The night I learned that a student in my daughter’s first grade class cohort had tested positive I was editing the first chapter of Finding Sage (you can read here Finding Sage – Hope Carter Books ). I kept wondering how realistic is it for a small mountain community to be under strict public health orders banning outsiders to prevent the spread of a virus when the school district sent the message: quarantine for 14 days and to seek COVID testing.
Then, I remembered it’s 2020. We’re in the middle of a pandemic. The word “quarantine” is used in everyday jargon now and every single state is under public health orders. It’s not so far-fetched.
My mind instantly went to how the next 14 days were going to go and what to possibly expect if my daughter turned out to be positive. How could I keep her healthy and make her time in quarantine as easy as possible? How can I juggle remote learning along with work and writing? What can I do to get my family through this without any of us losing our minds in the process?
If you’re reading this, then you’ve asked yourself similar questions. No matter what your thoughts and opinions are on COVID, and how it should be handled, the word quarantine and self-isolation isn’t an easy pill to swallow for anyone.
So, here is how I handled those 14 days of quarantine.
- Self-isolation is only physical isolation.
This pandemic has put a phenomenal amount of mental stress on every single person. The suicide prevention hotline reported a sharp and drastic uptick of calls since the month of March. Fear dilutes a lot of important information, so it was a much needed reminder that quarantine didn’t mean we had to stop talking to other people. I made it a rule to at least make one phone call a day to my family. I texted and messaged two of my closest friends who listened without judgement when I talked about the emotional and mental strain we were all under in addition to every day life. Human contact, even if it’s virtual and temporary, is important to help fight off the depression that can come from being physically isolated.
- Let go of a normal routine.
When my daughter returned to in-learning school, the both of us settled into a routine. The second our quarantine started, I knew that routine would have to be adjusted or let go of temporarily with a lot of patience. I knew from previous experience that trying to insert a school routine into home, a place for her to unwind and not think about school, was a dumpster fire that put everyone in tears. In between Zoom classes, she’d do one assignment and then play or veg out for thirty minutes before picking up another assignment. As her teacher put it, “As long as work is getting done on their own terms, then there’s nothing wrong with it.” While my daughter was in Zoom meetings, or quietly working on assignments she didn’t need help with, I challenged myself to see how much I could get done within a 40 minute time periods. I did numerous writing sprints as well.
- Create lists.
Organizing what needed to be done, for myself and my daughter, into lists made quarantine smoother. I didn’t feel like I was drowning in trying to figure out what needed to be done for the day. I created grocery lists, too, and a menu of what we were going to do eat throughout the week. The lists helped us both to concentrate on what needed to get done, but to feel like we were in control of our day to day lives. Life, to various degrees, is unpredictable, but taking control of small tasks helped the days surprisingly go by faster. Being productive with tasks throughout the day helped fight off the lethargy of being home all the time.
- Set boundaries.
The following day after receiving the message we needed to quarantine and seek testing, I sat my daughter down to establish some firm boundaries during our time at home. We both needed to respect each other’s space when it came to schoolwork and work. I set the following boundary– if we were sitting our designated work spaces, then we needed to respect each other’s time and space with minimal distractions. We set an alarm for when it was a brain break for us both to get snacks, talk, or do whatever else we wanted and needed to do. The boundary helped us avoid being constantly frustrated and even irritated at one another. My sassy seven-year-old told me recently she liked that I took a step back and didn’t hover because it meant showing respect to how she manages her schoolwork.
- Be honest with yourself about how you feel.
I know. It seems cliché, but fighting off the overwhelming emotions that come with a possible exposure only amplifies it. I worried every second until we got the results back (thankfully negative) and I allowed myself to feel that way. I encouraged my daughter to express her own emotions, too, to help clear it all out and curb an emotional break down.
- Go outside.
Staying cooped up in your house 24/7 will drive you insane. It snowed three days out of our quarantine and temperatures dipped below freezing, but we took short walks around our block when the sun was out. I even agreed to pull out the bouncy castle for an hour in the backyard and we jumped around together. As the saying goes, “Sunlight is your best source of vitamin D.” It not only helps boost your immune system and help your serotonin levels, but there is developing evidence that vitamin D might play a critical role in the severity of illnesses– including COVID-19.
- Embrace the time you have.
After losing one of my close friends to suicide, two extended family member’s deaths, and my dad’s cancer diagnosis, I learned that life is timed and short. All of those events along with the COVID-19 pandemic, only enhanced the need to live life to the fullest and to be grateful for what I have– not what I don’t have. It’s easy to see quarantine as a disruption to our lives. It’s even easier to feel cooped up and restless when you’re home all the time, but taking time to watch movies together and even baking some holiday cookies is a great reminder that one day we won’t be able to stop and have these moments again.
Stay safe and healthy, folks. Don’t mentally isolate yourself away from your loved ones and do what is best for you and your family.