Although this time in isolation has taught me many things, there are five big themes I’ve learned in quarantine that have shown up over and over again since Day 1… Even if it has taken me a few months to really name them and consider them enough to share.
Maybe some of these will hit home for you (I bet I’m not alone) or they’ll at least give you a few reminders that we’re all human and we’re doin’ the best we can right now;)
1. “I don’t have time” is (almost always) a lie.
I am a creature of habit which means that when things pop up outside of my “plan” for the day, I automatically assume that I don’t have time and won’t be able to make it happen. Or, I have no interest in going through the mental steps of changing my plans. So, saying “I don’t have time” is just easier. But, I’ve learned through quarantine that the more I do this, the more I reinforce the idea that changes to “the plan” are going to be a nuisance. And, the less open I am to the last second plans that bring COLOR into my life.
Saying “no”, “I don’t have time” or avoiding creating plans in the first place feels GOOD… Be honest, I bet you’ve experienced this in some way, shape, or form.
But here is where it gets tricky – I do this with plans I genuinely WANT to partake in. Like staying in touch with friends on Zoom/FaceTime, calling family members, doing more yoga, going on TWO walks in one day etc…
The truth is, my day-to-day hasn’t changed much since quarantine. Sam still goes to work every day and I was already working from home. But as the people in my life with a bit more time on their hands get creative staying in touch with each other or moving their bodies in new ways, I’ve been doing my best to join in the fun. And, in the process, I’ve realized that I do have way more time in the day than I thought and I’m better at “going with the flow” than I give myself credit for. The key is making an effort to switch up my routine now and then and prove to myself that when I do this…
a) life goes on
b) life gets better
I NEVER regret it… another walk, the Facetime call with my cousins, morning yoga, extra time with my book before bed, weekly zoom calls, or workouts with friends… Deepening these connections with others, and with myself has allowed me to still stay on top of the things I need to get done at work while enjoying more of the LIFE going on around me.
2. It’s okay to feel burned out…
…and it’s my responsibility to do something about it.
It is so easy to get caught thinking that more time at home and – for many people right now – more time in general should leave us feeling grounded, well-rested, and ready to take on any work that comes our way. But, there are likely some things going on below the surface you’re not considering.
Social media sends us a million messages about “being productive” during this time which can leave us feeling like we’re “not doing quarantine right” if we haven’t learned a new language, taken on at least 3 DIY projects and gotten rid of everything in the closet that doesn’t spark joy.
News flash: you don’t have to do any of those things and you can just RELAX and use this as a season of rest.
We’re also living in WEIRD, uncertain times. The spikes and falls of some of your stress hormones (like cortisol and adrenaline) is, frankly, exhausting. One day, you may feel great and like nothin’ can stop you. The next day (or hour) you may feel down, confused, and lost. This is normal right now
“Do something” can mean a whole lotta things like…
- Letting go of the things I tell myself I “should” be doing… That I don’t really need to do right this second.
- Getting more intentional with my time. Where am I wasting time that I could be more efficient so I have more me time in other places (read: doing ONE thing at a time at work, keepin’ my phone away while I write blog posts etc…)
- Planning in some LEGIT rest time. Reading on the porch?
- Adjusting training accordingly if my stress is THROUGH THE ROOF and my body is asking me for lower-key, restorative movements for a few days (or more than a few days!)
- Having honest and potentially vulnerable conversations about expectations with the applicable people in my life so I can step back where and when needed.
3. The gym is my interaction outlet
Okay, I know this one may seem like… “duh” but I honestly didn’t realize what a HUGE interaction outlet the gym was for me until it was gone. Read: along with things like finding chicken breasts at the grocery store and being able to go to TJ Maxx whenever I want to, I will never take this part of my gym experience for granted again.
When it comes to communication and real human interaction, I am limited through the day since I work from home. Do not get me wrong, I wouldn’t trade working from home for anything and I love what I do every day. But, it can be tough to fly solo all day long and by 5:00, I’m ready to, you know, stop talking to my plants and start talking to real breathing humans.
I’ve also learned that I need to schedule a few minutes of transition time between finishing up my work for the day and interacting with anyone. Pre-COVID, this used to be my driving time on my way to the gym when I unwind, listen to music, finish up any last second work thoughts. Then, I’d be ready to switch gears and have fun when I get there.
Without that mental transition time, I’ve found that when Sam gets home from work, my brain is still half in “work mode” and I’m irritable, distracted, and have trouble getting in a good workout. So, I’ve taken to stopping work about 20 minutes before he gets home and walking, stretching, listening to music in my house, or doing ANYTHING that helps me unwind from work before getting my sweat on.
4. Mixed emotions are NORMAL
…And if you’re experiencing them you’re not a crazy person!
Emotional ups and downs are the norm right now so if you’re in this same boat, you’re not alone and it is okay to feel the feels. With the news shifting from one day to the next, it is natural for your mood to follow. And as I said above, those moods and stress hormone spikes and falls are #real and can make it really tough to feel like you’re grounded and centered.
You may also be feeling things like…
- Survivors guilt: Maybe you’re someone who is actually handling COVID a-okay and your life hasn’t changed much. You’re allowed to thrive right now if that is the case. Think about it like this – we need people who are OKAY right now to support those who need it.
- Excitement AND unease: If you’re ready for things to “go back to normal” and you’re just counting down the days, you may be surprised about the emotional rollercoaster that begins when you get the go-ahead. While we’re so busy waiting for things to open back up, it is easy to forget that we’ll still need to be careful and that it may be a bit nervewracking and unsettling as we navigate the new normal.
- Reflection and wondering: Once quarantine is over, maybe you’ll find yourself wondering if you used your time wisely. Key point: wisely does not mean “productively”.
And so much more. Give yourself the grace and space to feel it, people. There is absolutely nothing wrong with you if your mood, energy, and feelings shift from day-to-day. Our reality is shifting thus and it only makes sense that our mood follows. Focus on what you can control and the things that make you feel as calm and grounded as possible. Use them as lifelines and touchstones to come back to your center when needed.
5. I touch my face… A LOT
HA… for real though. I didn’t realize how much I touch my face until it became MASSIVELY frowned upon to do so and this is, perhaps, the biggest thing I’ve learned in quarantine.
Head in my hands while I think? Check! Absentmindedly putting my nails in my mouth while I work (THE WORST habit!)? YEP! Rubbing my eyes, itching my nose, massaging my temples? All the above!
Beyond the “wear a mask” (hey, you can’t put your hands near your mouth when you’re wearing a mask!) and “wash hands incessantly” habits I’ve been really sticking to, I’ve also been trying my best to identify WHEN the face-touching is most common.
I’ve found that I touch my face most when I’m stressed or on a call for work. So, I try to give my hands something else to do during these times, especially. Spinning a pen in my fingers and doodling has worked really well for me so far. Never have I ever thought I needed or wanted a fidget spinner but hey, maybe I’ll add one to my Amazon cart this week.
There you have it! The five things I’ve learned in quarantine. Let’s be honest, I’ve learned a lot more than 5 things but those are some of the big ones.
Please give yourself permission to feel the way you feel. It is so tempting to want to label emotions as “good” or “bad”. In reality, they’re all worthy of our time, respect, and consideration.
Even feelings you may have previously considered “bad” like stress, sadness, regret, remorse, and mourning are important to honor and dig into. They’ll give you important indicators and insight into what you want or – just as importantly – don’t want.
Take some time to reflect on the things you’ve learned during quarantine about yourself and the way you interact with the world around you so you can enter back into “normal life” with groundedness and gratitude!