This blog post is for those who had the privilege to start out not dreading the pandemic, and find themselves frustrated from their failure to optimise their time at home.
One month of quarantine later and here I am, writing my first blog post since March 17th. This bit of information really sets the tone for what I’m going to say, and I have a feeling that many of you will relate. This quarantine has been a daily hit or miss for me. As Ashley, from bestdressed suggested, processing the quarantine has been a lot like processing a loss. This time, instead of a loved one, it’s the loss of my plans dead in the water, and the loss of my freedom, behind bars until further notice.
I started out my quarantine unconcerned and quite weary of all the hullabaloo going on on social media. Of course, I didn’t enjoy my freedom being stripped any more than the next guy, but still, I had some positive outlook for this quarantine. I decided early on that this was good for me as an aspiring digital nomad. That it would give me time to build my presence online and project myself forward in the game 2 months or 3 months (now looking like 4...or 5…) later when this all blows over. I could paint more and rest more… perhaps even finally build some habits. I have theorised now in hindsight, that I have been viewing this quarantine as if we were all stepping into The Hyperbolic Time-Chamber from DBZ. We’d go in based on some big emergency or catalyst and the time would feel so much longer, given that there was nothing else to do with it. We’d sit in the chamber, training, planning, working and levelling up, all the while the outside stands still. Our 3 months (or 4...or 5…) would mean nothing to the outside world, and we’d come out seeing only a day had gone by. Thus, motivated, I began my training.
The first few weeks, however, blew by on Twitter and my sleep schedule going to ruins along with it. My inability to deal with the newfound time and constrictions showed, but I wasn’t too worried since I felt I had all the time in the world, and that everything had halted around me.
Around the third week, and on the brink of death by oversleeping, an application for an online teaching platform I had applied to sent me positive results, around a month late. The company was based in China, so while our situation in the west was getting worse and worse, things were just starting to get better in the east. Seeing my application accepted was bittersweet. I had applied thinking that it could become a little part-time job to allow me to go to the States for a bit and save some money, but it was now all too clear that I wouldn’t be able to travel that way any time soon.
Still, I tried to stay positive. These next few months could become extra months to save! When I emerge, I shall have some savings to start life fresh, and on stronger feet. “Well at least I’m saving money” or “At least I have some time to rest”. I imagine that many of you arrived at this point also. Some kind of rationalisation to give ourselves some method to pull our way out of depression and into some kind of functionality. And you know what? It works. I was able to calm down and I was even grateful to the coronavirus for giving me some time to pause the rush and shut my anxiety up. Nowhere to go, so no need to rush there. It worked, it really did, for like, 5 days? Unfortunately, this was the calm before the storm. Anxiety came back bigger than ever, and this time with two heads.
The problematic concept here is the hyperbolic time-chamber itself, where somehow we’ll all stay in here and come out with a 10x’d power level of sorts. That we’re in a chrysalis, and that life, as we are experiencing now, isn’t life. That our normal needs and our anxieties- that everything automatically pauses. I mean life isn’t here for us to face right now, what issues could we possibly manifest during this time? I had convinced myself that corona had given me a reason to put away my obsession with outcomes and progress because the future was uncertain for everyone. Somehow by shifting the blame, I could breathe for a while, but it wasn’t set to last. Such is the problem with temporary bursts of motivation and positivity.
Corona did not hit some magic switch and pause life and our attachments to it. As before, we are still obsessed with outcomes, and for many of us, our mental state still depends on immediate positive outcomes to prevent us from cycling relentlessly throughout the day. My inability to live in the present was not postponed by corona, but compounded upon, where I worked not only for a future me, but for a me with upgrades beyond reason, and who had everything sorted out for them. I mean, of course right? What excuse would you have after all that time of doing nothing?
Newsflash. This isn’t the hyperbolic time chamber. There are still 24 hours in the day. We still need to be realistic with ourselves and focus on systems, not goals. We need to see the time for what it is, to structure time to enjoy ourselves, our time and our goals. Why did I set goals in the first place? To have a single moment of gratification? No. I was supposed to enjoy the journey towards my goals. When did this all become work to me? I clutched my dreams so hard that I crushed them in the process.
Let’s make our way out of the cave, open our eyes and stop playing make-believe. Feel the sun and the grass in between our toes and feel ourselves work harder in gratitude. For now, I feel I’ve overcome Plato’s allegory and am committing myself to reality and how to enjoy it. And so can you.
Here are some tips/prompts to assess or improve your mindset during this quarantine:
Start thinking more about your feelings. Pay attention to when you are frustrated or sad. What did you do that day or the night before that has affected you so deeply? Does scrolling through twitter for hours or several times a day contribute to your mood? Which creators succeed in relaxing you, rather than frustrating you. Why do you get frustrated, is it warranted? If it isn’t, cut it off. Tell yourself out loud the reality of the situation. “Today is a great day, and I have no reason to worry. Life happens- this is barely a hurdle.” Ask yourself what you would like to do now with your time. Do them, because they make you happy and fulfil you.
How have your goals shifted based on the quarantine? Think about your position in terms of what you want and what you had planned to manifest this year. How is your situation positively affected by the pandemic? Instead of spending time focusing on what has been lost, focus on the fruits of the quarantine, however small. Spend every day finding new ones. “I get to refill my water bottle with ice, and it’s cool and nice”, “I never was able to build this habit before but now I’m really getting the hang of it!”
Don’t create pressure for yourself. Trust me, it’s just not the time. Take a magnifying glass, and look at your expectations with detail. Are these things you could have accomplished in other circumstances? Do these things take into account your situation? Do they give you time to adjust to your new routines and environments? Are they flexible? Have you thought about ways to make them enjoyable?
Lastly, build systems around your life. This is not a quarantine specific piece of advice, but it’s particularly relevant when you have goals and aspirations not tied to structured schedules. Depending on yourself to get up every day motivated is the same difference as deciding your goal is not important to you. You have to create ways in the present that will hold you accountable, support you and then produce results. The key to improving your systems and figuring out one that will do what you need it to do, is focusing on your behaviours, moods and habits now (basically, step 1 lol). If you feel sad, unmotivated, frustrated… plan for these feelings instead of the “best-case scenario”. Observe yourself and improve your attitude, mindset, comfort NOW for your sake!
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