Staying home can be an occasion for great personal growth, with a little planning and effort.
What would you take with you to a desert island? What would you save if your house caught fire? These questions are fun thought experiments, in part because we consider them highly unlikely scenarios. But with the appearance of the new coronavirus it is all too real, and in some countries, the first measure taken is to confine the population to their homes or the place they were when the outbreak reached them (whether it be a hospital, cruise ship, or hotel). A quarantine forces us to stop what we’re doing.
Have you thought about how you would deal with this measure if you were forced to apply it? Maybe it’s time to start.
While most of us are not yet in a situation of physical isolation, we can think about how we will get through a quarantine the best way possible. Here are some ideas:
1Look on the bright side
A quarantine is a change of plans that we probably won’t like because it limits our mobility to the confines of our home. But we can see it as an opportunity to dedicate time to things we’ve often wanted to do but couldn’t because we didn’t have enough time: repairs on the house, crafts, reading, long conversations with family or friends (although it might have to be by video call) …
Turn the ordinary into the extraordinary (presenting food in a different way, for example) and the extraordinary into the ordinary (reduce your family’s fear of the coronavirus by normalizing the situation without panic).
Quarantine is the perfect Marie Kondo moment. What better occasion to tidy up the house, starting with the room that needs it most? Consider, before a quarantine is mandated and you can’t go out, whether you’ll need storage materials such as boxes or bags.
We can also organize our digital lives. Eliminate and classify emails. Sort through your hundreds or thousands of photos, and delete anything you don’t need. You’ll never have a better opportunity.
3Food and medication
Before the quarantine, you’ll probably need to do some food shopping. You don’t need to prepare for World War III, but it’s good to ensure you have the supplies you’ll need for a couple of weeks.
Think about what your family uses in a typical week, especially family members with special needs due to allergies or chronic illness.
Check your prescriptions and medicine expiration dates so you don’t run out of medication. Also check the medicine cabinet and add—if you don’t have them—a thermometer, acetaminophen, and ibuprofen.
4Work from home
For many, quarantine can be a watershed moment for your job, so why not explore new ways to work from home? Use online resources for sharing documents, holding team meetings, and following up on work.
This may be an ideal time for companies to consider making their employees’ schedules and locations more flexible. This is a measure that would help to reconcile work and family life. Now, perhaps out of necessity, we have no choice but to try it.
On your end, create a temporary work space at home.
5The books you've been meaning to read
A quarantine offers us a golden opportunity to read. You’ll never have so much free time to do it!
What books would you choose? Here are some options:
The Bible: it’s time to read the Bible as a book—that is, not one passage but many pages: complete books of the Old and New Testament. Surely we’ll benefit from a deep reading of Genesis, Exodus, the Psalms, books centered on characters such as Ruth or Esther, or the books of the prophets. A Catholic study edition of the Bible, or a full-fledged separate study guide, is a great help.
By reading the Bible calmly, we can go deeper into the meaning of the words, read the footnotes, take notes, and pray.
Perhaps the most accessible and important books of the Bible are the Gospels, which tell the life of Jesus. It’s time to read them as His biography and get to know His life better.
As literature, the Bible is a work of universal reference. As a sacred text, it is the word of God that touches every person in their deepest self. Quarantine can be an important step in our faith lives.
You might also read a literary classic, perhaps by an author you keep hearing about and always think you should read. Pick from the works of William Shakespeare, Charles Dickens, Mark Twain, Jane Austen, Louisa May Alcott, the Brontë sisters, J.R.R. Tolkien … just to name a few..
You might also enjoy a biography, a history book about a period or event that interests you in particular, collections of poems, books to reread by your favorite writer …
Beyond the Bible, look for reading that enriches you spiritually. There’s an almost endless variety to choose from.
6The time has come to write
You can take up paper and pen, or use your laptop or desktop computer. Quarantine is an ideal time to write something of your own—for example, you can work on recording your life right now, or writing down a special event or moment from your past. Forced isolation will allow you to reflect and express your thoughts better, whether it is for yourself or for others to read in the future.
If you’re feeling particularly inspired and ambitious, you can work on the outline of a book you’d like to write, and maybe even write a few chapters. You also have time to write letters or emails.
Writing helps us to record our ideas, to put our thoughts in order, and to savor memories. We can heal wounds, and rethink or highlight reasons to be grateful to others who have been (or are) part of our lives.
7Silence and reflection
Quarantine encourages (or forces) us to disconnect to a greater or lesser degree. But since we’re connected to the Internet, outside noise could still be present in our daily lives. There’s no lack of interesting options: from games to Netflix series to YouTube tutorials to music. All of these can be enjoyable, but take time to decide beforehand what your level of connection is going to be at any given time.
Is silence and reflection part of your plan, or are you afraid of being left alone with yourself? Maybe you need to take back the reins of your life and adjust some things. This is your chance to do that.
Quarantine is a good opportunity for self examination: I can look over my life, repair what has been broken, and make resolutions for the immediate or long-term future.
8Take care of your relationships
Our usual patterns of coexistence are disrupted in the case of a quarantine, and some people don’t like being locked up in the house. Take into account the character of your spouse. Avoid what causes friction, and reinforce what’s good for you both.
9What can I do with the children at home?
Great question! What can you do with the children at home for so many days without being able to go out?
You can set aside times for study, during which your children can keep up with their academic subjects for school. Follow a regular schedule, because stability and consistency are important for children.
Reorganize the house so that there’s space suitable for each child and activity: a place for reading, for games, etc. Limit the use of screens to the extent that screen time is healthy and constructive, and don’t be afraid to place boundaries.
Give them responsibilities. This can be a perfect occasion for children to gain knowledge of household tasks, to get involved in them and enjoy them, according to his or her age and abilities. Teach them to care for the place where they live.
10Don't forget the others
During a quarantine, don’t neglect your family, friends, and neighbors. Think about who might need help. For example, you can remind a grandparent of their medication by calling them on the phone at the right time. You can also call them just so they know they’re not alone and can count on you.
11Most important, take charge of your quarantine
Instead of thinking of quarantine as something that “happens to you” passively, letting yourself drift like a boat carried by the tide, take charge of the situation. Instead of standing by and watching the waves come and push you around, be proactive.
Don’t let passivity or mental and physical laziness get the better of you. Make plans! Organize the weeks, days and hours. It’s not just about “doing things” but about seizing the opportunity to grow as a person, according to your circumstances.
When the quarantine is over, you’ll be able to see how you’ve used your time and you can take stock of the results. Surely, if you’ve put in a little effort, you’ll be proud to see how you’ve taken steps in the right direction.