Haven’t Learned a New Skill in Quarantine? Here’s Why…

If you’ve been inside for nearly a month and haven’t mastered cross-stitching, baking sourdough bread, organizing your pantry, learning a language, or doing the splits, you may have had this thought…

I guess it was never not having the TIME after all…It was just me, lacking discipline.”

You’re not to blame – that same sentiment is all over the internet. In a world that reviles free time and instead pressures its people to “use that time wisely,” this philosophy comes as no surprise.

The problem is twofold:

  1.  What is a “wise” use of your time? Says who?
  2.  Why are we always begging for peace and quiet, only to feel guilty about indulging in it?

Historically, those in charge have decided that the “wisest” use of your time is the most “valuable,” in that it provides society with the most value. 

We beat ourselves up for not “learning new skills” during this time because we either don’t have the time in our regular, hectic, never-home-always-running lives to do that, or because learning a new skill would catapult us further up the food chain and help us find better paying, more fulfilling work.

But perhaps more importantly… Why are we rejecting the peace we asked for now that we have it?

Psychologists have a theory about that…

The Coronavirus Pandemic Strikes Grief

But not the way that you think.

Yes, we as a society are grieving the loss of human life.

But we’re also grieving our normal. Our spring, our visits with family and friends, our time spent running errands and traveling our limited local expanse, our dance classes, our livelihoods (for millions of us), our graduations, our support group meetings, our brief respites at the corner table in the coffee shop with the view of Main Street out of the window, our stocked grocery stores and our ease in touching the people in our lives, our joy in making travel plans, our sweet and secure knowledge that (however mundane) tomorrow will probably have a lot in common with today.

We’re grieving life as we knew it.

And the longer we hear the virus downplayed in the media and the more we ignore our personal grief, the more paralyzed we’re going to feel.

When you experience a loss in your life – a tangible, societally-sanctioned loss – we’re told to give ourselves a break.

But now, while a plague is ravaging the world and no one knows when they’ll be able to roam freely again, we’re beating ourselves up for not “using this time” to learn how to code.

Our Monkey Brain

There are many things that could be happening to each of us in our bodies right now, but for the most part, they can be broken down into two categories.

Either…

We feel constantly anxious, paralyzed, and ill at ease…

Or…

We feel shockingly numb and calm in the face of large-scale chaos.

If you’re feeling like your shoulders never leave your earlobes… That’s your parasympathetic nervous system staying in overdrive. You know, your fight or flight system.

You see, because of time compression, stressors layer within us until they become collectively too heavy, and it’s like we’re depressing our nervous-system-engage button permanently. That means we’re not thinking with our prefrontal cortex – we’re thinking with our primal, frightened, monkey brain. 

There are ways to combat that… but we need the energy and clarity to do it. 

Alternately, some of us feel like we’re zoned out through this entire thing. Not paying attention to the news, not hinging on each and every update, not actively desperate for life to return. 

Sometimes, those who suffer from PTSD, or those who lived accustomed to drama and mess, find peace in the eye of the storm. 

That is a trauma response. And make no mistake, a global lockdown and a sweeping pandemic is trauma. 

When you can’t control your surroundings, some people develop a coping mechanism to help them stay calm during turmoil. So if you feel like none of this has hit you yet


That might be what’s happening.

Now, this isn’t hopeless.


We’re going to go through a few gracious alternatives to help ease your tension and gently loosen your nervous system’s grip on your higher reasoning center.

You’re going through this, too. Be easy on yourself. Stay tuned.

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NY Times Best Selling author and film maker. Taoist Abbot and Qigong master. Husband and dad. I’m here to help you find your way and be healthy and happy. I don’t want to be your guru…just someone who’ll help point the way. If you’re looking for a real person who’s done the work, I’m your guy. I can light the path and walk along it with you but can’t walk for you.