Day 4 of quarantine. I woke up in the morning, ready for a day of vigorous hand washing and obsessive news reading. The worst part? I had to do it in the solitude of my tiny apartment. A cup of coffee and two news alerts later, I could already feel a wave of anxiety enveloping me. To limit the spread of COVID-19, the Centers For Disease Control and Prevention issued guidelines for “social distancing,” which means that everything that kept my anxiety at bay was off-limits. Coffee with a friend, long walks in the city, or reading a book at a quiet cafe—the replacement for all of this was staying in alone. I was anxious, scared, and angry.
At some point, between the panic text messages and my fifth cup of caffeine, I picked up my laptop and logged into Twitter, where I was greeted with an incessant stream of “movies to help you cope with anxiety” and “books to read when you’re in self-quarantine” lists. That’s when I realized that I may feel lonely, but I’m not alone. Thousands of strangers, acquaintances, and friends all over the world probably feel the same way. This is the time we can use social media and technology to bring ourselves closer to others who are in the same boat as us. I FaceTimed my parents, called an old friend who lives in a different time zone, stretched my muscles at an online yoga class, and drank wine with a bunch of people at a virtual happy hour.
Humans inherently gravitate towards each other during disasters. Earthquakes, floods, and hurricanes all bring people together. No wonder I felt calmer after a bit of human interaction, even if it was through my Macbook. Social distancing doesn’t let us physically come together during this pandemic, but that doesn’t mean we can’t unite digitally. Reach out to friends, old and new. Check in with relatives. Send an email to a coworker. Social distancing doesn’t mean that you have to emotionally distance yourself from everyone.
Yesterday, I briefly contemplated stepping out for a quick drink. That seven seater bar down the street usually didn’t have too many people. What harm could that do? Maybe I longed for a shred of normalcy. Or maybe I was just bored. But then I remembered all the plans for drinks that I’d turned down in the past just so I could stay in and watch another episode on Netflix. So today of all days, during a global pandemic, why can’t I stay away from a mediocre G&T and happily consume another episode of Parks and Rec instead?
Amidst all the uncertainty and media alerts, having a positive mindset is more important than ever. The bright side of this self-quarantine is that I finally have time for the things I always complained that I never had time for. I have time to eat well. I have time to exercise. I have time to update my blog. I have time to gossip with my best friend. I have time to try out that recipe that’s been bookmarked on my laptop for weeks. I have time to read the new fiction best seller.
Sure, all this free time is coupled with heaps of anxiety and confusion, but the sooner we become okay with quarantining ourselves, the sooner we can get back to our normal lives. Really, self-quarantining isn’t the end of the world. In fact, not doing it could be.