COVID-19: Three Tips to Transcend the Banalities of Self-Isolation

For many, solitude, even when self-imposed can feel like incarceration. But when self-isolation becomes essential for our individual, communal and world health, then it ought to be taken seriously. COVID-19 requires that we change immediately and find creative new ways to live and work. We can rise to this challenge and surprise ourselves if we give the moment its due by transforming and combining our beautiful hearts, brilliant minds into sustainable efforts and solutions that will transport us from this unfortunate atmosphere that we have helped into existence. Fear and hate will only cripple us and cause us more suffering and deaths. I'm making a dent in my “no blogging in 2020” goal to offer a few tips from my pre-pandemic and pandemic time, self-imposed self-isolation practices on how to do better than survive. And if what you can manage is to survive, that is plenty. Especially for those who depend on you.  

1. Have a controlled panic-attack:
Yes, I know, everyone says don’t freak out. But bottling in all your fears and pretending everything is fantastic would backfire sooner or later. Like most things, the right dose can be effective. So choose a healthy space and give yourself a calculated amount of time to let go. It could be for half an hour or three days––find a balance between your needs and what you can afford–-loosen the reins on your courage and let your fears free. Make it useful, document. Either through audio, video, or writing, try to record what is happening inside your head and heart. Then when the allocated time for your anxiety release has expired, divided your fears, which you have documented, into two categories. A category of things you can control and another of things beyond your control. Find a way to let go of the category outside your control. Perhaps through faith and good rational exercises—a good research may leave you feeling optimistic. Educate yourself. Learn about the Corona virus through the right sources like cdc.gov and how to protect yourself and loved ones, learn about how others are coping in your community and around the world, I recommend the international column of The Guardian. If you practice a faith, it is not a bad idea to ask for strength to cope, a day at a time––I recite the Lord's Prayer & Psalm 23 when I need inner strength. With the concerns that you can do something about, brainstorm and research your way into creative solutions. If you need other voices, watch TED Talks (especially this one), listen to podcasts, call your loved ones,  read a book––I am finding Marcus Aurelius’ Meditations excellent for the current atmosphere. You are not alone, the whole world is with you.

2. Maintain balance through a routine:
Routines are especially great for days when you are not sure what to do with yourself or feel the need to go into auto-pilot. They bring you a sense of familiarity and help you focus. They also hone your self-discipline and time-management skills and when you need it, can gift you  generous guilt-less days of doing nothing. If you don’t have a routine, try creating one. You can be simple and ambitious. Use your experience to tailor your day into a shape that allows you to make accomplishments, without burning out. It will keep you looking forward to meeting your future selves which would benefit from the opportunities you are transforming your present into. Also, try doing just one thing at a time. So when you eat, just eat. It is not easy, but think of it as a sort of meditation and set goals for yourself. For instance, I have just managed to start eating away from my computer. Now I am working on finishing my food in no less than twenty minutes––I am failing continuously but I have no intention of giving up. If you need some ideas on creating a routine, here is a rough sketch of mine: I write/edit in the morning; work on new skills + take naps in the afternoon; do some sort of craftwork in the evening if I have time; then read at night. I find it helpful to divide my day into four sessions and maintain checkpoints to guide my work flow: before breakfast, before lunch, before dinner and before sleep. My most challenging/important tasks are placed in “the before breakfast margin.” And the most fun/easiest tasks are in the “before sleep” margin. This way, I accumulate motivation from accomplishing what I find difficult/significant and look forward to what I find entertaining. I like how a good routine keeps me focused, and at the same time allows me to enjoy my day responsibly. Also by investing my best efforts into a day, I am able to climb into bed at night with gratitude.

3. Maintain and grow a mental list of simple joys:
The rules are simple: discover it, acknowledge it and observe it. Simple joys remove the mundane masks our days hide behind. They transform the moments into doses of magic. I have lots of simple joys and because of them, I am always laughing like a fool…even now, locked away in my apartment and hardly ever going anywhere, and not knowing how I will make my future rent, while I try to reason with anguish attacks my mind won't stop making about not having stocked-up enough of my favorite noodles. Ah, what can one do? What prompted my current way of the practice is a scene from one of my favorite Korean dramas, Because this is my First Life.  It was a scene from the latter episodes, where the lead-female cast’s mother explained how she had managed to endure her relationship with her husband, who was difficult to tolerate. If I am remembering correctly, she described her process as maintaining a pocket full of gold. The gold is a transformation of happy experiences with her husband into memories which she stored and retrieved for examination when her marriage felt difficult. I was not convinced, but I understood. I realized that one could do the same with one’s days. And instead of memories, one could start carefully searching, discovering, acknowledging and basking in favorite moments in the present. I noticed, therefore, that I love the sound and look of boiling water, so now when I boil liquid, I take the time to enjoy the bubbles and sounds and steams it makes and this transforms an ordinary event and moment into something special. My simple joys make my days richer. So rich that it is difficult to not believe that I am not a lucky fool.  I wish you these experiences too, because they are exciting and psychologically beneficial. It could help enable one with the sort of perspective that encourages creativity and optimism.

What tomorrow will bring has never really been clear or in our control. We just like to assume it is. All we can do is live our minutes, as truthfully and responsibly as we possibly can and let the rest take care of itself. So in these moments of difficulties we must try and not worry so much. Instead let's make history by doing the very best we can for ourselves and communities by utilizing our courage, creativity, empathy and humanity even through our necessary practices of self-isolation.

Live well & responsibly,
Jane

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