Things I’ve Learned During Quarantine

During+quarantine%2C+many+people+have+picked+up+new+hobbies+like+indoor+gardening%2C+exercising+and+reading.+Sophomore+Sarah+Janito%27s+latest+hobby+is+painting.+

Photo by Sarah Janito

During quarantine, many people have picked up new hobbies like indoor gardening, exercising and reading. Sophomore Sarah Janito's latest hobby is painting.

Everyone has (hopefully) been in quarantine for around five weeks now, and may be running out of things to keep themselves busy. I have effectively drained my creative spirit and have learned and come to terms with plenty of things I would not have been able to honestly address head-on without this much downtime. I have listened to more music in the last five weeks than I have in the past 16 years of my life, found that keeping up with exercise is more important than we all realize, deep-cleaned and rearranged my room at least three times, painted everything I could get my hands on and, maybe most importantly, have taken my emotions in their entirety and learned to accept them. While e-learning is a new and somewhat stressful concept, working on school from home is not as bad as I thought it might be. Though motivation has dwindled every so often, keeping yourself busy with creativity and school are good ways to pass the time and not worry about grades dropping. During this time, I have learned how to harness and unleash my creative side and health, both mentally and physically.

For leaning toward being a more introverted person almost my entire life, I have had a lot of time in quarantine to figure out what I like to do in order to keep myself sane. While being physically in school, my Friday nights would almost never consist of football games or other high school things movies inaccurately portray on screen. Instead, I would rather spend my Friday nights watching a movie with my dad or texting my friends until midnight or later. My weekends were half-spent alone and half-spent with friends. In the half that I would spend without friends, not too much would happen. Shopping with my mom and watching whatever new show we found on our streaming services with my parents was my normal. This school year, just before it was “cancelled,” going out with friends (or even by myself) was becoming a bigger part of my life and weekends. Nowadays, my weekends pretty much last all seven days of the week, so keeping myself busy is becoming a challenge; an even bigger one since going out is not an option. Exploring myself creatively has gradually been taking over my life since homework and my friends were the only things keeping me busy and out of the house. Quarantine does not stop me from talking to my friends, but seeing them is not an option right now and the toll on my mental health is getting bigger. Socially distancing myself has since allowed me to discover, or rather rediscover, activities I never thought I could be good at and has surprisingly given me occasional bursts of motivation to just work and work on whatever activity I can think of. For instance, painting is a new hobby of mine that I never thought I could be imaginative enough to do. Finding this hobby has kept me busy for sure, and tooting my own horn at some of the things I have been finding to attempt to replicate or freehand has kept me from losing my marbles. I definitely am not the best painter there ever was or will be, but painting blank VHS tapes and old phone cases with my favorite movies on them is time-consuming and fun to try.

I have also recently got back into reading. When I was in elementary school, reading an entire book in one day was easy for me. Granted it was probably a Dork Diaries book with less words than I speak to my family at this point, but it was still an entire book in less than 12 hours. As time went on and technology, school and other things alike took me away from books, there was a time where I could not get through more than 50 pages in a class period without getting bored or distracted, let alone reading that in an entire day. Maybe it was a psychological thing, where if someone tells you to do something you suddenly do not want to. Either way, picking books I want to read and actually sitting down and doing it has kept me entertained. I mostly read before I go to bed, but getting away from work and screens to read and write is more of a personal goal, though still important given the circumstances. Writer’s block has gotten to me, I have been pacing around my room thinking of which words to write next. It took me seven minutes to think of that last sentence. Learning to persist and try new things is a big part of this quarantine, what better time to try something you have always wanted to do than now?

Another important thing I have learned in these few weeks is how to accept and come to terms with my mental and physical health. Taking in my anxieties, sad days and unsure feelings 100% is new, and understanding why and where they come from opens doors all over the place. Having a source to express how you feel, whether it be about this whole quarantine or to continue to work through pre-existing mental difficulties, can be relieving. Even if that source is not a mental health professional, getting advice from a person of trust can help to not feel as isolated mentally while staying physically isolated. For having experience as a naturally introverted person, not seeing my friends every single weekend did not weigh heavily on my conscience because I saw them five days a week at school, but not having the option to see them is making life lonelier than usual lately. Having my parents and therapist to talk to about my virus-related anxieties, and times when I feel my unhappy feelings coming back due to being stuck inside all day everyday, makes having such confusing and sudden feelings makes me feel a bit better about them. I have someone who understands where they come from, suggest different coping mechanisms and can help me get to the bottom of why I react to a situation a certain way. Checking in with your mental state and handling your emotions is more important than ever now, because letting them go can cause a downward spiral which may hit twice as hard now that inside your house is the only place to be. According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI,) “51% of youth aged six to 17 with a mental health condition get treatment in a given year.” The other 49% are struggling untreated, and that causes an even deeper decline mentally. If resources of help are available and affordable, a steep decline can be avoided by receiving support. It may have been easy to push down negative feelings before due to school, homework, technology and friends taking up a lot of time. Now all we have is free time, which makes it easier for negative feelings to creep back up.

Another way to stop negativity from getting the best of you is exercise. Not just exercising similar to gym class, also exercising good habits and self care. I have been going on a walk everyday around my neighborhood and it helps me feel refreshed, awake and ready for the rest of my day. During quarantine I have lost over seven pounds so far. Not only is physical exercise beneficial, it is something to do while watching TV instead of sitting there. Exercising good habits and self care is just as important, too. I wake up at roughly the same time every weekday, follow a simple exercise routine during the week and do school as needed. Northwestern Medicine says “many people not following a routine suffer from stress, poor sleep, poor eating habits, ineffective use of time and poor physical condition.” 

While waking up at 5:30 and working on school until 3:00 is not necessary, following some sort of routine can “lead to improved mental health with more time to relax, have better sleep as your bedtime schedule affects your mental sharpness and performance, give you time to fuel your body and get energized,” Northwestern said.

 Simply changing clothes can help. Staying in pajamas or sweats the entire day will not help motivation or moods throughout the day. Being enlightened about physical and mental exercises has helped this quarantine go a bit better, it has helped me be more aware of my habits and what to fix and adjust going forward.

School is continuing online for now, but that does not mean bad habits and negative thinking should stay. What is here to stick, though, is innovative and productive behavior, finding new hobbies to pass the time and finding ways to get up and move more. This is a new and scary time, but it does not mean continuing self care practices and hobbies are off the table.