Ten Lessons From 10 Days in Quarantine.
It’s never a great way to start the day with a text message that says you have tested POSITIVE for Covid.
I stared at my phone in disbelief and threw myself onto the yoga mat to process this first before waking up my husband at 5 AM. It was the noisiest meditation; my thoughts were racing with all kinds of questions and disbelief.
As a writer, I always look for hidden blog posts in any situation, and this was a landmine. Here is what I have learnt from my 10 days in quarantine and how I have taken these lessons back into the real world:
The most important conversations are the ones you have with yourself.
I coach and train people on cultivating a resilient mindset; I found this situation quite ironic and dug into my toolkit. In challenging times, you tend to focus on the things in the external world that you cannot control. The one thing that is always within your control is your thinking.
Your self-talk will make the difference between showing up as an owner of the situation versus a victim. My default saying when life happens is to ask myself, ‘How can I now appreciate this as a gift?’. I sat with this question and figured that solitude and quiet time was a hidden gift.
I couldn’t change the situation, but I could make the most of it with a good attitude.
Instead of allowing my fear to take over, I changed focus with questions such as:
- What is this here to teach me?
- How can I grow from this?
- What values is this situation reminding me of?
When you find yourself in a challenging situation, take a deep breath and reframe the situation with a better question.
A phone call goes a long way.
A birthday is always a special day for me because it is the one day you hear from the people you love. It used to be in the way of phone calls, but now you get a Facebook wall full of likes and messages. Some still feel like random strangers; well, that’s because they are.
We now default to Whatsapp to check in and see how people are. When you are the one in a tough situation, a phone call goes a long way. It doesn’t need to be a long chat, but when someone made an effort to hear your voice and see how you are doing, it makes them stand out.
I have been guilty of this, too — simply sending a text to wish a happy birthday or check-in. This experience has reminded me of the power of picking up the phone.
Now that I am back in the real world, I make more effort to go the extra mile with a phone call or send a personalized voice note.
Find the opportunity minus the self-sabotage.
I was blessed to only experience mild symptoms; however, I still needed to isolate myself from my family.
I decided to reframe this quarantine from a prison sentence to a mini-retreat, an immersion into me. Please — by no means am I minimizing anyone’s experience about how horrific Covid has been. As I said, I am grateful for the experience I have had with very mild symptoms.
As a mother of two kids, having ten days to yourself with your health is a gift like no other. I couldn’t change the situation, but I could make the most of the available time and focus on self-care and recovery.
I had a decisive aha moment. I didn’t need to suffer to make the most of the quiet time. I nearly wrestled myself out of this gift of solitude I have been craving since we started home-schooling again.
I would often wonder how amazing it would be to have some distraction-free time to think and focus on myself for a while. Be careful what you wish for!
My Reentry has created an awareness of spotting the self-sabotaging behaviour that could interfere with my recovery and recharging time.
Previously, I may have done ‘research’ as a fancy form of procrastination. Now that I am more aware of how precious these gaps are, I am militant about carving out and protecting pockets of time guilt-free.
Comparative anxiety doesn’t serve anyone.
For the first two days in quarantine from my family, I truly felt guilty. It was as if I was playing Wolf and isolating for nothing. Physically my symptoms were so mild that I was wondering whether I read the results message wrong.
I admit I fell into the trap of comparative suffering, having seen so many of my friends and colleagues go through such challenging times battling Covid and losing family members.
I realized that the guilt wasn’t serving me, and I, too, had to be away from my kids and husband.
Just because I didn’t need serious medical attention, it didn’t minimize my experience. This situation was real for me, and I had to allow myself space to sit in my discomfort.
The quarantine was challenging for everyone in my family, especially my children. They have heard non-stop about this scary monster called Covid, and suddenly their mom had it.
My concern wasn’t just managing my health and headspace but, more importantly, theirs. No matter what other people may go through, never minimize your experience or deny yourself the challenge it brings.
Self-compassion is the ultimate vaccine.
Self-compassion is the ultimate vaccine. If you get the flu shot, you can still get the flu, but the symptoms will not be as severe, and you will bounce back quicker.
Self-compassion is the ultimate vaccine to challenging times. The kinder and more forgiving you are towards yourself, the more you can move through the situation with kindness and resilience.
The only thing to distinguish between a gentle experience and a harsh one is the conversation you have with yourself. Be aware of who you are allowing to steer the conversation: your inner critic or cheerleader.
Now that I am back in the real world, I share this message as much as possible through my coaching and training work. Self-compassion doesn’t always land well for people but reframing this as an unconditional friendliness is easier to digest.
It means making decisions in your own best interest. The choice to rest when you are tired or use your weekend to recharge rather than push through an extra two days of emails.
People mean well and offer advice with the best intentions. It’s like being pregnant; everyone gives you advice but with undertones that they are the experts and know best.
My greatest lesson from this whole experience was to say ‘thank you,’ or you can add some spice and say ‘thanks so much, you’ve given me lots to consider’. Then you have satisfied their intention of being valuable, and now you are free to make your own choice.
