9 Lessons I've Learned During Quarantine
There's a silver lining here somewhere.
Before I begin my post, I want to explain what this post is and is not and take a moment to acknowledge the incredibly hard work done by our essential workers. Nurses, grocery store workers, food service workers, all of you. Thank you.
I understand that I have been fortunate enough to stay at home and to even say that I have learned something during quarantine can sound like a luxury and a classic “first world problem” so to speak. I understand that it might be easy to write this post off as a “privilege”, but I am simply here to share my experience in the hopes that it resonates with someone. These lessons go beyond just quarantine.
My intent here is not to diminish anyone’s experience or whine about “first world problems”. All experiences are valid. There are so many people that cannot take off work or live in places across the globe where quarantining and social distancing aren’t really possible. Whether you’re stuck working in a grocery store, you're stuck in line for supplies you need to make it through the week, or your stuck at home on the couch watching the Office for the 119th time. I see you and acknowledge you.
Quarantine has lasted for a month or so now, and this time has really taught me so much. These past weeks have been so challenging mentally. We feel disconnected. We feel alone. We feel trapped. As someone that used to spend his days just doing his own thing and socializing every so often, I thought that quarantine would be easy to handle. I mean I spend most of my time home anyway.
But, it’s not the first day that gets you, nor the second. Hell, after the first week, I still felt fully capable of handling this crisis and social distancing myself for however long this thing goes. However, after a month or so, it has been incredibly tough. I was confronted with myself and my habits. I had to really look at myself and figure out what was working and what wasn’t.
My hope is that these lessons help you think about what you may have already learned about yourself. Maybe you get overwhelmed too easily. Maybe you’re tougher than you think. Maybe you realized you spend too much time on your phone *raises hand*. Whatever you take away from this post, I hope you get inspired to make your own list of lessons learned.
So, without further ado: 9 Lessons I’ve Learned During Quarantine.
1. Everyday isn’t going to be perfect. So be kind to yourself.
Maybe you told yourself you were going to work out every day you were under quarantine *raises hand* and then proceeded to not work out at all the next day *raises hand again*. Let me tell you that it is OKAY. When we want to change something about our lives, we often do it in a swift decisive moment without truly thinking about the goal we just set. This, however, is absolutely perfect because you’ve set your mind to something. You’ve created this determined mentality, and in that moment, you become capable of accomplishing anything. There is so much power in that one moment, but how do we carry that one moment to the next day or next week?
We think we lose the fire and are confronted with a choice: Punish or Surrender. By punishing ourselves, we tell ourselves that we can’t believe we already messed up and then give up entirely. We leave feeling defeated and that fire is extinguished. If you choose to surrender, you tell yourself OKAY. Today wasn’t perfect. Today, I didn’t get everything done that I wanted to. Today, I laid in bed all day and watched Netflix. OKAY, tomorrow is a brand new day that I get to try again. Be kind to your mistakes. Be kind to yourself. You don’t need to be perfect every day, you just have to keep trying.
2. Move. Move. Move.
Find a way to move your body. Whether that’s through lifting weights, doing yoga, running, riding a bike, walking your dog, or just dancing in your room to Taylor Swift at 2 in the morning *coughs and slowly raises hand*. Movement frees up stagnant energy in your body and releases it. There’s a reason they had 30-second dance parties in Grey’s Anatomy.
These past few weeks, the days I’ve felt my best mentally are the days where I have moved my body. Even if its just for 20 minutes.
3. Make Your Bed Every Morning.
Now, I’m sure some of you are reading this and are saying “I already do this, how do other people not do this?” Calm down Miss Judgy, this ain’t about you.
There are multiple studies that show a correlation between making your bed in the morning and success. Now, if you’re like me, you normally say screw those studies, I mean who doesn’t love that comfy feeling of climbing into a messy bed late at night after a long day? The answer is someone that has stayed in their room all day with a messy bed as they try to get work done at their desk……
When something is off in your space, it throws off your entire flow. I take this further than just my bed too. I make sure that my room is at the very least an ORGANIZED mess. I have come to the conclusion that a messy room is the manifestation of a messy, scattered mind. And you know exactly what I’m talking about. The moment you clean your room, living space, or the dishes you immediately feel clearer and better in your head.
4. The News Is Not Your Friend.
Being informed is absolutely great. I full-heartedly believe that keeping up to date on what is happening in the world is usually a good thing. However, during quarantine the news is not your friend. When every single headline basically screams that more people are dying and the world is ending, it’s hard to really think about anything else. And then you keep watching the news in the hopes that something will change. Then the next thing you know, you're chicken little hiding under the stairs with your tinfoil hat, gas mask, and 60 packs of hand sanitizer and toilet paper.
