Living under Quarantine
Quarantine, sometimes called “social distancing,” is an imposed isolation or restricted movement. It is used to prevent the spread of diseases.
Being under quarantine, i.e. being socially isolated and involuntarily restricted in our freedom of movement, is nothing else than unusual at first, but it can also feel threatening or emotionally stressful if
• the quarantine is due to a threat to our health, safety or well-being;
• we only have limited information and control over the situation;
• the situation is unpredictable or prolonged; and/or
• the individual under quarantine has a history of mental health problems, drug abuse, or social and financial instability.
The goal is
• to stay in good health;
• to cope well with possible stress; and
• to increase your own resilience.
This way we can be fit and optimistic about the next steps in our life after the quarantine .
Possible Effects of Quarantine
The good news is: We as human beings are resilient. We can endure quite a lot and recover from stressful events. We all deal with uncertainty and stress differently, interpret events differently, and also express emotions in various ways. Stress affects our behavior – more for some of us than others, depending on how strong the impact of an event is on our lives and how skilled we are at adapting to new situations.
During a quarantine, we can be faced with different emotions, e.g. worry, anger, helplessness, loneliness, guilt and shame.
We can worry about our health, the health of others, and the financial impact of the quarantine. We can also be embarrassed that we are under quarantine and we can feel excluded and inadequate. We can feel stress because the children are walking all over us, we don’t know how to explain the situation to them or because everyone involved is tense and conflicts are more likely to arise. Topics such as shopping, visits to the doctor, travel plans, sick calls, or our financial situation can also lead to stress. If it takes a long time, you may experience impatience, boredom or fear.
People who are not good at being alone or who suffer from depression and loneliness find it particularly difficult in times of quarantine. The feeling of being cut off from the rest of the world can be very stressful and increase depression or trigger feelings of helplessness and powerlessness.
However, quarantine can also be an opportunity to do things differently and discover new strengths.
How we can take good care of ourselves
Here are a fw tips to help you to get through the time under quarantine:
Health and visits to the doctor
Follow the instructions of your doctor or the responsible authorities who manage the situation. Ensure you have refills of medication and necessary healthcare supplies, including a thermometer. Find out whether you can also reach your doctor by phone and thus avoid a visit to the practice.
Create a small supply of food, e.g. a few canned or frozen vegetables, rice, lentils, oatmeal, oat milk, nuts, and raisins. Don’t forget that throughout history, humans have always experienced phases with less food – and that we have survived these as well. Refrigerators and the year-round supply of fruits and vegetables are a phenomenon of the modern age!
Separate facts from your emotions, fears, and anxious thoughts about “worst case scenarios.” What do you know for sure and what are “only” fears? Keep in mind that in times of the Internet we get information that we would not have received before – and fast. At the same time, it is difficult today to separate what is true and what is fake. Often, we receive conflicting information. It is therefore advisable to be clear about what you actually know and not go crazy over premature conclusions, even if they are your own or those of others.
Talk to friends and family about how you want to keep in touch. Share what you need! Do you need help with paying your bills while under quarantine? Do you need help with other things such as doing the laundry, cleaning, or taking care of your pets? Talk to others about possible solutions. Together you are more creative than alone.
Make plans with those nearby about how to support each other, e.g. by sharing supplies or replenishing groceries for those in need.
It is important that you stay in contact with the outside world. Make sure you talk or write to other people at least once a day.
Our usual time structure is no longer available when under quarantine. Maybe there is no need to get up in the morning, comb your hair and dress, to exercise, or to be in contact with other people. You may enjoy that for a few days, but don’t let it take too long!
Give yourself a new time structure and plan your day and week. You can plan in days for tidying up, for cleaning, for personal hygiene – and of course also a lazy day. Or you can use the time under quarantine to take care of yourself – enjoy a bath or a good book, and take your time to take care of your hair, nails, your mind and your soul.
