This post was written in early April 2020.
It has been three weeks of social isolation. Three weeks of attending classes online. Three weeks of room to the kitchen and kitchen to room. Three weeks of conversations online. Three weeks of longing for open skies. It has been tough. Social isolation has made staying away from home, from loved ones, tougher than it usually is. The constant bombardment of updates, rising number of cases, news about containment, hotspots and morbidity factors has only added to this anxiety.
But something good has also happened. I find myself making more time for my family, calling them more often than I usually did. With every day college, never-ending readings, cooking, cleaning, and maintaining a semblance of social life, I would postpone replying to messages from family and friends, from loved ones who cared enough to think of me even when I did not make time for them. Too much communication in the non-coronavirus times drained my energy. Now, these conversations help me cope with helplessness. Coronavirus has helped me get in touch with the lost art of small talk. And I am grateful. I am thankful for my friends who check up on me, and for the privilege of safety, internet access and a roof over my head.
I have struggled with managing time, with insomnia. Sometimes, I sleep at eight in the morning and wake up at eleven. Sometimes I sleep with my phone falling on my face and wake up with the book next to me spoiled by my pen. Now I have friends texting me at midnight, reminding me to turn off the computer, reminding me to breathe. I have family telling me in good humour to follow and practise the advice I so easily dispense to others.
I struggle with acceptance. To accept that sometimes you can do little to make a huge difference has been harder than I thought. But conversations with loved ones have helped. Celebrating birthdays online as helped. And board games too. Dressing up every day, eating healthy food has helped. Celebrating recovery has been cathartic. So if you are struggling, here’s what I have learned in the last three weeks: give yourself time and space to get into your rhythm.
Productivity can be low. I have thought and considered all possible reasons for why I wasn’t working as much as I would in pre-coronavirus times – procrastination, laziness and the rest. I still sit in front of my computer all day, reading, writing, analysing, pouring over data and graphs, yet I didn’t count it as productive work. I wasn’t doing things on my to-do list, and the things on the list kept growing. It was then that I read something about how we deal with trauma, physical and emotional. I read about how the body paralyses because of fear. We are dealing with the constant fear of fighting an invisible war: constantly washing hands, disinfecting tables, chairs, phones, cards, door handles, and so on. So we must give ourselves time to breathe, to step back, and then get on.
Yes, projects, conferences and internships are being cancelled. Yes, this was the year abroad. And yes, you are doing all that you can given the new circumstances – ‘study abroad’ is now ‘study in a room’. You are coping.
So do what helps you. Get on a video call, watch videos of baby meerkats play or giant pandas. Cut down on social media and news. And the to-do list too. Watch the skies from your window. Listen to Coldplay or Ed Sheeran. Do yoga, meditate. Do what helps you. Give yourself time. Give yourself credit. Things will be different; they will be better.