With the Covid-19 pandemic on the rise, self-isolation or quarantine seems to be one of the key strategies in slowing the rate of infection or “flattening the curve”. While no single individual can accomplish this, each of us acting rightly and collectively, can make a big difference. As Zeno famously said, “Well-being is realized in small steps, but it is no small thing.”
In self-isolation, individuals or families are required to stay within the confines of their homes and avoid any physical contact with those outside. Schools and day-cares have closed, and workplaces are shutting down or moving to remote working.
Some are better equipped than others to deal with these periods of isolation. No amount of yelling at the TV, cursing the origin of the virus or hoarding of essentials will help. Spending too many hours on social media doesn’t help. Neither will sticking our head in the sand with an “it’s not really that bad” attitude.
What we can control, as always, is how we respond. Here are some tips not only to remain calm in the face of chaos, but to make the best of the quarantine.
Whether you live with your family or in a co-living habitat, it would be helpful at the very start to sit down and devise an arrangement with your co-habitants. Have a discussion around what the biggest challenges maybe and what strengths each one has as an individual that can help. Discuss concerns and expectations about the quarantine, and what role each person can help everyone involved be better prepared, emotionally and practically.
Maintaining a routine is important but it need not be strict. Routines provide structure and order which is reassuring for everyone involved. They make the day predictable, especially for those who may have experienced chaos and help them to be calm. So, while it is okay to become more relaxed, it is important to keep up a certain level of routine.
It can be hard for families or groups who are used to going away to their own activities to be forced into this intense time together. Try to think of things you can do by yourself and as a group. Creating spaces within the house, like ‘play zones’, ‘study zones’, ‘TV zones’ and the like could help. While respecting time alone is important, it could also be a time for reconnecting with family rituals. Meals together, perhaps with a new recipe that all have been involved in preparing could make this more fun.
The feeling that something has been accomplished during an isolation period is important. It could include working from home, assignments or getting down to long-avoided chores, repairs or tasks. A “corona journal”, in which you document your experience may especially help. It’s also an opportunity to indulge - have a mandatory tea in the backyard sunshine. It is essential to make time for activities that just make you feel good.
Staying physically active is critical to boosting one’s mood. Frustration and boredom can quickly seep in when there are not enough opportunities to be physically active. Getting creative with exercise ideas, like setting up an obstacle course in the backyard can transform a mundane activity into something fun. Families or groups can consider things to do together – plan for a movie night, take on a project such as building something together, or even just rearrange the furniture.
Home-based working is beneficial for several tasks, especially those that need deep focus. Augmenting this, the development of cheaper and more widely available video-conferencing technology and collaboration tools ease up numerous tasks. There's a bright side to this for sure: working from home reduces commuting time, social interaction time and the number of interruptions that normally happen in an office environment.
Use your time wisely: don’t let the possible weeks or months of isolation be for nothing. You can’t control how long you’ll need to engage in social distancing, but you can control if you spend that time productively. The version of you who steps out of quarantine at some future date can be better than the version that entered it, if you try. Invest in virtual training programs and build your portfolio with added certifications. Capitalize on the opportunity to equip yourself with skills required to get ahead in the future of work, all within the safety and comfort of your home.
Overall, bear in mind that it’s not whether bad things happen, it is how we respond to them that makes all the difference. In this time of crisis, let’s do our part and inspire those around us to do the same. And when life gives us lemons, let’s make lemonade.
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