Isolation can be an intimidating experience during the COVID-19 quarantine. Apart from the threat of the virus itself, the loss of control over our daily movements and social interactions has thrown some of us off. We might react to the anxiety feeling alone, frustrated, lonely, or helpless. A time like this calls for building emotional resilience and developing habits that help you stay engaged, active, and connected to your professional community. You also want to nurture your sense of purpose.
As we embrace this new reality, here are a few guidelines from professionals who regularly spend a lot of time working on their own. We spoke to painters, musicians, playwrights, poets, and designers on how they build emotional resilience while working solo and overcome feelings of loneliness to stay engaged and motivated.
Be in touch. Solitude can be all consuming and many artists (Van Gogh, for example) experience depression or fall into a loop of negative thoughts with prolonged solitude. One way to deal with this period of isolation is to stay in touch with your family, friends, and close peers at work. Call at least one friend or family member every day. Offering emotional support is a great way to get in touch with your own feelings. For instance, Aditi Singh, whose work as a visual artist is a solitary pursuit, reads and shares poetry every day with collaborators and friends.
A number of new ideas for work come from the conversations she sparks with friends. Even if you do not want to start a collaborative project, pick up the phone and call a friend and ask how they are doing during this lockdown.
Set a routine. Not having things in your control can give rise to feelings of disorientation and a sense of purposelessness. The key is to try and take back control where you can. The best place to start is with your day. For instance, poet-author Ajay MK (EVP Human Resources at Colgate Palmolive, India & South Asia) says that he makes time every morning to write: Every morning I give myself about an hour, typically between 5 am to 6 am which is when I am very productive (in terms of creativity). Following a routine can give some sense of order in uncertain times. It helps you create control that may otherwise be lacking emotionally or mentally.
Move your body. Indian classical dancers know that if we do not move every day, we undergo significant physiological changes. This is known as detraining, and it in turn makes us feel low, dull, and unenergetic. Take out 30 minutes each day to exercise, nothing too complicated. Dance for a while if that feels easier. The idea is to get some physical activity as it helps release serotonin, the happy hormones, that rewire our thinking and enhance our overall well-being.
Practice something you enjoy. Renowned Indian classical vocalist Dr. Sriram Parasuram says that the fallback for artists during times of uncertainty is sadhana (loosely translated as devoted practice). It opens a channel to stay energized while doing something they love. It also reinforces identity, even when the external environment does not allow much avenue for self-expression. It is a hugely affirming process that you can also tap into by adopting or rediscovering a practice that makes meaning for you.
Aditi Singh also shares that she continues to paint every day whether or not she has an upcoming show. She says that there are moments of doubts when one feels like nothing is going on but it’s important to stay patient.
The need of the hour is to acknowledge that the uncertainty and isolation can cause a sense of disorientation and loneliness. So, create deliberate habits to keep yourself connected, sane, and grounded through this pandemic.
This article was first published on HBR Ascend.