The Rewards of Quarantine
As our homes become sanctuaries from the COVID-19 pandemic, they are being restored to the center of our lives.
I'm feeling cabin fever as much as the next person, but I've also been realizing how much of my life has migrated away from home in the last few years. But during this time of quarantine:
- we're not traveling outside our home states or countries, unless by unavoidable necessity
- we're not commuting to an office, if it's at all possible to work from home
- we're not eating in restaurants (We may be ordering meal deliveries, but we're consuming them in our own dining rooms.)
- we're not seeking recreation away from home, since outside options for socializing, shopping, and other diversions have shrunk to nearly zero
Mental and emotional health are as important as physical health.
The World Health Organization has advised people to manage their mental well-being as much as their physical health. For those who have self-isolated, the WHO suggests eating healthily, keeping regular sleep routines, and reviving hobbies.
But is this advice enough for people hunkered down at home with feelings of fear, loneliness, and sadness?
We're having to create new means of attachment to those outside of our immediate families. We're holding digital gatherings, attending church services online, and postponing weddings and funerals. I'm visiting with my young grandsons via video chat, which was somewhat confusing and unsatisfying to them at first, although they're adjusting. But this adjustment is something we're all going through.
Adapting to this new life of quarantine can have its rewards, but we must put some energy into developing them.
3 opportunities of self-isolation
1. Reconnect with your family.
My husband and I don't work together, and we don't normally do all of our leisure activities together either. But that has changed. Our computers are currently set up side by side for working at the dining table, and we've been playing board games and taking walks together. My choir and his chess club are cancelled for the season, so he's been playing chess online as we listen to music together on classical radio.
If you have school-age children, you know how school and after-school activities can actually drive a wedge between siblings. As children get more involved with their agemates in school, sports, band, and social life, friendships with their brothers and sisters become less and less important. But with those outside activities on hold, siblings have a chance to reconnect, figure out what they have in common, and forge new shared interests.
Family isn't just a group of people who happen to share an address, even if the busyness of modern life can make us feel that way. Family life can be a wonderful, supportive foundation for all other relationships, and right now we have an opportunity to strengthen and mend where necessary.
2. Deepen your spiritual life.
Another victim of our typical busyness can be our inner lives. Normally we're rushing from one activity to another, and nothing slows us down except illness. Right now, we have a chance to connect with our spirituality in a way we may not have done for a long time.
In our current situation, you can't say you don't have time to pray or meditate, practice keeping a gratitude journal, read the Bible or another spiritual text, or contemplate your true purpose and life goals.
Rediscovering or enlarging the role of faith in your life will create permanent benefits.
3. Combat the epidemic of loneliness.
Another way to strengthen your spirit is to reach out and help someone else. Loneliness isn't a situation created by COVID-19 – it's merely been accentuated. A 2020 survey by U.S. health insurer Cigna found that 61% of adults are lonely, up from 54% in 2018. The majority of those who admit their loneliness are under age 50.
In Great Britain, when officials asked for volunteers to deliver basic goods and provide companionship (even if digitally) to an estimated 1.5 million elderly people living alone, they received 500,000 offers of help within 24 hours, and that number has continued to grow. Some people are loaning their pets to those who live alone. It's being reported that "with such outreach, the narrative of fear and isolation is being shifted to one of neighborliness and community." The WHO has dropped the term "social distancing" and substituted "physical distancing." After all, the urge to be social cannot be denied.
What we long for isn't cliquishness and gossip, however. It's kindness, in word and deed. And right now, we have time for long phone calls. We have time to cook a double meal, and drop the extra food at a neighbor's house. We can greet the strangers we see while walking the dog or visiting the grocery store. We can arrange to meet book club or other organization members using Zoom. We can use video chat to read a book to a grandchild while his mother takes a mini-break. We can write informative, funny, encouraging letters (the extra effort required shows real love and caring).
We have a lot to hope for.
Our job at this time is to keep ourselves healthy – physically, mentally, and emotionally. We need to remain informed, but it will do us no good to wallow in the news or attempt to keep up with each new prediction 24/7. Dwelling on what might happen does no one any good, but making the most of this time will benefit you and those around you a great deal.
We're all in this together! And as Neil Greenberg, professor at King's College London and president of the United Kingdom Psychological Trauma Society reminds us, "We might end up, when we get back to normal socialization, in a community with a better capacity for links than before."
Updated March 2023