How To Stay Sane Amid COVID-19 Home Quarantine

I sneeze a lot lately. Crazy thing!

I also felt my head throbbed. My sister bantered me to self-isolate because it might be something else. I would just grimace and dismissed it as absurd.  

Whether my sneezing is due to an extremely hot weather, allergies to pollen, or I'm unconsciously becoming a nerve wreck because of the rising cases of COVID-19 in the Philippines, I came to realize that an ordinary flu nowadays is no longer taken lightly as some kind of seasonal malady. It is quickly associated to the pandemic, and a slight sneeze makes us easily freak out.

Sixth Day of ECQ

It's the sixth day of the Enhanced Community Quarantine in Metro Manila and Luzon and although I love staying at home and always desired silence of the environment, this one-month home quarantine already sounds like a far-away journey to the unknown and the six days feel like ages ago.

Even the quietest corner of the house, which I always considered as a protective arm from the noise outside,  can feel like a prison wall when uncertainty looms outside.

Our cat keeping me company while looking out of the window

In an article from the Daily News, a mental health expert says that "Our imagination runs away with us so we build on with all these psycho-social and environmental stresses and we began to worry, Mounting concerns over financial and physical being can take its toll on a person's mental health while home quarantining".

And I guess yes. The mounting cases of COVID-19 in the Philippines gives me a chill in the spine and I began to worry endlessly, not that I am alarmed to get infected with the disease but I am scared that if the case will continue to rise, the government will extend the home quarantine period and establishments might still not be operational.   

This sends anxiety to my well being. 

I've already resigned from my job in BPO and supposed to start working in Ateneo de Manila this March 23 but due to the Enhanced Community Quarantine imposed by the government last March 17, my start date in Ateneo has been postponed until the ECQ will be lifted.

The managers in my previous employment in BPO refused to approve my request for an extension of my resignation date (which I viewed as very callous, insensitive and unsympathetic with the current situation), my employment in Ateneo has not yet started, so I felt like slowly sinking into the quicksand with no one to pull me up. And this makes me anxious. But positivism keeps me afloat, hopeful that this crisis will end soon.

This too shall pass.

And having a positive disposition helps me keep grounded and motivated. "Things are not going to be like this forever", I assured myself to keep my spirit high. "I can get through with this. The crisis will end soon. I can start working again". It is a positive affirmation that I regularly uttered.

The Lonely World

But more than financial and physical issues, home quarantining and self-isolating take a huge toll on someone's mental health according to experts. In fact the harshest punishment a prison inmate can be subjected to in jail is solitary confinement. Because humans by nature are socially-inclined creatures not meant to be isolated.

But isolation and quarantine are the latest norms that we need to adopt. The world is in disarray due to the massive spread of COVID-19, it has still no cure, therefore to curb the disease, we need to abide all the precautionary measures imposed by the government.

Wearing mask makes us isolated from the rest of the people, though experts have been telling the public that healthy individuals do not need to wear mask, it is still our first line of defense age the cough droplets from whoever we encounter in the street.

This lonely world is even more emphasized when we are told to observe social distancing as a precautionary measure. This means we need to avoid being in the large crowd, meet friends, go somewhere or stay at the park. Even in the grocery or going to a drug store, this is being observed and I began to freak out if someone gets near with me.

Though we can assure everyone that this is temporary and home quarantine is not an eternal lifestyle. People have different coping mechanism on the crisis, especially when isolated from the outside world.

It is through this circumstance that I realized the importance and value of actual connection with people, with the world, with the environment and not through cellular phones and other electronic gadgets - to stay sane.

Gadgets and online activities never bring good to our depleting self-esteem in the time of pandemic. In fact, regular presence in the social media makes us even more prone to melancholy and feeling of desolation.

But the spread of the virus completely changed the way we connected with others. It is lonely out there. It is lonely being disconnected from the world we lived, from the people we normally associated with. From the source of living we depended on.

Just thinking how people are trapped in loneliness and the feeling of isolation even before we are home quarantined is a realization that we should not let others feel unwanted and abandoned because it is not easy to feel isolated.

