ADVENTURER and former submariner Neil Hunter is familiar with the realities of isolation and the simple existence it creates. Here, he shares his insights and perspective on dealing with the COVID-19 lockdown - and how to turn it to your advantage.
Neil writes: The past few weeks have seen our lives turned upside down and provided numerous challenges for us and our families.
Before this recent turn of events, many of us may have longed to escape the rat race with its endless to-do list - and now we have the time, we can turn this to our advantage.
I have some experience of spending a prolonged time away from loved ones and in isolation, whether it was during my time in the Royal Navy spending weeks without contact with the outside world on a submarine, or during my 67-day Atlantic crossing in a rowing boat.
But by far the greatest test though was my recent solo ski across Antarctica. I only had my own company for the 51 days it took to reach the South Pole from Hercules Inlet on the edge of Antarctica.
Whilst the experiences and practices may differ to what many are going through in their own homes right now, there are also quite a few parallels.
'This is time to reflect and press reset'
The thing I like most about these expeditions is the simple existence. Life is reduced to the basics like having food, water, fuel and shelter. Nothing else really matters.
In my experience, this has given me time to reflect on life and the things that are most important, the things we take for granted and people we don’t make enough time for. It has enabled me to press the reset button and appreciate things I would normally take for granted.
With more time on our hands now, we can go back to basics, de-clutter and press that reset. Here are a few simple things that have helped me during periods of isolation but are very transferable to our current situation.
- Take days one step at a time. It would be easy to let things overwhelm you if you thought too much about the end goal and how far away it is.
- Concentrate on the small things and only on what you can control. Bite sized chunks are so much more manageable. My route to the South Pole covered 10 degrees of latitude (600 nautical miles). It was so much easier to break these down to individual degrees and a lot less daunting too.
- Routine is very important. Each day can seem like groundhog day, but keeping to a routine and being disciplined gives structure to our days. Without this on any expedition you are doomed to failure. Getting up at the same time each day was the single most difficult thing I had to overcome despite the cold and fatigue.
Take time to reflect and reminisce. I spent many hours reliving childhood memories out on the ice and this gave me an escape from the constant whiteness and hour upon hour of hauling my sledge.
On top of this, other distractions included listening to music and podcasts and I was sent some quiz questions to exercise my mind too. My options were quite limited but at home and with access to the internet, there are many creative ways to keep your mind busy.
I appreciate everyone is having different experiences but these strategies have been invaluable to me and hopefully can be applied to whatever situation you find yourself in during lockdown.
To read about Neil's incredible solo expedition, click here