I received all kinds of advice, remedies, and guidance on what I should and should not be doing. Again, my response has been a very polite thank you. I am not condescending, but I have realized people have good intentions and want to contribute somehow. I would never want to take that away from someone, nor do I profess to have all the answers.
As in pregnancy, my policy was to find one go-to person and source my advice from someone I trust that genuinely has my best interest at heart. In this case, it was my doctor, but at the moment, everyone is a qualified Covid specialist, having graduated from Dr Facebook and Dr Google.
I leave you with the same advice — say thank you with a genuine appreciation for their concern. Then sit with the information and feel free to make your own decision.
Let go of control.
Life has a funny way of testing us; to see if we have internalized our lessons and grown from them. I received news of a family member passing away while in quarantine and found myself moving into a space of profound helplessness. I began to blame myself and criticize myself for not supporting them when they needed me most.
When I took a step back, I realized I had focused on what I could not control. I focused on not being there and my feelings of powerlessness. The way forward was to shift my focus onto what I could control and accept that all I could do was provide emotional support for them and contribute by sending meals to the family.
I could also put my attention on faith. A deep-seated belief that this was unfolding as it was meant to. I didn’t understand the why, but I needed to let go of trying to bend reality to my will and how life should be.
It is easier said than done, but that is the ultimate way of relinquishing control, a knowing that there is something bigger at play, and I have no choice but to trust it and accept it.
In tough times, put your thoughts under a microscope to understand where your focus is. Anxiety amplifies when you are too future-focused or put all your attention on the things you cannot control. Do an anxiety audit and make a list of actions that you can do rather than go down the rabbit hole of helplessness.
Self-care is my sanity.
The more uncertainty you have in your life, the more certainty you need to bring to the situation. My morning routine is the one thing I can rely on, no matter the situation or where I am. My morning ritual allows me to begin my day in a peak state rather than be triggered by other people’s urgencies.
My self-care routine was my sanity in quarantine because it allowed me space to connect to myself, have an internal conversation to see where I’m at and give me a healthy dose of control.
When you find yourself in tough times, be careful of allowing self-care to go with it. There’s often a feeling of overwhelm or fear of not having enough time that justifies dropping your regular practice, even if it is as simple as a walk around the block.
You need to create pockets of time to energize yourself from the inside out to show up powerfully for yourself and others. Having daily rituals isn’t about being rigid; this is about having a practice that you know is reliable and gives you a sense of comfort.
It doesn’t need to be a whole morning routine either. Perhaps it is your morning cup of coffee or a long bath? It is a point in the day you look forward to that allows you to stop, take a breath and focus on yourself.
Gratitude is a superpower.
Gratitude is a tool you know about but somehow falls off your radar in the moments when you need it most.
Part of my daily rituals is a gratitude practice. When I wake up in the morning, I often think about what I need to get done, but during this week the first thing I said when I woke up was, thank you. I truly felt like I had been given a gift when I hear about the challenges this illness has brought to so many people.
I also made this part of my evening routine. When I lay in bed before going to sleep, I would mentally go through everything I am grateful for, and I can tell you that I have slept peacefully because of it. When you aren’t sure what to do or say to yourself, say thank you.
Gratitude is a practice that will remain with me for eternity. It is not a tool that you can ‘break in case of emergency’. It is the one practice you can turn to no matter what, and it will never let you down. Greg McKeown said it so beautifully in his book Effortless,
“If you focus on what you have, you gain what you lack. And if you focus on what you lack, you lose what you have.”
Illness is a lousy permission device.
I am a true introvert, and I recharge in solitude. The time on my own allowed me to progress on a coaching certification I had enrolled in. Having hours on my own to immerse myself in the material with none of the typical day-to-day distractions and routines was a novelty.
When I came back into reality, I felt a bit shell shocked. I truly felt that I had returned from a meditation/yoga retreat and had to get back into everyday life again. I adore my family and missed them terribly; what I had to get used to was allowing myself the space to create days I love and enjoy.
I preach to my clients about the power of lifestyle design, yet the only reason I permitted myself to focus on what mattered most to me was the illness. It was my permission device.
Once I returned to my everyday life, I started to deny myself spending time on my course when I ‘should be’ working on things I am being paid for.
Illness is a seriously lousy permission device, and I would never wish it on myself ever again. I took the lesson and allowed myself to create days that I would never want to escape from.
When you go away on holiday, you need to be selective about who you invite along. This choice will make the difference between a dream holiday or a disaster.
The person who comes along needs to be compatible with your way of being — do they get up early, like exploring, and enjoy the same experiences?
At the end of the ten days, I could say if I had to choose someone to isolate with, I am glad it was me. I used the time to connect with kindness and compassion, and it made the inner cheerleader a better roommate than the inner critic.
In your everyday world, make sure you are a gracious host to make yourself feel welcome. Allow mistakes to be lessons, challenge to be viewed as learning opportunities and above all, a home of unconditional friendliness.
Here’s to re-entry,