Isolated but not alone 

British yachtswoman Dee Caffari has spent up to six months alone at sea whilst sailing around the world. Though her self-isolation was self-imposed, she is expertly placed to offer you constructive and practical advice on coping with isolation caused by COVID-19. 

  • Stay in touch with friends and family, Dee advises. Just one chat a day can lift your spirits. 
  • Focus on what you can control and make a manageable daily plan. 
  • Use this situation as an opportunity to change your behaviour for the better. 

I know a bit about isolation and would go so far as to say that I have self-isolated on two occasions. When I took part in the Vendee Globe, I spent three months at sea alone, and on the Aviva Challenge I was alone at sea for six months. My home for that time was a 72ft boat with very few creature comforts and nothing in the way of entertainment, apart from my karaoke skills.  

Of course, I am well aware that my isolation was one of choice, and for very different reasons than the situation we find ourselves in now. However, in sharing the strategies and learnings from being alone for these long periods of time, I hope that they will resonate with you. 

We know that many of us around the world need to be physically isolated right now, but that doesn’t mean we have to be mentally isolated. Human contact and support are important at all times, but particularly in times of crisis or stress. Now more than ever, we need to look out for each other. Here are my top tips for dealing with isolation: 

Keep communicating 
This is reassuring for everyone. If you are the one self-isolating, it is morale boosting to know people care, but it is equally important for your friends and family to know that you are okay. Stay in touch and ask for help if you need it. A fiveminute chat once a day could really lift someone’s spirits and be something they look forward to. 

Develop and stick to a new routine 
Spending every day alone is alien to many of us and will be a challenge for people that thrive on the company of others. Extroverts get their energy from others, so a lack of stimulation may lead to a drop in mood. For most of us, going to the gym or training is part of daily routine, and now we have to fill that time. Having and sticking to a routine of some sort will help, as it provides a focus and a reason to get going for the day. Having something to do will also make the time pass more quickly. 

Make technology work for you 
There are so many ways we can communicate these days; this is the time to make use of them. Skype, FaceTime, email, text, phone calls and social media platforms are all great ways to stay in touch. 

Control the controllables 

Focus only on what you can control, and don’t waste energy worrying about things that are outside your control. We are bombarded with information and we do need to take on board the news that is being distributed. However, if you find that listening or reading the news is increasing your anxiety or stress levels, then limit your exposure to it. Many of you will be seriously impacted financially, but you are not alone. Make a manageable plan and seek help if you are feeling overwhelmed. 

Be grateful for the things in your life that you have or can do 
Focusing on the good will have a positive effect on your mental health. When you are having a tough day and finding it hard to cope, focus on getting through the next day or even the next few hours rather than weeks or months. The sun will continue to rise and set. This situation will pass. 

Look for the opportunities and be creative 
In a world of instant contact, demanding work lives and intrusive technology, the current situation will allow many of us to step back from that for a period of time. Is there a project that you have wanted to take on but never had the time? Is there a bestseller in your head just waiting to be written? Is there work that you could do on a temporary basis? Necessity is the mother of invention, so perhaps now is the time to embark on something new. 

Accept that you must adapt to the new environment we are living in 
As a roundtheworld sailor, I am used to my environment changing very quickly and having to adapt to forces that are outside my control. In the coming weeks and months, restrictions on our lives and the effects of this virus will no doubt make us feel angry, upset, worried and scared. These are natural emotions but will use mental energy. Accepting a situation allows you to think more clearly and calmly. 

The future will be different 
That is the reality, and you may as well embrace it. Mother nature has flicked the reset button. You have an opportunity to re-evaluate and change your behaviour for the better. 

You have an opportunity to re-evaluate and change your behaviour for the better.

We are all too aware in today’s world that the only thing we can be certain of is change. Our ability to adapt to this change is what will define us. The current global pandemic is revealing that the majority of us fear the unknown, and our reaction is to panic. Let’s come together in this time of adversity and support each other. 

For more expert advice on dealing with the impact of COVID-19, click here