It’s a tough situation. So, how do you remain informed about what you actually need to know and still go about your day without letting your anxiety get the better of you?
Take the news in small doses. If you find yourself feeling like there is too much doom and darkness, turn the T.V. off, close your laptop, and stop looking at your phone for a few hours. Look around you and ground yourself in your space. You are safe. Now go do a puzzle.
Once you immerse yourself in other activities, you’ll notice that your anxiety just fades away.
5. Read Books. Phone Less.
I still struggle with this one, but hey, I’m not perfect, nor do I claim to be. This is just something I learned. After the first week, I got REAL tired of being on my phone. I would waste so much time just scrolling. Mindlessly. Even as I was doing it, I would acknowledge in my head that this is just a waste of time.
Luckily, I have some required reading for my yoga teacher training which really saved me. I would leave my phone on my dresser on do not disturb and then I would just read. I would be reading for hours. I found myself falling in love with reading again like when I was a kid. Now what you decide to read is entirely up to you.
Now, even when I’m not reading, I’m less reactive to when I hear a ping from my phone, which is such a great feeling.
6. Nature is your best friend.
Now, I’m lucky enough to live in Houston where we are filled with space. It’s quite easy for us to be outside and remain six feet away from someone. I am aware that some people live in tighter cities, or maybe you can’t even go outside because quarantine is that strict for you. But, if you can find yourself outside, do it. Even if it’s just a balcony or a rooftop. Hell, just open your windows. Feel the wind. Feel the sun on your skin. See the sky up above you. Listen to the birds chirping.
When we are inside all day, for weeks, going stir crazy is inevitable. You start to feel trapped, not just physically but mentally. What makes the matter worse is that you can’t interact with your friends in person. Isolation is a bitch.
However, just from opening a window and feeling the wind flow through your room and hearing the birds chirp, you realize just how alive you and the world are. You may be stuck inside, but you aren’t disconnected from the outside world.
Nature is still very much alive and kickin’.
7. Create your own “Rolling Up the Sleeves”
A quote I found recently from Machiavelli in a Youtube video taught me this lesson:
“When evening comes, I return home and go into my study. On the threshold I strip off my muddy, sweaty, workday clothes, and put on the robes of court and palace, and in this graver dress I enter the antique courts of the ancients and am welcomed by them, and there I taste the food that alone is mine, and for which I was born. And there I make bold to speak to them and ask the motives of their actions, and they, in their humanity, reply to me. And for the space of four hours I forget the world, remember no vexation, fear poverty no more, tremble no more at death: I pass indeed into their world.”
This speaks volumes to the power that comes from creating a “ritual” to transition you into your work-mode. Maybe you finally put on a pair of jeans. Maybe you put your shoes on. Maybe you tie your hair back. For me, I put on my crystal mala (basically a long necklace) which signifies I’m in my “Yogi/Writer” mode.
This is you “rolling up the sleeves” and getting your mind ready to put in work.
Your mind is so incredibly powerful. If you continue to give something meaning to an action as simple as tying your hair-back, you will find that when you do it you are focused in the work that you are doing in front of you. When you do your ritual, you are what you are trying to be. You are a writer. You are a data analyst. You are a researcher. You are a student. No one can tell you otherwise.
Create your own ritual and get into work-mode.
8. Clear your head.
Whether its through meditation, working out, or painting, find some type of way to clear your head of all the thoughts that are running through it every single day. When we start to feel trapped and isolated in our physical world, we will undoubtedly start to feel trapped in our own minds. We’ll start running through the same thought patterns each and every day.
I find that just driving around and just jamming to music does wonders for my mental health. It gives me time to myself where I don't have to think about anything else. I just drive and jam.
Finding an outlet gives us a cathartic process where we can set our thoughts to the side. The beautiful thing that happens is that once you come back to your thoughts you get to decide what to pick up again and what to let go of.
We are in control of everything that goes on in our head, and we are losing if we fail to take advantage of that.
9. Remember to breathe.
This may seem like an obvious one, and you might laugh and say, “How would I forget to breathe?” Physically you can’t stop breathing. Breathing is a naturally involuntary muscle movement. However, you also have conscious control of your breathing and that is what I’m talking about.
We can get so caught up in all the things going on around us, in all the things on our to-do list, or all the things going on our head. All you need is 10 seconds to collect yourself in any given moment.
Inhale for 4. Hold for 2. Exhale for 4.
10 seconds in your entire today to just focus on your breathing. If you need another 10 seconds then take it. Another? Take it. Take however long you need.
Just remember to breathe.