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How to cope in isolation

Tips from true adventurers on how to come out of isolations physically and mentally stronger.

By Mike

As the UK follows other major European countries into a period of enforced isolation, many wonder how they’re going to cope living in a confined space for such a long time and are worried about the effect it may have on their mental and physical health. For those living alone, it can be a daunting prospect of no social contact, yet for those living with other people where there is no prospect of escaping for an unknown period, life can feel overwhelming and stressful.

As adventurers, we are well versed in putting ourselves into similar situations, and we all have our own coping mechanisms to make sure we come out the other side stronger than when we went in. So who better to ask for top tips on confined living than some true adventurers.

NICK HANCOCKRockall occupation record holder (45 days alone on the rock) and English Adventurer of the Year 2015 –

Stick to a routine as much as possible. Use your normal daily routine as a template, but adapt as required. If you have kids they will particularly benefit from this, especially at the start of the day: get up, have breakfast, get dressed, clean your teeth, otherwise it’ll be lunchtime before you do anything.

Stop doing things concurrently. In these situations, you have time to fill, lots of it. Normally, you might get dressed whilst having your breakfast and drinking the morning coffee. STOP! Slow down. Have breakfast looking out of the window, appreciate the day, watch the birds, then have a coffee, then get dressed.

Following on from this, SLOW DOWN. In normal life, we rush to cram everything we need/have to achieve into the day, including the commute. Now there’s no commute, that’s more time to fill. Don’t rush through each task, plan it properly and do it to the best of your ability.

Set yourself realistic goals and tasks for the day, taking all of the above into account. Unless your goals are urgent or a priority, don’t kick yourself if you don’t complete them all, there’s always tomorrow.

This might be the most important: know that it will take time, days or perhaps weeks, for you to adapt to this new reality. Remember you have been living in a certain, probably unnatural, routine for years, and both your mind and body have adapted to that. You must give them time to readjust. You will be uncomfortable at first, but is amazing how we can adapt to our ‘new normal’ whatever that may be.

 MEL KINGOcean rower, yacht racer and circumnavigator. Currently navigating the perils of motherhood whilst planning her next big adventure.

Don’t clock watch, time will go SO much slower if you do. Get into a new slower way of life and appreciate a break from your hectic normal life. Make some sort of routine but don’t be too rigid. Be adaptable. Don’t look more than a day ahead, take each day as it comes.

Admit there are things you can’t control and accept that. Keep control of the things you can – keep your space tidy!

Make a bucket list of all the things you want to do when it’s over and treasure the simple things that make you happy – one of my best memories is not being able to row one moonlit night and sitting waiting for the wind to stop with a cup of coffee (with whiskey in it!!). Enjoy the simpler life.

Make use of the communication channels you have – we only had sat phone by the end as our computer got wet – but we could still reach out to people.

Enjoy it, soon enough it will be over and there will be things about it you miss. I’d love to be back on my boat right now!!

LANCE SHEPHERD Former Marine, now ocean yacht racer and owner/skipper of Volvo 70 ‘Telefonica Black’

When skippering a large racing yacht with a diverse range of personalities on board, it’s important to have daily meeting. This way everyone gets to air their moans and groans at the meeting. If you don’t bring it up at the meeting in front of everyone you can’t stew on it.

Defined job list and purpose, sometimes we can be on the same tack for a week or have no wind at all. In these times a daily task lists gives everyone purpose and the satisfaction of completion.

Communal areas to be kept clean and tidy. On the Clipper Race, anything left lying around was snatched and put in a bag. At the end of the week (end of the day in cold weather as it was normally people’s hats and gloves) they got auctioned off to the crew, you got 1st refusal to buy back your own gear or you could open it to the crew. All the money went to charity.

Make a big deal of celebrations, even tho you couldn’t pop to the shop to buy a birthday card or balloons you can still put on some music, have a dance and celebrate the occasion.

And finally, humility– remember that no one deliberately tries to upset anyone else. You just have to accept we are all different and reasoning it out/talking it through brings everyone on the same page.

The thing I loved about being isolated in a small place is that you really got to talk to each other, really talk as there was time for that. The phone wasn’t going, work emails had stopped and you could really invest in friendships.

MARY SUTHERLANDOffshore yacht racer and Atlantic Rowing record holder. Currently in training to row across the Pacific as part of an all-female crew.

Routine is everything. Set yourself one little challenge each day, but don’t beat yourself up if you get sidetracked and can’t achieve it. For this current enforced period of isolation, I have a chalkboard in my lounge and write stuff down on that. I also make sure I have an exercise hour every morning. Use whatever you have around you and make sure it’s at a suitable level for you. Try planking and building it up to a 5mins.

Take on a new challenge. One that not many have thought of, dog pounds are in desperate need of people who can adopt/walk a dog. Contact the local centre and borrow a dog. Even better if you can adopt one for a while. You never know, you might find the new addition!


As all of our adventurers agree, success is in the planning, routine and challenging yourself. From my personal experience in ocean racing, simple things like mentally planning what usual or extravagant meal you’re going to cook when next on mother duty. When provisions become limited and you have another member of the crew who’s a particularly creative cook, the internal competition helps me mentally push through harder moments.

Have you got any top tips on how to cope in isolation? Let us know.

Take care,


Team Kraken

“Admit there are things you can’t control and accept that. Keep control of the things you can.” – Mel King