Another week has come and gone, and we are still in quarantine. How long has it been for you?
It’s been 5 weeks for me.
Sometimes it feels like forever. Other times I wake up and feel surprised that I’m in quarantine.
This last week has been different for many people. We were told that this would be a particularly hard week because numbers would rise. It has been described as our Pearl Harbor, or 9/11. We hear about “flattening the curve”, which means that we aren’t seeing an increase in cases.
Every news station is talking about COVID19 in every broadcast. CNN has a dedicated channel just for the Corona Virus updates. You can watch the news in the morning, at noon, at 4:00, 5:00, 6:00, 9:00 and 10:00, depending on your preferred news provider. Then you can watch talk shows, and what are they including in their conversations? You got it! Corona Virus, COVID19.
Are you screaming yet?
So with all of this continual onslaught of information, how do you take care of yourself? Building on the last post, let’s look at some more ideas for how to cope with quarantine.
- Let’s start with information management. Clearly, there is valuable information out there that is helpful to be aware of. Knowing if there are new guidelines for staying safe and preventing the spread is important. Some people want to know the current status in their area, in the nation and in the world. There is nothing wrong with wanting to know these things and stay informed. But you may know that you're in trouble if you feel that you MUST watch every broadcast that you can find. There truly is such a thing as too much information. You need a break from hearing all of the doom and gloom. You need a distraction from the stress that the constant dwelling on the crisis can create. So now what?
- Here's what to do instead. Look at things that give you joy or make you laugh. Watch silly videos, go on YouTube and watch humorous videos. There are always those funny cat videos! Look at pictures of nature. Some people are making a point of posting on their social media photos of places they have been, or specifics like sunsets, ocean pictures etc. Participate in these or initiate it for yourself. Watch nature documentaries on TV. Watch comedy movies. Binge watch an old sitcom like Friends, or The Big Bang Theory, or MASH.
- Reduce your sense of isolation. I mentioned being sure to engage in at least one social contact a day, for 30 minutes, either phone, video chat or text messaging. But there are other ways too. There are many entertainers who are publishing free concerts and conversations. Some show up on Facebook or other platforms. Some are on YouTube. Other talk show formats on TV are broadcasting with the speakers in their homes. It is less formal and they talk about their coping too. The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon is broadcasting from home with his family. All of his shows are on YouTube for anyone, even if you don't have cable to watch. You can get a sense of how he has been coping on a personal level by watching these from the beginning. Perhaps you can see how your quarantine experience is mirrored by his. And on Facebook there is a group called, A View From My Window. People all over the world are posting their pictures from the windows or doors of their homes. It is very encouraging to see that someone in Finland, or Australia, or Morocco is also dealing with this quarantine and staying inside. It gives a little window on the world. You are not alone.
- If you are having a bad day, you are not alone. Earlier this week I had my own sort of meltdown. I felt uncomfortable, unhappy, confused, sad and scared, all mixed up together. It began when I couldn't remember what day it was, and when I realized the day, I felt bad because it didn't seem to make sense to me. Time seemed to be irrelevant. Dates no longer seemed to be important. So what did I do? I acknowledged to myself that this is a difficult time. That I have never experienced anything like this before, and that it was okay to feel a little off. I told myself that I didn't need to judge myself, just accept myself as I am. I breathed, put my hands behind my head and breathed. Then I talked with someone and shared how I was feeling. And low and behold, they also had had a similar experience. We ended up laughing together. So I watched a few cat videos, looked at some pretty pictures, listened to some music and watched a Big Bang Theory on TV. So when you have a bad day, it's okay. It won't last. It is just this moment, just this breath, just this time. So practice your mindfulness and give yourself permission to feel whatever you are feeling.
We can all do this. We will all do this. We ARE all doing it. Just take it one moment at a time. Be gentle with yourself. And remember you are not alone, and neither am I.
Hang in there.
- Emilie McCartney Smith, LPC