From Isolation to Innovation!

Date: 18-01-2021


From Isolation to Innovation!




Peter Webb, Integrative Psychologist

National Institute of Integrative Medicine



If I never hear or read the word “unprecedented” again it will be too soon. And I don’t want to hear “we’re all in this together”. We’re not. We’re in the same sea but in different boats. Some more seaworthy than others. No one could possibly understand what it’s like to endure 112 days of isolation as we did in Melbourne. The uncertainty, fear, and anxiety produced widespread symptoms normally associated with post-traumatic stress disorder. We were locked in a chronic state of fight or flight which is what happens when you’re under threat. Heart rate and blood pressure goes up. Digestion goes down. Your frontal cortex freezes so you’re not self-aware, compassionate, or thoughtful. And the amygdala (the centre of fear and anger in the brain) fires like crazy so you’re feeling anxious, agitated, irritable, and have trouble focusing and sleeping. 

Thankfully, we are now emerging into a post-COVID world. There will be “spot fires” of community transmission here and there. Other countries have yet to get their act together. International travel is off the agenda for another year or so. But public health adherence and vaccinations will gradually roll back the deadliest effects. So, where to from here?

Here are five tips on how you can go from isolation to innovation in 2021:

  1. First, recognize that it will take just as long to recover as the time spent in isolation. You’re going to feel anxious and uncertain for a little while yet. Don’t expect everything to snap back to the way it was. Be kind to yourself if you’re still feeling overly cautious. It’s perfectly normal.
  2. The social dimensions of our lives were seriously constrained during isolation. We are intensely social beings. We need connection with others. When that is denied the psychological effects follow the same pathways in the brain as those for pain. So, seek out community. Reach out to family and friends. Strike up conversations with strangers. 
  3. Life and circumstances have changed. Jobs have been lost. Routine has been disrupted. We thrive on consistency and predictability. Look for behaviours that you can develop into new patterns. Take a different but regular path to the shops, the park, the train station. Repeat the path so it becomes a habit. Sign up for regular classes. Schedule events at the same time or day of the week to establish recurring activities. There is comfort in routine.
  4. Recognize how your mindset has changed (or how it needs to change). Your personal operating system might have been goal-directed and solution-focused before lockdown. Perhaps that served you well. But it can be a destructive way of thinking when you’re faced with ambiguous loss: any loss that is unclear and lacks resolution. A more innovative mindset is to loosen your grip on what you want the solution to be. Practice curiosity and playfulness. Adopt a mindset of openness.
  5. This is a time for contemplation and reflection about the meaning of your life. Most of us anticipate a predictable trajectory to our lives. But the global economic, social, and political effects of the pandemic have called many assumptions into question. Ask yourself, “what is the meaning of my life, now?” A good idea is to keep a journal of your thoughts and feelings. Most entrepreneurs do this. Your own storytelling can be a surprising source of innovative ideas for the year ahead.

Get ready to upgrade your thinking from 2.0 to 2.1 (2021)!

Click to watch Peter Webb and learn about how to go from isolation to innovation in 2021: