Is loneliness for digital nomads really a thing? Yes it is! Living the digital nomad life is a dream of many, but it’s not only sunshine and hammocks! That’s why I find it important to touch upon this subject.
Of course, digital nomad life can be hanging around with your MacBook in a beach bar on a tropical island while having conference calls with your clients. Or working mornings and taking afternoons off to go hiking in rain forests. Or working from anywhere while vanlifing in your self-converted campervan. Indeed, this is what digital nomad life can be. But please – be aware there are two sides to every story. I have found out myself that loneliness, anxiety and other mental health-related issues can be a major issue while living and working on the road.
Georgi Todorov is a digital marketing specialist and contributed to this article as a guestblogger. Together, we will share 8 tips to fight anxiety and loneliness when being a digital nomad, working remote or working from home. I hope this article will help you to prepare for life as a digital nomad, or support you while you’re on the road.
What's coming up
- 1 Tip 1: Socialize!
- 2 Tip 2: Consider a coworking space
- 3 Tip 3: Take computer-free and phone-free breaks
- 4 Tip 4: Follow a Routine
- 5 Tip 5: Have a clean and organized working space
- 6 Tip 6: Learn to say NO
- 7 Tip 7: Invest in yourself
- 8 Tip 8: Consult a doctor if needed
- 9 Tips to Fight Anxiety and Loneliness for Digital Nomads – Conclusion
Tip 1: Socialize!
Socializing is an important part of life that can lead to many health benefits. When you work in an office, you spend a large part of the day socializing with your colleagues. But, having a coffee with your coworkers is not easy when working remotely or from home. Your colleagues are most likely in different cities, or even in different countries. The “State of Remote” report from Buffer shows that loneliness, staying motivated and not able to unplug are major struggles related to working remotely.
So, it is more important than ever to find people to hang out with. Try to find people with whom you won’t be talking about your job. If you’re working from home, going out for a walk with friends afer work can be beneficial to fight anxiety.
If you’re travelling and working as a digital nomad, you may suffer from loneliness. Think about joining couchsurfing events, grouptours or other social events organized in the place you live in. You can also consider staying in one place for a longer period of time so you can build more meaningful relationships. Another great way to socialize may be to join a retreat especially for digital nomads, like the Nomad Escape.
When I was travelling in my campervan, I did suffer from loneliness. Although being a solo female traveller in a campervan sounds like the ultimate dream, it was actually really hard to meet people on the road! I decided to look up local people on couchsurfing and worked at co-working spaces now and again. This worked great!
Tip 2: Consider a coworking space
Co-working spaces are a great way to fight loneliness. A report by Deskmag found that there are on average 180 workers per coworking space location. That means that you’ll have many opportunities to talk with people, take a coffee break with someone, and maybe even ask for help if you work in the same field.
In addition, coworking spaces can increase your productivity, accessibility, and also networking. With over 26,000 of them spread out in the world, you shouldn’t have any big trouble finding one in the place you’re currently are! Check out sites like Deskbooker, Seats2Meet or WeWork to find a place to work nearby where you are!
If you are working from home, it may be good to know that (see Buffer) 28% of employers do pay fully or partially for a coworking space membership. Working with other people around can make you more productive and healthier, and employers know that. Check with your employer if they would cover the costs of your coworking membership, so that you can work more efficiently spending less.
Tip 3: Take computer-free and phone-free breaks
Sitting at your computer or staring at your phone the whole day is certainly not great for your mental health. Digital Nomads and remote workers often work from their computers and are therefore connected all day, every day. Also, they often use Facebook, Whats’app or other tools on their phone to stay in touch with family and friends.
Extensive research by Iowa State University revealed that smartphone use is associated with anxiety and depression. In fact, 30% of college students reported that their smartphone was restricting their freedom. Also, 29% of college freshmen developed anxiety or depression before the end of their first year.
You probably chose a digital nomad lifestyle because you wanted more freedom. If you really want to accomplish this, it is essential to take computer and phone-free breaks. Go on a hike, leave your phone at home when going to beach or simply read a book. And you don’t have to do this all at once, take small steps! There are also great apps to reduce your on-screen time. If you want to build new habits, make sure to check out James Clear’s articles on how to build great new habits and stop bad ones!
Tip 4: Follow a Routine
Having a routine and following it is super beneficial for digital nomads and remote workers to feel! Following a routine will help you to prioritize self-care, plan ahead personal time, and do things that are important to you. It may sound odd to plan time to relax, a nap, exercising, or even going outside for a little while, but it will definitely help!
An analysis by The Lancet Psychiatry found that sticking to normal daily rhythms, being active during the day, and sleeping well at night can prevent mental health issues. In fact, not following a routine can lead to sleeping disorders and many other problems!
