REMOTELY: Maintaining Your Mental and Emotional Health During Isolation

By Hana Oktavia A.
6th April 2020
The first week of self-isolation may have felt like a long-awaited interlude, but with the measure being prolonged to uncertainty, maintaining one’s psychological well-being becomes even more important. In this REMOTELY series, we seek insights from Ayu Larasati, Baskara Putra and Talita Setyadi about sustaining their mental and emotional health and what we can learn from this demanding period.

In our effort to make social distancing less monotonous, REMOTELY is a special series from Manual Jakarta where we roll out comforting and practical articles to keep you company and motivated during this period of self-isolation.

A month ago, American multi-platform publisher and magazine The Atlantic released Social Distance, a series of podcasts hosted by medicine physician and writer Dr. James Hamblin to tackle questions about living through isolation due to the novel coronavirus, followed by The New Yorker’s piece on how isolationand its episodes of boredom and lonelinesstakes its toll on us.

It has become more evident that a prolonged time of self-confinement has slapped the realisation of the mundane we long to do now: a drive anywhere, grocery shopping, being with our friends to simply hugging our loved ones. There’s nothing exciting about picking on a new TV series to binge on or any other forms of entertainment at all: we do it in the mere hope for all of this to pass. 

With the hardships that follow this self-isolation period, we are once again reminded how important it is to take care of our mental and emotional health. Therefore, we invite Ayu Larasati, Baskara Putra and Talita Setyadi to share their takes on coping with isolation, perceiving the situation in a different light, staying in touch and lessons to learn from this emotionally and physically challenging time.


Ayu Larasati, Ceramic Artist

During this self-isolation period, is there a daily routine you hold onto in order to maintain your mental and emotional health?

 Ayu Larasati: Since I have a home studio, I know how easy it is to lose a sense of control because of having too many tasks. Before self-isolation days, I went to a yoga studio every day, but now I started doing [yoga] on my balcony. It’s necessary during this time—it gives a good in-between space before the working hours start, and I walk back to my studio feeling productive and energised. 

We learn that yoga and meditation is part of your daily routine, how do these practices help you in maintaining your mental and emotional health?

AL: Yoga and meditation are about making awareness of what’s within your head and your body: to notice the little things we have taken for granted, like our breathing or any feelings we often dismiss. During yoga and meditation, we are urged to check in with ourselves. Mental and emotional health comes with the practice of meeting, tending and acknowledging these feelings, be it pleasant or unpleasant. Otherwise, [suppressed feelings] will bottle up and manifest into other things. We meet ourselves through yoga and meditation with an understanding that everything in this universe is temporary, so if you are feeling anxious, overwhelmed and lonely, know that those feelings will eventually pass.

How important is it to continue interacting and socialising—even with the ongoing limitations—with others?

AL: It’s very important to stay connected and continue to interact with others. Now is a good time to contact your family and friends whom you haven’t talked to in a while. We draw energy from the people we interact with – an email, a simple WhatsApp chat or ‘insta-comment’ could make a difference in someone’s day.

Since we’re all in this together, what can and should we do to help the mental and emotional well-being of others?

AL: I think it’s really tough to make sure that someone is mentally and emotionally healthy. I think there are many ways to help: checking up on them regularly or sharing skills that people can also try at home through social media. I would recommend trying to make art for the sake of making. Do something without any goals other than to get the pure enjoyment of doing. Try to start doing meditation and yoga, there are a lot of studios that offer free live yoga and meditation sessions now.

And in your opinion, what can we learn from this long period of self-isolation?

AL: This long period of isolation gives us the opportunity to look deeply inward.  Oftentimes, we don’t realise that there’s a lot of work that needs to be done inside us since we’ve spent so much time trying to project the outward of who we are. This isolation gives us the time to get to know ourselves, to heal and to see that there’s both darkness and light that exist just as strongly. And before we all rush back into normal, let’s consider which part of life is worth rushing back into.



Daniel Baskara Putra, Musician and Co-founder of Sun Eater Coven

How long have you been working from home because of COVID-19?

Baskara Putra: Since the 16th of March. That day was .Feast’s last stage performance before the self-isolation measures took place nationally. During the soundcheck, I had a strong intuition and told my friends, “Seems like this will be our last performance until the pandemic is over.” And it turned out to be true. 

How does the work-from-home/self-isolation measure affect your productivity in making music?

BP: Not only live performances, on the management side I learned that the most significant impact is on big releases and productions, like albums, that we’ve planned [before the pandemic]. Not to mention the domino effect. We will definitely feel the impact until, at least, the first quarter of next year. Since many studio recordings had to be postponed, I have been working from home and continued producing some songs that I can execute remotely through data transfer, or done all the paperwork related to my music label, Sun Eater. At the moment, I mostly work on new, spontaneous tracks. Technically, the challenge is the unpreparedness and limited equipment I have at home—home productions feel ‘limp’ even though I send the materials to my sound engineers and producers for the polishing. I just wish the internet would be more reliable. [Laughs] 

During this self-isolation period, is there a daily routine you hold onto in order to maintain your mental and emotional health in check?

