Coping with quarantine: How to stay busy when self-isolating

BY CARMEN FANNING

Let’s be real: It feels as if life just took a complete 180. Within the past few weeks, plans have changed drastically, and the future is unclear for a lot of us. The recent coronavirus pandemic has increased in speed and mortality. The government and CDC recommends everyone stay inside for two to three weeks to decrease the risk of infection and exposure.

I urge you to do your civic duty and stay inside, but that doesn’t mean this time in isolation has to be a waste. There are plenty of things you can do to fill the time while this virus runs its course. Some may joke quarantining and cabin fever go hand in hand, but once you shift your mindset, you might actually find yourself enjoying this time alone.

We can’t control what’s going on, so let’s focus on what we can control: How and what we do with our time, and how we respond to others and our actions.

This time of isolation can bring up negative feelings such as anxiety, fear, stress, confusion, depression, irritableness and inevitably, boredom. Psychologists and scientists recommend ways to combat those feelings. 

“My advice? Always the same,” Michael Friedman, associate professor at Columbia School of Social Work in New York, said in a March interview with CNBC. “Stay in contact with people — virtually — engage in activities that give you pleasure and a sense of meaning, and do what you can to help others, which is a remarkable antidote.”

This new disruption in every-day routine can be difficult to adjust to. Psychologists recommend establishing a routine to bring a sense of structure to this confusing time. Whether it be eating breakfast, working out or doing homework, order will help give a sense of control in an uncontrollable period of life.

Set goals you want to accomplish by the time all of this is over. Time will pass more quickly and will be more enjoyable if you can see and experience progress. 

There are so many things you can do while being inside. For example: read more, exercise three times a week, finish an entire cooking book, read a book series, finish a series on Netflix — the opportunities are limitless.

“Getting things done can provide a sense of purpose and competency. It gives you something to work towards and something to look forward to each day,” said Steven Gans, a board-certified psychiatrist to VeryWell Mind.

Do something you’ve always wanted to do. Whether it be crocheting, mastering coding, cooking or learning a new language, this is the perfect time to be productive with your time toward a goal you’ve always wanted to accomplish. Just because you’re inside, doesn’t mean life has to be boring.

You aren’t just limited to activities inside, fresh air is great for mental wellbeing. Go on a walk or run. Springtime is finally upon us, go outside and feel the warmth of the sun. You could start training for that 5K you’ve always wanted to do or increase your strength through at-home workouts. You can find hundreds of at-home workout videos on YouTube for any fitness level. Yoga is a great way to exercise yet get in tune with your inner self.

Gans emphasized the benefits of staying active.

“Your quarantine may be brief, but staying active may help you feel better and maintain your fitness levels,” he said. “It’s also a great way to help combat the sense of malaise and boredom that can come from being stuck inside day after day.”

People all over the world are coming together to lift up each other and bring positivity. Thankfully because of technology, we can still feel connected no matter where we are. Facetime is a great tool to use during this time. Call your best friend, your grandparents, a teammate, etc., and let them know you’re thinking of them. It’s important to feel a sense of connection in this time of isolation.

Connection is the best way to cope with this stressful time.

“Talking to others who are going through the same thing can provide a sense of community and empowerment,” Gans said. 

It can often feel as if we are alone during this time, but realizing we’re all going through the same thing can make us feel unified despite the distance.

Music is the universal love language and is another way to stay connected. Italy was seen recently singing to a song from the comfort of their homes. Although they were all distanced from each other, the country was unified through song. 

Music is also therapy and can help relieve a lot of the stress and anxiety that can occur during this time. 

With the majority of restaurants closing, now is the time to bring out your inner Food Network star. Cooking is a great way to release stress and a healthier alternative than eating out. Food breeds community and would be a great way to bond with your family. Try cooking for your family or friends, or dropping off a meal for your grandparents. This simple gesture will go a long way. 

Declutter your life. Being stuck at home is the perfect time to finally sort through your closet and get rid of clothes that don’t fit or you no longer wear. You could even donate them to a charity of your choice for someone who needs it. On the other hand, you could also sell them and make money from home. A clear space equals a clear mind. 

Engage your mind through different activities during this time inside. Journaling is a great tool for self-discovery. Don’t bottle your emotions, get them all out on paper. If you struggle with finding the words to write, prompts are a great way to get your thoughts on paper and understand yourself at a deeper level. Envision the person you could be once quarantine is over. You could use this time to grow as a person or stay stagnant where you are.

More free time means more time to read. Book lovers everywhere know the struggle of wanting to read but never having time during the school year. Get lost in a series and let your imagination wander. You could even start a book club with friends to stay engaged and connected. If you aren’t a book worm and Netflix is more your speed, you can use this time to enjoy your favorite series and discover other series you normally would not have. Psychologists say mental stimulation is beneficial because it shifts our focus from the media overload going on right now.

It’s important to protect your mental health and wellbeing. This time is confusing and causes a lot of worry for most of us. Claudia W. Allen, a licensed clinical psychologist, suggests shifting your mental space in a recent article for the University of Virginia. 

“Use principles of mindfulness to shift your mental stance from frustration about the situation,” she said. 

It’s easy to get caught up in the whirlwind of worry and anxiety, but instead change your mindset to positivity. We are in the midst of a historic event in America right now. See every passing day as one day closer to returning to normal life. This won’t last forever. The sooner we all commit to staying inside, the sooner this will be over. 

China is already experiencing a drastic change and is returning to normal life. Citizens can now walk around with masks, and the virus is being controlled. Although there is a lot of stress and confusion going on, there’s also a lot of good. 

Finally, remember why you’re doing this. The majority of college kids have a fighting chance against this virus, but those who are elderly do not. When you begin to feel frustrated and stressed, think of your parents, grandparents and peers. Look beyond yourself and take on an attitude of altruism. It takes every single one of us to flatten the curve and get through this.

These are just a few things to pass the time during this coronavirus pandemic. It is vital we do our part to stay inside. The sooner we stay inside, the sooner we will go back to our normal lives. We’re all in this together.

Carmen Fanning is a Junior Biology major, Spanish minor from Lee’s Summit, MO. 

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