
3. Move! Why is exercise so important
I cannot sing the praises of regular exercise enough, and if you don’t feel like running an Iron Man first thing in the morning, know that you are not alone, and NO, you will NEVER see me pushing the benefits of waking up at 5am and exercising for 3 hours straight as the single pathway to greatness.
It’s all well and good if you are naturally a Lark, but as it turns out most of us are actually Owls or somewhere in the middle. Don’t take my word for it, here’s some research and here's some more. Disrespecting and going against our chronotype will only lead all those potential exercise gains to go to waste from the increased cortisol levels you’d get from the stress you’re unnecessarily putting your body through - all for the sake of that #VirtueSignalling.
Again, if this is naturally you, I bow in true admiration. However, this piece here is for us common mortals. Bear with us for a moment.
Basically, the gold lies in regular movement. There is a wealth of research out there that shows that, more than running a 10K once a week, you are much better off by running less, but doing it every day. Or yoga, or dancing (one of my favorites), or whatever rocks your boat and helps keep you fit and happy.
We don’t want to allow our bodies to decondition during this time. In our 20s and younger, the body may bounce back quickly enough, but as we get older, our bodies become much less forgiving of these types of transgressions. Remember, we are built to move, so try to incorporate as much movement as possible while taking your own fitness level and stamina into account.
4. Be careful about where you get your news from
As I mentioned above and at the risk of repeating myself, there is currently an arms race for our attention, and some of the players may be a bit less than ethical in what comes to the integrity of the content they are serving us. It is easy to ratchet up click numbers by appealing to our baser emotions, and fear is currently running rampant across the world, just as contagious as COVID-19, if not more.
For the sake of your safety as well as that of those you love, ensure you consume information sparingly and be highly discerning of where you are getting your news and information from.
5. Keep your connections close - this means more than just browsing social media
Have regular check ins with people, real people. Lazily clicking “Like” on a post doesn’t count as social interaction. While hanging out with people in person may not be an option right now this is where a myriad tech tools come to the rescue, such as:
This list is by no means exhaustive, there are very many tools out there you can use to ensure you stay in touch with friends, family, and loved ones.
Make sure you have at least one actual conversation with someone a day, think of it as your “5 a day” but for your mental wellbeing: “1 call a day keeps the depression away”.
Remember all those times when you bemoaned not having enough time to nurture various friendships and connections? Here is your chance. Pick a different person a day. Ask them how they are doing, catch up properly. Their mental health and yours will thank you.
nimbld was born to alleviate the loneliness and isolation one feels in the freelance and remote work life, and to help build local connections and resources. At first it was sometimes tricky to explain to people what nimbld is and why it’s important, but now that everyone is #wfh everyone gets to experience first hand the isolation that comes with a remote / freelance lifestyle.
At nimbld HQ we choose to stay positive, informed and positive, and we trust that before too long we will all be returning to our normal lives.
We are currently building the platform, and we believe that it will transform the lives of freelancers and remote workers for the best. Sign up for the waiting list for our Beta trial - I’m sure it will come in very handy during these isolated times!
Sign up here: https://www.nimbld.com