TipToeing Yourself Back to Center in Covid-19 Quarantine

When the Spanish Flu (note: not because it originated in Spain, but because Spanish newspapers reported it first) swept the globe in 1918, no one knew what to do. There was no consensus on how to behave, news traveled too slowly to make a difference, and the population was decimated.

That’s the last time in living memory that a virus has traveled this quickly and infected this many people. 

And whether the people who lived through the horror of the Spanish Flu realized it or not, they were living in traumatizing times. 

Now, what the Spanish Flu didn’t do was shut down the world. That’s part of why it affected nearly one third of the global population.

So this particular moment in history – entire nations as well as cities all over the world completely shut down – is a shock we were never prepared for.

And yet… one prevailing idea is that because of our privilege – near ubiquitous access to the internet, widespread and numerous grocery stores, ability to retain income from working from home – we should be spending this time being productive.

As we’ve talked about, not only are you not a machine of production, you are a human being experiencing trauma whether you can identify that feeling at this moment or not.

Therapists specializing in trauma are weighing in and advising the internet: Just functioning during a traumatic experience is more than enough. In fact, when the nervous system is perpetually engaged in fight-or-flight mode, using those higher reasoning centers in our brains to, say, learn a new skill becomes an uphill, nearly impossible, battle.

That’s not to say that you should pass your quarantine days laying motionless staring at the wall in blank melancholy. 

No, in fact… Many schools of psychology contend that doing a tiny thing (a baby step) is just as emotionally satisfying as completing a whole task.

So let’s examine some baby steps you can take to bring you one step closer to a place of interest.

If you’re beating yourself up for not ____, try _____ instead!

For example…

Learning a New Language

Maybe you’ve always felt that you should learn Spanish. It’s beautiful, widely spoken, and it’ll look great on your resume. But somehow, you haven’t managed to download one of the myriad language training apps and started practicing your vocab.

Instead of saying nasty things about yourself to yourself, try to get yourself in the mental framework for speaking Spanish.

Start a new Spanish language TV show! Watch with English subtitles for a while, and then try watching with Spanish subtitles.

Finally Getting in Shape

People commonly cite lack of time when they don’t prioritize their physical fitness. And we are right in the middle of the most popular time of year to exercise – the first few months of the year. Maybe you’d recently developed a gym habit, or maybe you were looking for a chunk of space in which to start one… And that’s all been blown to pieces.

Or has it?

If you don’t have the mental elasticity to throw yourself into P90X, start small.

Simply move. Doesn’t matter if you don’t have equipment – calisthenics! Stretch when you think of it. Lunge as you walk to the kitchen. Drop and do as many push ups as you can as your food spins on the microwave tray. Pick a time during the day where you feel particularly slow or morose and take a walk (take care if you live in a congested city – gloves, mask, etc.)

Becoming a Master Chef

Lots of us spent so much time commuting from work, to picking up the kids from school, to the gym, to extracurriculars, etc., that we didn’t spend much time in the kitchen. 

You may feel disappointed in yourself if you haven’t managed to make much more than pasta alfredo and chocolate chip cookies (no mean feat, by the way).

Try this instead: Stand in your kitchen. Open each drawer and cabinet and get to know everything you have in there. The most fantastic dishes can be created just by realizing what we have on hand, and adjusting our recipes accordingly.

Do you have pork and oranges? That sounds like a marinade possibility. What about bone broth and quinoa? Tomatoes and eggs? 

Better yet… find a twist on a classic favorite. Instead of fried eggs and toast, maybe try soft-boiled eggs and ripped bread with melted butter. Try adding an unexpected spice to a common dish. 

Don’t challenge yourself to reinvent the wheel. Sometimes, it’s enough to just make a meal with love.

The examples and tangential ideas go on and on.

There’s no need to punish yourself for not learning every coding language. Watch a video about the basics of coding while you lay in your despair pit!

But remember – only if you want to. Not because you think you’ll become more valuable or worthy.

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Dr. Pedram Shojai

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.