Caitlin Reddington, a Junior Digital Editor at All Things Hair US shared her experience of following a routine. “Sticking to a consistent schedule and routine has helped me stay productive while working from home. I feel like I’m always on the go, so it’s been nice being able to catch up with friends I haven’t talked to in a while, watch TV shows I’ve been wanting to see and exercise more often.”
When I was travelling in my campervan, I sometimes really struggled with the way my days were going. When vanlifing in France this was much less the case than it was for example in Morocco. But the fact that not one day was like the other caught up with me at some point. I needed more rest and a bit more routine. Spending more time in one place (on for example a campsite with hot showers and toilets) made me worry less about where I was going to be next day. Working from a co-working space or staying longer in place can help with building a healthy routine.
Tip 5: Have a clean and organized working space
Having a clean workspace and house can make you feel incredibly better compared to when having a messy or dirty one. A study by Darby Saxbe, a psychology professor at the University of Southern California, showed that cleaning gives people a sense of control over their environment. Also, clutter can be distracting visually, and therefore will make you less productive.
Another survey by ApartmentGuide revealed that 66% of Americans feel stressed or anxious when their home is dirty. In addition, the most annoying kind of mess in a home is clutter by far! Also, clutter was proved by UCLA to cause a negative impact on our mood and overall health. So, if you are working from home, it’s important to create a space where you feel well. Check out Pinterest for amazing inspiration of tranquil work environments!
As a digital nomad, make it a habit to find places to stay where you can work in peace. The hostel bar is not a good example 😉 You may want to check out co-living spaces, where you can work and sleep. Or pick small scale hostels or guesthouses with a limited number of rooms. If you’re doing AirB&B, many digital nomads ask their host for a screenshot of the internet speed beforehand. Nothing causes stress as a bad reception during an important conference call!
Tip 6: Learn to say NO
To fight stress and anxiety when working remotely, it is essential to learn to say no. When you are not sitting next to each other, it will be much more difficult for your manager or coworker to see how you’re doing. It’s more important than ever to communicate about your workload, deadlines and challenges. Especially when you are often moving between places, with varying quality of internet connections or available work spaces.
Stephen Covey, an American educator, shared his experience and said “You have to decide what your highest priorities are and have the courage to pleasantly, smilingly, and unapologetically – to say no to other things”. And he is so right! Saying no isn’t always selfish and always saying yes isn’t healthy. In fact, when refusing new commitments, you’re simply devoting your time to the ones that you already have. The more projects you take care of, the less time you can concentrate on them. Also, having too many projects or things to do will likely lead to feeling stressed, anxious, and negatively impact your overall well-being.
Tip 7: Invest in yourself
Investing in yourself can be done both physically and mentally. Some of the greatest examples to invest in yourself are taking online courses, reading educational books (check out these books for digital nomads) setting personal goals and attending workshops to expand your skills. Other than that, skip television and focus on valuable shows like TED talks.
Moreover, social media is a productivity killer! A report from BroadbandSearch revealed that we spent on average 153 minutes per day on social media. That represents 2.55 hours per day, 17,85 hours per week, and a shockingly 856.8 hours per year (35.6 days). Now, try to imagine the number of skills or education hours that you could invest in yourself instead of wasting time on social media – Right, that’s a lot.
Robin Sharma, a writer, once said “Investing in yourself is the best investment you will ever make. It will not only improve your life, but it will also improve the lives of all those around you.”
Taking the time to invest in yourself is a great way to fight anxiety. By investing in yourself, you will make yourself feel more valuable and happier in the long term. Especially when you are travelling for a long time, you can start to feel tired and “useless”. Another way to combat this is to have a look at volunteering options through for example WorkAway. This will also help with the socializing part 🙂
Tip 8: Consult a doctor if needed
Whether you feel panicky, anxious, can’t sleep properly, or can’t concentrate, consulting a medical professional is sometimes needed. Mental health is not something to ignore – especially if you have a lifestyle that is out of the ordinary. Don’t underestimate what constant uncertainty and changing environments can do to you.
Obviously, consulting a doctor might not always be needed. However, if you’ve been constantly feeling down for a longer period and you feel that something serious is going on, visit a doctor as soon as possible. There are also more and more pyschologists that take their practice online. For example Dutch pyschologisth Amy van den Broeck, who is specialized in travelers, digital nomads and expats.
Tips to Fight Anxiety and Loneliness for Digital Nomads – Conclusion
As you probably understood from this article, anxiety and loneliness for digital nomads are REAL. Remember that there is no right or wrong way to feel. The important thing is to recognize how you feel and take the appropriate action.
So, while enjoying your digital nomad lifestyle and working remotely: make plans outside work, keep your workspace clean and tidy, invest in yourself, and ultimately, learn to say no!
Safe travels and we wish you all a great digital nomad lifestyle!