So how to stay sane and keep spirit high during home quarantine? Here are some helpful tips:

1. Stay Indoor. Practice Good Hygiene and Keep everything clean
One of the reasons why we are anxious about the situation is the possibility of being infected with the disease. We also worried that one of our family members, especially the elderly, might catch the virus. This worry piles up in our system and makes us a little paranoid.

My sister, who is getting weird since the virus sets an alarming rise of infected individuals in the country, puts alcohol, antibacterial soap and a cloth outside the door and always reminded me to disinfect before entering the house.

There is no approved vaccine yet for COVID-19, the best way to protect ourselves according to Center for Disease and Control  is to avoid being exposed to this virus. Observe social distancing when outside, wash hands with soap and water at least 20 seconds, in the absence of soap and water, use alcohol-based hand sanitizer or alcohol that contains 60% solution. Avoid touching mouth, eyes and nose. Clean and disinfect the frequently touched surfaces in the house daily, including gadgets.

This might be uncomfortable for now but we need to follow government's directive to stay indoor to stop the spread of the disease. And follow the basic rules of home quarantine. The pandemic has brought so much stress, anxiety and even emotionally induced asthma to many. It's important to never panic and stay informed.

Looking out of the window everyday reduces my anxiety

2. The art of positivism. 
To think positive is easier to say than act perhaps because our subconscious is easily attracted to doubts and fears. Everything in our surrounding now feels scary which is being absorbed by our subconscious and manifested by our actions and response to the crisis. So the art of positivism helps us cope up with stress especially in today's moment of uncertainty. 

One trick to foster the art of positivism is to start the day with positive affirmation. I always practice this ritual and it brings good to my depleting energy. I train my subconscious to welcome positive vibes and discard negative presumption, accept the new norm of self-quarantining and that this would not last forever.

Each morning upon waking up, we need to inundate ourselves with an optimistic view that something good will happen in the day. Waking up for another day is already an opportunity to see the world again, it is a great blessing from God, allowing us to witness the beauty of the environment and be hopeful again. We need to think of anything good, a plan, a goal, that can help us stay motivated. And discard negative notions of a bleak tomorrow.

Let us not get tired of dreaming and believing of tomorrows. It is a gift, another lease of life.

3. Reduce presence in the social media.
Although we rely information every hour in social media, too much presence is detrimental to our mental health. News feeds we got from our social media account are not helpful all the time. There are misinformation, fake news, rants, nonsense shared posts. All of it depletes our energy and affects our emotional and mental health.

Lately, I stopped scrolling my feed to avoid reading the rants and spread of fake news, even the news about the virus in all parts of the world already drained my energy. I often ended up my day feeling exhausted.

To avoid feeding too much stress to our well being, we need to reduce our time engaging in the social media. We also need to connect only to people who provide good vibes and minimize the conversation that centers on coronavirus, the feeling will only get worst.

Instead, focus to other hobbies especially to those who are not working from home. Read self-developmental books, minimize the hours spend on TV other than news. Too much exposure to motion pictures can also trigger anxiety and apprehension. Reading self-help books helps boosts wisdom and personal growth and keeps us from the thought of worries, tension and panic.

4. Keep yourself busy while at home
Home quarantine for a long period of time is a trying episode for everyone because people are innately social creatures. To be isolated from the outside world sometimes triggers emptiness and depression, and to get rid of the notion of a lonely state, we need to keep ourselves busy in the house. 

What I'm doing right now is creating a plan for my day to keep things going. Upon waking up, I do body stretching, mild workout like dance exercise, lifting heavy objects, jumping routine or play with our cats. It makes a big difference to my emotional state. 

Then cook breakfast and feed our cats, My sister and I take turn doing this routine. Wash clothes, eat breakfast and take a bath. At 10:00 in the morning I start working in my laptop, writing, revising plots, editing, blogs.