Make a list of things for which you have never had enough time: meditating, reading, tidying up the pantry, repairing broken things ... Ask yourself: What do I never have enough time for in everyday life? What have I always wanted to do? Or: what could I do now to prepare for later, e.g. think about Christmas presents, plan a party, prepare for the time when I can go outside again?
Talk to your manager about whether and how you can work, who can fill in for you, or what amount of work has to be left undone until the quarantine is over. Of course, this varies depending on the type of work and situation. Some people won‘t be able to do anything at all, others may be able to work from home and can possibly prepare something for the time after the quarantine. If you are concerned about your professional future, now is a good time to think about what you are good at, where your talents and interests lie – and also appreciate that.
Quarantine does not automatically mean that you cannot move around anymore. If you are sick, take your time and rest. Otherwise: Activities such as gymnastics, stretching, yoga, dumbbell training, dancing, etc. can all be carried out in confined spaces as well. There are many videos on how to do this on Youtube – for free. Freestyle is also good – remember: it not about perfection, it is about keeping your body smooth and active. If you have a garden, you can find things to do there – and cleaning should not be underrated either!
Stress management and resilience
Quarantines are usually involuntarily imposed on us. Not to be in control can trigger stress, anxiety, and frustration. We always want to have control over our lives. And in this day and age, in particular, we are not very experienced in following the flow of life with confidence because we are geared to manage work and private life well. Our brain is still very similar to that of the Stone Age man. That means that if we encounter something strange and uncertain, our alarm bells start ringing.
Fear and insecurity should warn us not to do anything that could put us in danger. So stress and anxiety are normal phenomena during a time when everything is different and uncertain. It is therefore a good time to practice learning to deal with stress and anxiety. That makes us also more resistant for later, when life maybe doesn’t take the path we had planned for it to take. This kind of resistance is called resilience. You can train resilience just like a muscle.
Here are a few tips on how to deal constructively with stress and fears:
• Eat a healthy diet and stay physically active.
• Create new routines and structure your day.
• Focus your energy on the things that can influence – do not focus on what is beyond your control. Psychology and quantum physics have taught us that what we focus on moves into the center of our cognition. So we can control how we experience the world around us to some extent after all.
• Act reasonably and as the situation requires. Do your best to make your contribution – and trust that your best is enough. If everyone does their best, everything will turn out all right. And you cannot do more than your best anyway.
• Stay socially connected with other people and keep an eye on the wellbeing of others. However, be careful if others increase your own fear. Then it is important to surround yourself with enough positive people so that you can refuel your energy as well. Also learn to accept help and encouragement from others. Especially for people who are always strong and independent, this is an important exercise!
• If you are quarantined as a family, structure your time in a way that you can both socialize and be away from each other. Play games, watch movies together, or read out books to each other. Craft Easter decorations and make your home beautiful. Also make sure that everyone can have time for themselves.
• Don’t reply too much on digital distractions. Get outside as often as possible if you can.
• Avoid unhealthy methods of coping. Excessive consumption of alcohol, drugs, and excessive eating do not make you more resilient, but rather more vulnerable. But don‘t judge yourself if you let yourself go every once in a while. Be loving and mindful with yourself.
It may very well be that your emotions are different from day to day. This is a healthy sign that you are dealing with the situation, consciously and subconsciously. As you adapt to the new situation, new feelings come to the surface. Don’t be afraid of your emotions. Emotions are energies that flow through your body. They change when you let them flow. In other words: Every feeling has a beginning and an end. It will change by itself if we allow it to.
Sometimes we need other people to process a feeling. This can be a conversation, a gesture, eye contact, or just that there is someone in whose presence you feel safe to feel what is inside of you. This also works virtually, for example via Skype. In some Facebook groups (e.g. ”Together, not alone”) you can get a lot of encouragement if you feel lonely or desperate. And you can help other people who are going through difficult times themselves. It is good to know that you are not alone. Basically, all people go through similar emotions, they only perceive them in different ways – and also express them differently.