Think about Ane Frank: while the whole world was crumbling around her, she was forced to be locked in a loft, and what she could do was be in the present, writing about the boy that she liked from school. It was all that mattered, and it is something that we all have as humans on times of adversity, it can help us keep sane.
These days, concepts of work, productivity or even purpose are being challenged, and isolation has also proved that we, as a society, have decided that the preservation of life is more important than the very quality of it. However, this time is different because everyone has been forced to perceive that the whole system we have created falls worthless at the face of nature. Poetic, right? Well, in my defence, quarantine has forced myself to look inwards and come up with some wicked ideas. I would even say epiphanies to a certain degree. No one knows what the hell is going on, so its normal to feel many feelings at once. Don’t demand on yourself too much, because it’s okay to feel panic.
I have talked with Antonio Ramos from the Wellbeing team, and apart from the philosophical dimension, we also discussed and agreed on some tips that might help people feel a little bit more grounded during these times of isolation. He also recommended that I read a guide to students from students called Coping During COVID-19, organized by Rethink Mental Illness institute, which was where I got a lot of inspiration from. Here it goes.
Connect with what matters to you most and brings you calm, peace or happiness during this time.
Reconnect with yourself first and foremost, and be aware of those things we take for granted on a daily basis. Acknowledge and pay attention to the small beautiful things.
Try to keep mindful and live in the present. Find practices that unite the three dimensions of mind, body and soul. Being at peace within ourselves has never been so important on a global scale, and rediscovering what makes us human, we now have a chance to be in the intimate world we have created for ourselves.
Tackle every day with purpose
Get in touch with your mind in the sense of discovering how it works. Our brains are extremely complex creatures, however, they’re suckers for patterns.
Every day you have to actually get up early, commute and get to school, you have to look “presentable,” right? So it basically means that our brain works with associations.
Getting up with purpose is important. Our brain rain associates “purpose” with “getting ready” on a day to day basis. After realizing that, even though you know you don’t have to get ready to go anywhere, do it. So your brain doesn’t automatically connect “not getting ready” with “having a lazy day.”
That means to set up an alarm, shower, put some clothes on. Every day. This way preventing your brain to switch on that “holiday” mindset. The mind follows the body, the body follows the mind. If you force your body to wake up early and get dressed, your mind will follow with “focus on what’s important,” and “get stuff done.”
Drive yourself to the best headspace possible with routine, even though you don’t have to be “presentable”.
Organize your workspace
We have found ourselves in a situation where we’re being forced to learn how to live with less. A good example is a fact that – apart from those whose lifestyles don’t allow for social isolation – all our spaces have been condensed into one, as home-space has turned into working-space, exercise-space, all in one. Some of us are fortunate enough to have a good home setting with a separate space to study though, however, if you don’t, try to stay as organized as possible and make a space in your room (different from your bed) that allows for optimal productivity, otherwise, things can go south really fast.
Organize your study schedule
A good idea is to instead of dedicating a whole day to study, now that we have time to do that, separate time chunks for certain tasks. For example, working undistracted for two hours can be twice as productive as working with distractions for four. Also, try not to pile up tasks.
Keep mind and body active
Exercise is just as important for mental health as for physical health. A good thing that many fitness trainers and gyms are doing is that they are releasing free follow-along exercise routines online, helping people stay active. Meditation also helps you find out which small things make you happy and bring you pleasure. Even doing your bed in the morning, cooking a meal, watching the sunset. Find the beauty in the small things again
Sleep and eating patterns
Try to keep the days in isolation as similar as possible to what you were doing prior. This means waking up fairly early and having breakfast, eating lunch at a set time and getting things done on time for dinner. All of it helps to prevent the mind from spiralling.
Time for fun
I know its boring to be forced to stay at home, and sometimes we might feel like we have to work twice as hard to make up for it, but that is not actually true. Play video games, practice drawing, if you have pets spend more time with them. They must feel really happy now that everyone is at home.
Staying in touch with friends
Not just through WhatsApp chats, but if you know someone well enough, you have that relationship going, you know their queues, their body language, even engaging through a screen is engaging, but it needs to happen. Always seek at least two dimensions of conversations.
Not everyone is an extrovert, not everyone needs the same level of social contact daily, but research is saying that we need at least some level of significant contact with someone. Someone that is significant us, at least once a day. Professor Laurie Santos, from Yale, quotes that the impact on the body of daily isolation is comparable to the impact on a physical body of smoking fifteen cigarettes a day.
Sometimes I feel almost driven to spend the whole day looking at a screen nowadays. After the seemingly full move to online life, getting off devices has been a huge one. Even if you’re not doing anything, just look outside, go do some stretches, take time for self-care.
Even though connecting with friends online can be really fun when playing games, keeping updates, attending live streams to feel a sense of belonging, social media can be a huge threat to your mental health as well. Try to optimize it as much as possible!
Stay informed, but don’t look at the news too much, don’t obsess about endless coverage and over research, because your paranoia might get worse! To avoid upsetting news and spikes of anxiety, try not to fall victim to news apps. Twitter has a function to filter words on what you receive, so you can choose when to get COVID-19 info. Also, double-check your facts, because information found in apps like Twitter, Facebook, Instagram or Reddit can be very unfounded. Government bodies like the Public Health England and WHO are always the best sources.
During our talk, Antonio also brought up that we now have the headspace to actually think if all this is really necessary. Besides agreeing with that quote, I think it’s freeing, because sometimes what goes on in my head is that people are encouraging me to go into a routine, but I don’t really know if I want to go back to that at all. There has been a lot of dysfunction in the way we have been living.
We can be productive from home when necessary. However, another question rises up: If there wasn’t a pandemic flipping the world upside down, could we still be productive from home? Times like these can be interesting for us to see different possibilities from what we have always known since people have felt robbed of their aspirations and ambitions, and it doesn’t matter what they were, but now they’re sort of being paused.
But the worse part of quarantine, in my opinion, is that the quality of our time correlates deeply with the space we’re at, and now we’re forced to be at places that are supposed to help us feel protected and safe, but it’s not always the case. For this, I quote Diane Nguyen, from the Bojack Horseman series: “We all work so hard to cultivate our homes, but what are they other than a place to repeat negative patterns?”
Antonio and Safa are here to help you find ways to manage some of the feelings you might be having right now if those feelings feel unwanted or intrusive. It’s okay to feel anxiety right now, these are uncertain times, but what’s important is what does that anxiety look like for you on your daily basis… it’s different for everyone.
Looking for wellbeing?
Antonio Ramos – Email: Antonio.Ramos@hult.edu
Safaa Ramadan – Email: Safaa.Ramadan@hult.edu
Also, On Purpose with Jay Shetty is a great podcast for these uncertain times.