I take a break at noon for lunch then siesta for one hour. Resume writing in the afternoon or take a break by reading books. When reading tires me, I will clean my room, fold my clothes or walk at the backyard to see trees or stare at the blue sky to inundate serenity in my mind. This exercise of the mind is soul-lifting and it makes me forget the chaos over the virus outside.

5. Develop a new hobby. 
Just treat this month-long home quarantine as an opportunity to develop a new hobby or cultivate the one you have neglected for a long time because of limited hours. Now is the perfect time to work back with those passion. 

Reading, writing, composing a poem, sketching, gardening, cooking. Anything that keeps your mind away from the social media or online activities and make use of your energy and time on actual and physical activities. 

In between reading and writing, I take a break to cook or sit at the front yard and look at the green plants and inhale air. It gives me a purpose of life. The dancing leaves and clear blue sky provided me peace.

Sunny weather in the garden

6. Engage in a conversation with family members. 
Family is the biggest emotional support group we could ever have during the time of home quarantine. Put down your gadget and engage in a normal conversation with your family at home. Being trapped at home can be mentally torturing and emotionally distressing but a conversation and laughter with your family make you feel at ease.

If your family is far from where you are living, stay connected through skype or viber or any means of communication that can stay you away from scrolling your facebook  or instagram feeds and focus on the conversation with your family. My sister and I get connected with our family back home in Surigao through text and call because our mother is so old-fashioned and does not like facebook messenger.

7. Meditate
Deep breathing exercise can make a lot of difference. It clears foggy thoughts and helps recharge sagging energy. I always do this upon waking up in the morning. 

Here's how to meditate: Choose an area in the house where no one can disturb you for five minutes, find a space where you can sit or lie down. Clear your mind from any burden, worry, tension. Close your eyes and breath naturally. Feel the silence of the environment and let your thoughts flow. Follow your breath. And focus on the rhythm.

The power of self-meditation is enormous. It reduces stress and controls anxiety. It also boosts self-awareness and focus and helps set a motivated self for the day. 

8. Pray. The benefits of praying sincerely are massive. It helps lift hopeless spirits, it boosts mental, emotional and psychological aspects especially during trying times. There's nothing more assuring than knowing there's God who take control. Daily praying gets us reconnected with our spiritual being and with our subconscious.

It helps us align our will with God and helps us find meaning in our existence. It will help lessen the emotional burden we are carrying now and the possibility of getting depressed due to the current crisis. 

9. Don't be self-centered.
The best way perhaps to get through the difficult times we are facing right now is to think of others not just ourselves, those who died and the suffering of their families, those who suffered and ravaged by the disease, the health workers who are out there tending the sick, the front liners who are doing their calls to serve the public, one way or another, they are more prone of catching the virus. We need to pray for them.

10. Live life 
Life is not about giving up, it is about living free from fears. It is also about accepting the hurdle and treat it as a new task to conquer to move to the next step. We cannot change how the current environment rolls, but we can change our mindset and our purpose how to make life worth living. Life is a gift, appreciate it with gratefulness. We should be thankful we are free from the disease and

And whatever happens, just choose life, choose happiness. It's a choice and it is something we can decide for everyday. Despite the unhappy notion of being stuck at home, let us treat it as a rare change to spend time alone, spend a day in silence, indulge on the forgotten hobby. This is very rare and never happens all the time.

Imagine this.

It's a typical day, you wake up, roll out of bed, step out of the room, go to the kitchen cook breakfast or prepare a cup of coffee, sit near the window, look outside, stare at the blue sky, feel the morning breeze, sip your coffee, take a deep breath, listen to your favorite song.

That's life. And it is free. 

I am limiting my hours in the social media to reduce stress and anxiety because the more I scroll my feeds with news and post sharing from others, the more I feel frustrated and tense. I am focusing now on other things like writing, reading books, playing with cats, cleaning the house and cooking. It minimizes the feeling of gloom and keeps me away from the apprehension brought by the crisis.

I am confident it would not take long to combat the disease if everyone will cooperate. We can still see a better world in the days to come. Stay safe everyone!

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