6 strategies I learned from ‘Survivor’ for doing life in isolation.

Feel like you’re on exile beach? Wondering how you’re going to survive another day of being stuck at home? Whilst living in physical isolation from others is no game, I can’t help but notice a few parallels between the game of Survivor and this new season we’re living in. We’re all of a sudden feeling isolated from people we love spending time with. We’re all experiencing a loss of comfort, be it: activities we used to enjoy, grocery items we usually buy, or daily routines that grounded us. We’re all being stretched emotionally, physically, mentally and spiritually to adapt and embrace new things; to adopt a new normal for the foreseeable future.

My family loves watching Survivor; a reality show that puts 24 relative strangers on a remote island, to play the ultimate game of survival. To win the title of ‘Sole Survivor’, they need to outwit, outplay and outlast each other; successfully manoeuvring themselves through a game that is demanding – physically, socially and mentally. It takes guts and gumption to successfully survive 50 days on an island, living on rice, sleeping on the beach, competing in physical challenges that push your bodies limit, whilst forming and maintaining relationships, and having the tactical prowess to keep ahead of the game.  It’s fascinating to see what people will do to survive. 

Having just watched the new season, I noticed 6 things that made for a successful stay on the island; and 6 things I think will make living with physical distance survivable. 

  1. Live one day at a time: After a contestant is voted off the island, the following day is begun by marking on a tree the outgoing players initials and the days running tally. This daily ritual is a visual reminder to them of how far they’ve come and the achievement of living to fight another day. Living one day at a time, helps to ground us in the present. If we fall into worrying about how we’ll cope if this season of confinement lasts between 3 to 6 months, the scale overwhelms us and we are defeated. But grace for each day is possible. It’s helpful to remember that this too shall pass.
  2. Be adaptive: The winner of this season’s Survivor, when asked why he appeared to change his game play, responded that in order to remain in the game he needed to adapt how he played. So it is with this season of working and relating from home. I learned a new word in this past fortnight; Zoom. It is certainly not my preferred mode of operandi, however I recognise if I don’t adopt new ways of doing things, I’ll get left behind. I’m always telling my kids to have a growth mindset, now I find more than ever that I must practice what I preach. Now is the time to be creative, and embrace new things in order to thrive in the change. 
  3. Work as a team: In Survivor, to win at team challenges you need to work cohesively with your tribe. The same goes for home. When one person is left to do all the work, resentment is sure to grow. Allocate jobs to each member of the household. Everyone at home usually means a quicker build up of mess, but it also means more time and more hands to do the work of cleaning up. Adjust the distribution of labour to suit the season.  
  4. Be resilient: To live to fight another day on Survivor, sometimes means coming back after a loss. To do this, you need to believe you can win; you can face another challenge and overcome. So too with our present circumstances. There’s going to be days that go badly, and days we feel like we’ve face planted in mud. But after we’ve had a bad day, acknowledge it and then move on. There is always another day to live for and another day to get things right. 
  5. Value your relationships: In Survivor, at tribal beach, if you don’t work on your relationships, and work to make alliances, then you’re pretty quickly in trouble. So too at home. There’s nothing more unpleasant than feeling like your home is a war zone. If people aren’t getting along or becoming selfish and fractious, then it quickly becomes an awful place to be. Seeking to live at peace with each other, forgiving grievances and bearing with each other in love, make for a harmonious home. Find those common interests and spend time doing them together.
  6. If it’s getting stressful, go for a walk: A pastime of all survivor’s is a walk in the jungle to the watering hole. Anytime they need to clear their head, hatch a plan or hunt for an idol, they go for walk. It’s a well known fact that exercise is good for our mental and physical well-being, and since there’s not much else we can do right now, stepping out of the house, breathing in some clean air and going for a walk is a good tonic.