Dr. Self-love or: How I stopped worrying and learned to embrace the quarantine.
By Diana Bruk - Apr 01 2020
Like most of the people I know, I’ve felt a lot of anxiety over the last few weeks. But not over money (luckily) or getting COVID-19 (strangely) but my perennial enemy: Saturdays.
Throughout the week as a journalist living in New York City, I stay busy and active, writing furiously during the day before running late to my yoga class and then late to my dinner date. I always feel calmer and safer when I’m around people than I do when I’m home alone, unless it’s after a long day out. I fill my weekend up with mindless activities, often doing things that I don’t even really want to, driven by one manic thought: I have to get out of this house. Thanks to the quarantine, more people that I know than ever before have been able to relate to this feeling. They call it “going stir-crazy.” Psychiatrists call it “autophobia.” I call it “Tuesday.”
When I found out I’d have to self-quarantine, I remembered what my former roommate once said when he caught me alone in my room, “You look like a lion pacing around in a cage.” Thanks to technology, self-isolation hasn’t been all that isolating, and work has made weekdays busier than ever. But then the weekend comes, and none of my usual distractions are there. The gym is closed. Meanwhile, the liquor store delivers.
At every meditation, my yoga instructor advises us to “keep still” and “just be with ourselves.” Seeing myself in the camera in our online yoga classes over the last few weeks has made it abundantly obvious how incapable I am of doing that. I fidget. I get up to grab a blanket. I get up to light the candle. Why is just sitting still so hard?
Based on what I’ve been seeing on Twitter, it seems my generation and those younger are asking themselves another common question: “how come we don’t have any hobbies?”
The Baby Boomers keep telling us to “just stay home” and “watch TV” or “do a puzzle.” What’s the big deal? They think the problem is that we’re just too desperate to party or eat avocado toast to do that, but it’s not. The problem is that we’ve gotten so accustomed to living in two worlds at once—the virtual one and the real one—that we haven’t had the time to develop any other interests.
Maybe, in that sense, this time is a gift in disguise. My yoga instructor keeps saying this is a great time to self-reflect and rethink your habits, consider what it is that brings you comfort. At a recent press conference, Andrew Cuomo said “Life is going to be quieter for a matter of months...There’s less noise. You know what? That can be a good thing in some ways. You have more time, you have more flexibility. You can do some of those things that you haven’t done that you kept saying, well, I’d love to be able to.”
I’d love to be able to quit the JUUL. I’d love to be able to go to bed without a glass of wine in my hand, to fall asleep naturally and wake up feeling refreshed and clear-headed. I’d love to be able to sit still, be present, feel a sense of ease with no one around but myself. The possibility of doing those things feels exciting but almost unreachable.
The coronavirus pandemic has changed life as we know it. The world will never be the same. But here’s the silver lining: the hardest thing about change is choosing it. In this case, change was forced on us. And that’s given us the opportunity to choose what to do with it.
For the last ten days, I’ve managed to not slip back into bad habits and to use this time constructively, and that’s only because of the truly inspiring way people have banded together. We’re hosting online yoga classes, virtual events, and Facetime dates. Companies are offering free access to content, whether it’s news, entertainment, or virtual tours all over the world. Social media is flooded with memes, videos, and tweets to remind everyone that #wereallinthistogether.
It reminds me of why therapists and people in recovery emphatically emphasize the same consistent message: don’t try to go handle by yourself. Mental health and substance abuse issues are too big to tackle on your own. You need an army, and we’ve risen. Right now, the whole internet feels like one big group therapy session for quarantine.
Which is why, in many ways, I feel less alone than ever before in spite of the quarantine. I can know that I’ll put on a face-mask on weekends, light a candle, get online for my evening yoga class, and greet the weekend as you would a friend. It’s a feeling of control that makes much of my anxiety all but disappear.
Follow Diana Bruk at dianabruk.com