BP: My bandmates and colleagues at Sun Eater meet every day via Zoom to talk about work, but a lot of times it leads to casual chats. Some nights we plan Netflix Party or Guess-The-Drawing sessions. Sun Eater rolls out morning sport sessions almost regularly via Zoom too. I like to cycle around the neighbourhood (without stopping anywhere at all, of course) to get some fresh air in the late afternoon. But I think my games keep me sane the most during this situation because I can look forward to something new every day—I plan to finish some of the games I haven’t had the chance to complete before. 

Does it help to know that you’re not alone in this? 

BP: It’s helpful and comforting to see how my friends and I struggle together, whether in maintaining our physical, psychological and financial conditions to back ourselves and our families every day. Some of us found escapism in Animal Crossing: New Horizons, a Nintendo Switch game. It’s oddly therapeutic to see my fellow musicians fishing and looking for insects on our little virtual islands—it shows that we are all in this together through this challenging time. I keep reminding my closest friends that it’s important to ‘meet’ each other virtually; to see, listen and interact with them (albeit far away). I am sure that no one can survive [in isolation] without the interaction with others.

What would you advise to those having a hard time being in isolation, and what can they do to take care of their mental and emotional well-being?

BP: Don’t forget to reach out to your closest ones and try exposing yourself to natural light, air, and social interaction as much as possible in a safe way. Following news and updates on COVID-19 is important, but avoid getting over-exposed to it because digesting the wrong content and information will only add a lot of stress. And most importantly, if you have the privilege to work from home, try to have something that you can look forward to every day, such as learning new things.

And in your opinion, what can we learn from this long period of self-isolation?

BP: On a grand socio-political scale, I think that there is a lot to learn: the shortage of health and public facilities, new policies and their implications for people’s lives. But this alone could be a separate discussion. The most important thing is our learning as a human being. I just realised that I’ve been taking a lot of things for granted; my interaction with friends, my day-to-day routines, everything. I believe that we will see the world in a new light after this pandemic.


Talita Setyadi, Pastry Chef and Founder of BEAU Bakery

How long have you been working from home in light of the COVID-19?

Talita Setyadi: Our team at BEAU Bakery has been working from home since the 16th of March. 

Can you or your team feel the toll of this prolonged isolation?

TS: We’ve been focusing our efforts to remain just as connected as we have been before this semi-lockdown through video meetings. Actually, it’s been quite nice to see each other at our natural home habitats—I feel like we’re actually getting to know each other a little better and are brought together a little closer with more consideration and love because of this period of collective isolation.

How do you maintain your and (your team’s) mental well-being in times like these?

TS: As a leader, I feel that it’s so important to lead with a calm state of mind. Therefore, if I’m in charge with a healthy mental condition, I can help my team do the same by holding the space for solutions, opportunities and improvements instead of focusing on the problems. I maintain my well-being by surrounding myself with positive things that make me happy, such as having a nice cup of hot coffee and breakfast in the morning, listening to my favourite music and spending time with my dog and my siblings—which I often don’t have the time to see them before [the semi-lockdown]. I also make time to relax, go outside in the sun and exercise. I also found that by following meditation classes online, I can maintain a positive mindset. This period of lockdown is not going to last forever, one day when we are back to our relentless busy schedules, we might miss the peace, quiet and space we create for ourselves at home.

 During this self-isolation period, is there a daily routine you hold onto in order to maintain your mental and emotional health?

TS: I find it helpful to have a rough guideline of what I’d like to do in a day and still make room for spontaneity and flow. I always try to start my day with prayer and meditation, as they are so beneficial for our physical, mental and emotional health. Meditating twice a day; once in the morning and once before you go to bed, allows easier maintenance of a positive state of mind and emotions. Then, I make myself a cup of coffee and toast (with BEAU Bakery sourdough bread of course!).  After working via Zoom and Whatsapp, I’ll do an hour of sweaty exercise around lunchtime, which includes the treadmill and dancing around to EDM music to lift up my spirits. Then, I’ll have some fresh juice or jamu with lots of ginger and turmeric to maintain my immunity, and continue my afternoon meetings. If I happen to teach online meditation courses at night, I’ll start preparing my room and equipment around 6 pm. I feel that by teaching meditation, I have the expectation and incentive to be on top of my inner work and maintain a high state of energy throughout the week. A nice shower and meditation before bed also place me in a mood to shut off and relax, then I allow myself to indulge in some rounds of K-Drama or YouTube and call my fiancé! 

How should one cope with being alone and avoid any downward spiral into loneliness?

TS: Through times of crisis, communities should spread more love and hope to one another—the collective compassion that has surfaced through this crisis really shows the resiliency and compassion of human condition. If we feel lonely, we must make the effort to reach out to our support systems and express our feelings; once we share, our awareness that others may have the same experience will give us feelings of comfort, and that we are not alone in this. 

If there’s a silver lining to this prolonged period of isolation, what would it be?

TS: In such a fast-moving, multi-tasking society, we tend to deal only with the surface issues that arise in our lives and in our works. Rarely do we get the opportunity to get to know the root of those problems, and the best way to know is to spend some time in contemplation and go deep into ourselves to know the root cause of these patterns. Are these patterns of fear or scarcity? Perhaps they could be betrayal or disappointment and loss. This truly is a time for healing and transformation, and it’s such a huge luxury and opportunity if we can use this time to grow and to learn as a soul, instead of contributing to the collective fear and anxiety. In periods of isolation, we are more in charge of our environment and our energetic space, so use this time wisely. We may not get time to ourselves like this for a while to come when this is all over.