I got through the Mawson expedition using a combination of attention to routine, framing the expedition as a challenge to rise to (rather than as a problem to deal with), breaking the enormity of the challenge down into manageable pieces and keeping a diary that enabled me to have a conversation about my concerns (albeit with myself).
By writing feelings down it enabled me to see them for what they were, rather than how they felt.
However, and this may sound surprising, I’ve felt as much loneliness when I’ve had to deal with major problems as a leader. When others look to you for guidance, you can end up in a position where you feel you can’t share your problems. The solution, I’ve found, is to embrace this feeling. Accepting that being self-aware enough to have those feelings in the first place is, ironically, part of the skillset good leaders need to have.
Such feelings are also part of the mental process of problem-solving. It’s like a child saying they’re bored before being at their most inventive and coming up with a new game. Necessity is the mother of invention after all.
Other techniques include interacting with others who share your experiences to compare notes – in our case today we can do it remotely via digital means. This is extremely important to overcome the feeling that you cannot share your issues or concerns with anyone.
It also provides you with the perspective and new insights that stop problems from feeling like they’re spiralling out of control. Everyone has those feelings, but digitally connecting is something we can do almost as easily as face to face contact, and is something we should routinely do in these times of physical self-isolation.
You can also focus on controlling what you can. I found on my expeditions that focusing on things like a routine of personal hygiene and repairing equipment could help give me a sense of getting things back on an even keel. This was a complete illusion, of course, as the scale of my problems far outweighed anything I was able to do to balance them out, but it brought about a disproportionate sense of calm.