Eight weeks ago, while we were on break for Chinese New Year, I learned that my school would not return from the break as scheduled. Seven weeks ago, my colleagues and I began teaching online. Five weeks ago, I flew to Phuket, Thailand, for a yoga retreat, working to enjoy a Spring Break that had been rescheduled. Seven days ago, as I arrived back from an extended stay in Thailand, I landed in a government quarantine in Shenzhen, China.
Nearly everything about the last two months has been unexpected. There have been moments and days of delight as I have made new and beautiful human connections. And then there has been a good deal of time spent “sitting in the shit,” as my therapist says.
I am halfway through my quarantine now. My life is lived in an apartment just a bit bigger than a studio in Chicago. I have a small balcony that I step onto for fresh air several times a day, but otherwise, I do not have access to the outside physical world. I understand why China has mandated these kinds of protocols, though.
This is a time and space where I have reflected upon the notion of freedom differently than perhaps in the past. While many of my freedoms have temporarily been taken away, the government has done this for the health of the citizens; I would not want to risk being someone who imported this virus after China has worked so hard to stamp it out.
As we are all entering novel experiences, and quarantine is currently mine, I have worked to put a good deal of awareness around my mental and physical health. In the days that I have spent in isolation, several lessons have emerged.
Productivity is not the name of the game right now
With nowhere to go, and no visitors allowed into my abode, I thought I might be quite productive in terms of books read and house cleaned and articles written. This has not been my reality. My energy has been quite low, and I attribute this to stress. While altogether I feel that I have faced the changes that came with the arrival and presence of Covid-19, it still has been a time of great Uncertainty and Ambiguity. Listen, I know we’re all doing our darndest to make peace with these characters, but it can be exhausting. And I’ve hit the wall.
In order to attend to my wellness, I have had to change my expectations of what “productive” means in quarantine. The definition that has emerged: making my bed, making healthy food, putting on a good face for my students in Zoom, and allowing myself all of the rest on the couch that I need throughout the day. Yesterday, I needed to rest for 15-20 minutes after each 40-60 minutes of work. It was what it was.
Offer yourself grace
This brings me to my favorite G-word. Grace. I suppose I could shame myself or feel disappointed in myself for not doing enough right now. Instead, I am choosing to wrap my own arms around myself (especially because no one else can right now) and say, “Whatever you can do, it’s enough right now.” It has taken me days to draft this very article, and rather than be irritated about it, in this moment, right now, I am toasting these words that are being written with a nice green tea.
Lean in to community
Throughout the week that I have been quarantined, I have received the following from my friends and school community: a portable wi-fi device, homemade cookies, flowers, chocolate, and lunches made from garden fresh produce. We often say, “Let me know what I can do for you.” I learned how different it can feel when we offer this statement a revision. When my friend said to me the other day, “I would like to bring you lunch. Let me know what requests you have,” I felt little guilt in asking for what I wanted, and what my soul really needed: to be held by the community in accepting such sweet gifts.
Many friends from my community are currently trying to get back into China from the States and other parts of Asia. When they do, they too will have to quarantine. I look forward to offering them what so many have offered me this past week.
Build in movement
I have come into quarantine right from three weeks of twice a day yoga. Oh, my body loved it so much, and I am in a bit of mourning for being in such a different space now.
But, as soon as I was placed in my hotel room to begin the first part of quarantine, I remembered what our fearless Jeana Anderson Cohen says: “If you have a body, you have a gym.” At my apartment, I have moved my yoga mat and weights to my balcony, and that is now my makeshift fitness space.
I am not getting down with any crazy workouts right now, but I am finding enjoyment in the Dirty 30 which, for me, consists of 45 seconds of a HIIT movement and 15 seconds of rest for 30 minutes. Whatever my body feels at the moment the minute changes, I do that. Push-ups, burpees, squats, bicep curls, plank — I decide on the movement in the moment.
I am moving into some reading for one of the high school English classes this afternoon. I am reminding myself that it is all about the moment. I am not sure what I will have the energy for after I read the chapters, but that is not my concern right now. Right now, I am simply going to open the book and begin. Leaning into and accepting this slower pace, it is helping to keep me well.
How are you maintaining your wellness in the time of Covid-19? We would love to continue the conversation with you. Post your experiences below.