My Life in Isolation: Nikhita Mahtani

Nikhita Mahtani is a journalist, based in NYC and Mumbai. She specialises in wellness, travel and home decoration and has written for GQ, Conde Nast Traveler and InStyle, to name just a few.

We caught up with Nikhita to find out about her life in isolation…

Where do you live? What does isolation look like for you there? How has your local community been affected?

I live in Mumbai, India, where lockdown is more strict than in other countries—we can’t really leave the house unless it’s for essential goods, and forget about walking outside!

Overall, my immediate circle hasn’t been too affected as we work from home and have the technology to stay in touch, but I do feel bad for the majority of the population, who earn their money from daily wages. They’ve essentially lost all income for the foreseeable future, and while there are several ways to donate, I’m not sure it’ll be enough.

Can you talk us through your daily routine in isolation?

Most days, I force myself out of bed and immediately work out, because I find that no matter what mood I’m in, the endorphins always make me feel a whole lot better. It’s mostly a Zoom or Instagram Live Workout: I love barre, boxing, and pilates.

Then, I cook, pop my vitamins, spend some time with my sister (we’re isolating as a family), and start work. It’s a little weird to work at home from one spot all day, though, so I try to walk around and stretch at various intervals.

How has your life changed since being in isolation?

I am never in India this long—I’m always traveling, mostly in New York or London. It’s strange to not always be rushing to the next destination. Instead of writing as many articles as I normally would, I’ve been working more on other projects.

I’m writing a book proposal, contemplating a business idea, and also working on my mental health by reading books about psychological concepts I’ve been curious about. It’s slower, yes, but as creative, if not more!

What has been the biggest lesson you’ve learnt during this time?

That it’s completely okay to slow down and pause. I’m used to having a really intense social life and am always either working or meeting people, be it for pleasure or work events. I travel a lot, and this is probably the only time I’m going to be in one place for a long time.

Earlier in isolation, I used to beat myself up for not being more productive, but I think I’ve learned that often, being too busy was a crutch for me to not deal with more complicated emotions. I tend to prioritize things other than my mental and emotional well-being. I’ve realized slowing down sometimes can be just what I need, and can help me learn more about the parts of myself that I’ve long ignored.

What are your self-care tips at home?

It can be really hard going through this if you’re completely alone and having anxiety about the future, especially since we don’t know when this is going to end. I’ve realized, though, that nothing can fight anxiety and helplessness better than gratitude. Every day, I write down 10 things I’m grateful for, so I know how lucky I really am, despite everything that’s going on in the world.

I also highly recommend having a routine at night—whether that’s a silly TV show, a book, some tea, or a FaceTime call with someone you love. I find that having anxiety affects my sleep and that I get nightmares if I’m not careful with the way I deal with my brain right before I go to bed, so keeping it calm is key.

What advice would you give to others that may be struggling?

I think the biggest lesson to remember is that everything is temporary, and even though some days it seems like this will never end, know that you’ll manage out on the other side just fine. While it’s easy to think you need to have it all figured out, you’re allowed to feel however you want without judging it or finding excuses to stop it for whatever reason.

It may not be comfortable, but I’ve found that accepting my feelings and allowing them to flow through me in whatever way helps them pass by more than bottling them up inside (which is what I used to do for years, and then, they just exploded out of me like a volcano!). We’re all living through a collective, scary experience, and we’ll deal with it in different ways—allowing that to happen will make you feel much more at peace.