What self-isolation looks like

How are you doing?

Ten years ago, there was a TV show called “Apocalypse Man.” US Marine and martial artist Rudy Reyes showed how someone can survive an end-of-the-world scenario in an urban setting. He went through the usual survival stuff like siphoning gas into your car and starting a fire with steel wool and a battery. One part of that show stuck with me. He said the hardest part of a survival situation is being alone. When you feel isolated and hopeless. When it looks like you aren’t going to make it.

It’s a feeling many of us have now.

I know a number of people who lost jobs or had hours cut. Business owners who had to close their doors, and they don’t know if they will ever open them again. Authors who scheduled signings are stuck with stacks of books they’ve paid for but may never sell.

Those who can work from home, like myself, have had challenges too. My home Wi-Fi isn’t as fast as office Ethernet, and I have to keep one eye on my data cap. Meetings are a struggle. If you have to resolve an issue, it’s hard to gauge someone’s reaction in an email, text, or even a video chat. You feel pressured to be as productive at home as you are in the office. And that’s difficult when family members demand your immediate attention—especially children who are attending school online.

This is on top of the other disruptions. You forgo your favorite foods because they aren’t in stores, and you ration the food you have in fear of it running out. You can’t shop because stores are closed. You can’t go out to dinner. You can’t visit some of your family because they have compromised immune systems, and you don’t want to expose them. Everything on TV is about the coronavirus, even the commercials.

And this is just the first few weeks in the US. This will drag into months. And what do we do as the death toll rises? What if one of them is someone you love?

There are several things you can do to help you cope.

  • Keep as much of a routine as you can. I still get up at the same time every morning. I still work on my weight management program. I start and stop my work at the same time. Having a schedule keeps me on track and offers some sense of normalcy.
  • Give yourself a break from the news. It’s important to stay informed, but it’s also important to turn it off when it gets too much. Allow yourself time for distraction. Listen to upbeat music, enjoy your favorite comedies, or watch classic sports.
  • Exercise outside when you can. Sunlight, fresh air, and activity is good for the body and mind.
  • Find fun things to do with your family. Play games, go out for a walk, or watch a movie together. Since you’re stuck together anyway, use the time to strengthen your family bonds.
  • Call or video chat with distant family members and friends, especially those who are quarantined. The connection will be good for you as well as them.
  • Send supportive messages to others on social media, especially those who are struggling with the situation.
  • Get a meal delivered from your favorite restaurant. It offers you a welcome break from the routine, and it gives the restaurant much needed business. Tip generously.
  • Find ways you can help others. Donate blood, because it is desperately needed right now. Contribute to charity. Offer to pick up groceries for someone who is quarantined.
  • Show kindness to everyone, especially truck drivers, restaurant workers, janitors, grocery store employees, doctors, nurses, and everyone else who has to go out to work.
  • Show kindness to yourself. You will get angry, scared, stressed, frustrated, and heartbroken. You will not be your best self at times. Apologize, forgive yourself, and forgive others. They will not always be their best self either.
  • Accept that things will never go back to the way they were. We will be dealing with this crisis for a long time. Even when it is over, it will bring lasting changes in society. (I hope we will be better prepared for the next crisis.) When you accept the situation, you can put your energies into adapting to it.

As “Apocalypse Man” showed us, the most important survival skill is learning to cope. Even when we must practice social distancing, we need to connect more with others. Offer comfort and support and don’t be afraid to ask for help when you need it. We will get through this together.