We are in a bit of a crazy time right now. I feel silly writing this post. I’m in Northern Italy, with an eerie quiet replacing the sounds of everyday life. I can’t leave my home without permission. My mood evolved during the past few weeks from denial to panic to some sort of acceptance. We are all kinda trying to accept this new reality.
Dr. Laura Hawryluck, associate professor of critical care medicine at the University of Toronto, studied the effects of quarantine during the SARS outbreak in 2003. Her subjects expressed a lot of negative emotions. Some of them were angry over the whole situation, others were frustrated by the lack of (mostly medical) support. A third of them showed symptoms of depression and PTSD. “Taking my temperature made my heart feel like it was going to pound out of my chest each time,” one respondent noted.
A lockdown is clearly extremely unnerving and it’s ok to be disappointed and irritated. You may have planned a trip that just fell through. Maybe the concert that you’ve been waiting for has been postponed or canceled. You may be worried about your finances or the health of family members or friends. Take 30 seconds for yourself right now and just vent your anger.
Now that anger is hopefully out of your system, we need to come to terms with the idea that things are gonna be weird for some time. The lockdown won’t last forever, we’ll get through it. But right now, we really need to look after one another. Think about calling your neighbors, your relatives, or just anyone you know who may be vulnerable or feel isolated. Just FaceTime chatting with my friends makes me feel better every day. Here are some other tips that may be helpful.
Set Limits around News
I’m tired of letting Twitter and TV ruin my days with an onslaught of upsetting information. Open your phone settings and set limits for social media and news outlets. Stay up-to-date, but don’t unnecessarily increase anxiety and agitation. Focus on things that are positive in your life and actions you have control over.
Maintain Your Routine When Possible
Eating healthy meals, doing some physical exercise, getting enough sleep are now more important than ever. Keep your work schedule as close to normal as possible. Creating new habits puts you at risk of becoming distracted and shifting your schedule later and later. Whatever you can do to maintain your daily routine, do it.
Try Your Best not to Pass on Misinformation
WhatsApp or text messages claiming to have inside knowledge about an impending quarantine or a miraculous cure are better left alone. If a message is not pointing to the latest, verified, science-based information, think twice before hitting that send button and contributing to the infodemic.
Refrain from Blaming
When anxiety is high and stores run out of essential goods (it looks like toilet paper may be a good candidate as an international sign for panic), it’s easy to blame others. Likely targets go from someone sneezing in line in front of you to joggers in the streets. And I won’t even mention the rampant racism against Asian immigrants.
Try to make a deliberate effort to hold on to your humanity. We’ll be better off if we unite against our common problems.
Take Care of Yourself
This is the right moment to start taking care of yourself. Meditation is a good starting point: if you can focus on the present, you can handle difficult thinking without becoming too anxious. Or start journaling. Or consider the healing impact of yoga at home or making art. You won’t drive fear off, but finding a little peace of mind through action is essential right now. Here’s some music to get started.