Find some comfort in the isolation

Some words of wisdom from Sarah Outen MBE, who has rowed solo across the oceans and has spent a lot of time in isolation.

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Adventurer Sarah Outen has spent 500 days in complete isolation over the last few years, rowing solo across oceans. She found that there was a peace and openness to the solitude, and a real sense of who she was. But it's difficult to recreate the contact and closeness of having people near you. She is finding similarities today: some of it is tough, with the lack of close contact of friends and family; the financial unknown; but the upside is the gift of time to create things. Observe what's going on, but find the humour, reach out for help, and notice the good things.

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  • You can stream Sarah’s award-winning feature film, Home.



  • Hello. I'm Sarah Outen. 00:01
  • I've spent a lot of time in complete isolation 00:04
  • over the last decade or so. 00:07
  • A total of nearly 500 days, 00:11
  • cumulatively, 00:16
  • rowing solo across oceans. 00:17
  • Just me in a little boat. 00:19
  • Six or seven meters long. 00:21
  • So that was challenging 00:25
  • but there was also great gifts to that solitude, I found. 00:28
  • There was a sort of a peace, an openness, 00:33
  • and a real sense of who I was, 00:35
  • without, what's that word, 00:42
  • influence from other people. 00:44
  • But of course that brings with it huge challenges too. 00:47
  • You have to be everything to yourself. 00:52
  • And sometimes you just want a hug, 00:56
  • or someone to look after you for a bit. 00:59
  • And whilst I had support remotely, 01:01
  • on the end of a phone or email, 01:04
  • it is really difficult to recreate 01:07
  • the actual contact and closeness 01:13
  • of having other people right there. 01:17
  • How does it compare to right now, 01:21
  • in this coronavirus situation? 01:24
  • I suppose I'm finding a similarity 01:28
  • in that some of it's tough for 01:31
  • the lack of being able to be in close contact 01:34
  • with friends and family who I want to see. 01:38
  • Even with my partner, who's a front line worker. 01:42
  • Or rather, yeah, front line in one of her roles, 01:46
  • key worker in another of her roles. 01:48
  • So trying to make sure we stay distanced, 01:51
  • such that I'm kept safe 'cos of my health needs. 01:53
  • And the financial unknown of this time, 01:59
  • as I've lost all of my work. 02:03
  • That adds a pressure and an angst to it as well. 02:05
  • But the upshot to that is that I've got 02:09
  • more space and time to do loads of things 02:12
  • that I've not had time to do recently. 02:15
  • Spending so much time in the garden, 02:18
  • digging and growing, just hands in the earth. 02:20
  • Creative projects, we're really fortunate, 02:23
  • we've got three donkeys on my partner's farm, 02:26
  • so I've been spending a lot of time with them. 02:29
  • I don't think anything's changed about my habits 02:33
  • of talking to myself, and talking to trees 02:37
  • and nature and all of that. 02:39
  • That still continues whether we're in lockdown or not. 02:40
  • It's an important thing to stay grateful as well 02:45
  • and notice, just notice what's going on, 02:49
  • but also notice the good things. 02:53
  • Find the humor. 02:55
  • Reach out for help when it's needed 02:57
Go to the profile of Kirstie Hepburn

Kirstie Hepburn

Head of Corporate and Educational Activities, Head Talks

Head Talks aims to provide you with knowledge, inspiration and a sense of community so you can create your own toolbox to fix and maintain mental health. We are all unique and find our inspiration and sense of wellbeing from many different sources. Each of our journeys is unique, whether it’s to recovery or simply feeling better in the world.

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