As we slowly edge our way closer to being able to return to school and resume our normal lives, many of our families will be making that journey back to Beijing with their families. Part of the process of returning will involve being quarantined for 14 days in a hotel.
As I sit and write this, I am in the fourth day of my own quarantine, so I feel somewhat qualified to talk about some of the issues you may face and hopefully I can provide some tips and advice to make the experience just a little more palatable.
I have been researching a variety of sources in order to compile a list of strategies that I hope you will find useful if you will be experiencing a quarantine period in the near future. Of course this advice will not suit everyone as we all come from a different mindset. However, at the end of the day it is something that those of us returning to Beijing all have to do.
Despite the hardships, and I promise you there will be tough times, I am extremely happy to be doing this quarantine. We all need to play our part, and if by doing a 14 day quarantine, I can be sure of entering the community healthy and virus free and relatively free from any chance of getting infected, then that is a small price to pay. I believe that we should do this for the greater good of society. We should not see it as a burden but a great responsibility to ensure the safety of our fellow Beijingers.
Since the World Health Organization declared the COVID-19 outbreak a global pandemic, many of us, even those who have not been infected by the virus, will choose to quarantine in our homes.
Changed travel plans, isolation, panic over scarce resources and information overload, could be a recipe for unchecked anxiety and feelings of loneliness. Here are a few pointers that could help you survive spiraling negative thoughts about this uncertain time.
- Reframe “I am stuck inside” to “I can finally focus on my home and myself ”
As dismal as the world may feel right now, think of the mandated work-from-home policy as an opportunity to refocus your attention from the external to the internal. Doing one productive thing per day can lead to a more positive attitude. Set your sights on long-avoided tasks, reorganize, or create something you’ve always wanted to. Approaching this time with a mindset of feeling trapped or stuck will only stress you out more. This is your chance to slow down and focus on yourself.
- Stay close to your normal routine
Try and maintain some semblance of structure from the pre-quarantine days. For those individuals with children, sticking to a routine might be easier; however, as you work from home, it could be tempting to fall into a more lethargic lifestyle, which could lead to negative thinking. Wake up and go to bed around the same time, eat meals at regular times, shower when you usually do, adapt your exercise regimen, and get out of your pajamas. Do laundry on Sunday if that’s what you usually do. Not only will sticking to your normal routine keep you active and less likely to spiral, it will be easier to readjust to the outside world when it’s time to get back to work.
- Avoid obsessing over endless Coronavirus coverage
Freeing up your day from work or social obligations gives you plenty of time to obsess, and if you have a tendency to consult social media for every itch and sneeze, you may be over-researching the pandemic as well. Choosing only certain credible websites for a limited amount of time each day (perhaps two chunks of 30 minutes each) will be in your best interest during this time.
- A chaotic home can lead to a chaotic mind
With all the uncertainly happening outside your home, keep the inside organized, predictable and clean. Setting up mental zones for daily activities can be helpful to organize your day. For example, try not to eat in bed or work on the sofa- just as before, eat at the kitchen table and work at your desk. Loosening these boundaries just muddles your routine and can make the day feel very long. Additionally, a cluttered home can cause you to become uneasy and claustrophobic of your environment- so keep it tidy.
- Start a new quarantine ritual
With this newfound time, why not do something special during these quarantined days? For example, perhaps you can start a daily journal to jot down thoughts and feelings to reflect on later, connect with your family over video chat every morning, start a jigsaw puzzle, drawing or painting that you can add to everyday. Having something special during this time will help you look forward to each new day.
For parents trying to work from home, your ability to do so will rely on various factors from the age of your children and the layout of your home or hotel room and the nature of your work. The temperament of parents and children will also play a role. With routines disrupted and families thrown into close quarters, cabin fever is a real danger.
- Begin on the same page
I’d suggest at the very start, the family sit down and devise a family contract, Have a discussion: what do you think will be the biggest challenges? What are the strengths that we each have as an individual family member that can help out? Discussing concerns and expectations about the quarantine, and what role each person can play to make it better, can be helpful. Forewarned is forearmed.
- Be truthful
It is important for parents to listen to and empathize with their children’s fears, speak truthfully about the situation in an age-appropriate manner and put it into context. Have conversations for facts and feelings. Critical to allaying fears will also be allowing children a sense of control, such as over their personal hygiene.
For adults too, keeping a sense of perspective and sourcing information and advice from credible sources will help stave off anxiety. It is important for people to be open about what they are experiencing, to reduce any possible stigma or embarrassment attached to self-isolation.
- Set up structure
Stay close to your families normal routines. Your child’s teacher will set activities each day and arrange time to talk over Zoom. You can also break up the day into seven or eight subjects, for your children. It could be anything from helping bake cookies, a dance class, yoga or singing. It is important to maintain physical activity so play games with your children that involve running, jumping and movement.
Families should try to enjoy having more spare time than usual; especially what can be very rare downtime for your children. Parents can be prepared with games, craft and books. Allowing more screen time than normal will not, be catastrophic. Just don’t stay on screens all the time. It could be tempting for people to just sit in front of the screen for two weeks. The novelty of that will wear off quite quickly. We know that when people withdraw, or stop doing their normal activities, it can have a pretty profound effect on their mood.
- Keep moving
- Give each other space
Try to think of things you can do by yourself and as a family. It can be hard for families who are used to all going off to their own activities being forced into this intense time. That’s why when you’re on family holiday you’ll sometimes see children arguing – they’re not used to being in the same space for extended periods of time.
Create spaces in the house, if possible, like little zones – This is our game zone. This bean bag with a headset is our chill-out corner.
While respecting time alone is important, it could also be a time for creating or reconnecting with family rituals. This might be as simple as a proper sit-down family meal; perhaps with a new recipe the children have been involved in preparing.
- Stay in touch
Another critical component of good mental state is feeling connected to others. This time, technology is our friend. Connecting and making time for friends on social media or over the phone will be critical for adults. Also important, is “reciprocal social support” – reaching out to others to make sure they are OK.
Children are used to highly social environments and will also need to connect with friends. Each week your child’s teacher will provide several opportunities to connect with them and other students in the class, using the Zoom platform. Make sure you take advantage of this time to allow your children to connect with their friends and other students.
- Learn from the experience
It has been very pleasing to hear comments from parents that they are gaining a lot more respect for teachers and their patience, because it’s hard to teach children. It can be good for you as well. It can help you become a better parent. Other parents have shared positive experiences about how nice it is to slow down and get to know their children on a different level.
I hope that from my own experience in quarantine, I will be able to self-reflect more on what is important in life and focus on the heath of my mind, body and soul. It is not easy to know that you can’t leave your room and at times negative thoughts can overwhelm you, but by adopting the methods I have discussed above, I have found that there are ways to train yourself to cope.
I want to leave my hotel room at the end of all this, knowing that I have not squandered the time alone and that I did something that was not only necessary but also valuable and rewarding.
Group Education Director