How I managed to stay positive during Quarantine

At the time of writing those lines, we have gone through our 42nd consecutive day of home quarantine.

My wife and I have the amazing chance to live in Dubai where they are very serious about quarantine rules, rightfully so. In a nutshell, we are not allowed to go outside our home except for grocery shopping or emergencies for which we must apply for a permit online.

In the last weeks, we have seen a worrying amount of articles about the negative psychological impact of the quarantine and how mental health would be the next looming crisis after COVID-19. Having been through a particularly tough, long, and enforced one, I thought I would share how we managed to keep an optimistic mindset and stay motivated during those unprecedented times.

Limit daily screen time to 3 hours (outside of work)

Numerous studies have shown multiple benefits of reducing screen time, among which lower anxiety and stress levels as well as an improvement of sleep quality. Just like most of us, in the first days of the quarantine, my wife and I binge-watched all the latest Netflix shows (and then some). After a week we realized how much of our life was sadly revolving around time spent in front of the TV.

We decided to cut it down to a maximum of 3 hours of screen time per day (including our mobiles) and to get away from all screens 1 hour before going to bed. The results were astonishing and immediate: we slept better, were happier, more positive, felt more relaxed, and focused on value-adding activities.

Exercise at least 3 times a week

I don’t think it is necessary to go over the many mental and physical scientifically-proven health benefits that exercising provides. Since quarantine challenges -by design- our physical and mental health, emphasizing the importance of practicing physical activities in those times would be an understatement.

If the quarantine rules in your country allow you to exercise outside, I cannot recommend it enough, even if you are not used to doing sports regularly. For us in Dubai, getting out for sports activities was strictly forbidden, so we rented a spinning bike from a local gym studio and subscribed to online classes — the Peloton ones are really good. If we go grocery shopping, we skip the elevator and take the stairs, every movement counts.

Keep a balanced sleep rhythm and routine

It is easy in this exceptional situation to steer away from the habits you have built and that have made you a successful, efficient, and balanced individual. One of the things that have contributed the most to keeping a positive and optimistic mindset for us has been to stick to a particular routine: wake up at 8 am, sports from 8 to 9, start work at 9.15 after a refreshing shower. At night, we would put our phones away at 10.30 pm, discuss and spend some time together until 11.30 and then go to sleep. We try to keep the same routine over the weekend to not lose the rhythm.

Start cooking, or get a meal plan

Working both as consultants, my wife and I are used to eating out or getting our food delivered for 95% of our weekly meals, which, in normal times, fits perfectly into our packed daily schedules. We knew this was not going to be sustainable if we were to stay home for an indefinite number of weeks. We made some research and decided to take on a healthy meal plan for the week: every morning we were getting a delivery of our breakfast, lunch, and diner + 2 snacks amounting to a kcal limit set at the beginning of the program. This bought us peace of mind during the week and helped us focus on solving complex issues at work without creating anxiety around gaining weight or eating unhealthy. At the start of the weekend, we usually discussed what we wanted to eat, decided on 1 cheat meal, and spent some time in the kitchen to (learn how to) cook. Book specific times to connect to the ones you love This is very much linked to keeping a balanced and steady routine. In the first weeks of the quarantine, we were logging in from one after-work or weekend drink to the other and quickly noticed that our alcohol consumption was going through the roof while the occasions did not contribute to nurturing emotional connections with our loved ones. What we do now is putting 4 hours per week aside (2 on Friday and 2 on Saturday) to connect with friends and family, usually in smaller groups to enable meaningful discussions. This doesn’t mean we don’t call our parents or best friends on the side every once in a while, just like we would in regular non-quarantined work weeks.

Take on a building project

This was probably the best decision we made during our quarantine. After 3 weeks we were honestly bored to death during the weekend and did not wish to go back to our Netflix binge-watching habits. We craved to create something from scratch, something that could keep us busy during a significant amount of hours, with the extra benefit of keeping the outcome as a reminder of theses challenging times and on how much we take the freedom in our ‘normal life’ for granted. What you decide to build is completely up to you. As we are far from being artists, we did not dive into painting, sculpting, or highly creative activities. Instead, my wife bought an insanely complex 1,500 pieces puzzle (a nightmare if you ask me…), and I got a Lego Star Wars Millennium Falcon replica. It took us a while to get through them, but we enjoyed every single minute of it, and since there is no other way than to focus 100% of your attention on the project itself, it ended up being very mind-relaxing.

Start writing

This is the main reason I am writing this article today, my first one on Medium. I have been starting to write in the last weeks -unpublished, mostly for myself- and realized how much it has freed my mind and calmed my thoughts. I would recommend it to everyone. You could start anywhere from a diary to notes on specific thoughts, articles, or a book, but I can assure you it will help. I hope this will guide some of you out of this unprecedented crisis keeping a healthy mind and body. Don’t forget that, how dramatic those times may be, there are not here to last and we are all moving towards better days. Stay home, stay safe, stay positive!

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