I am Quarantined in Italy: How to Stay Mentally Stable During A Pandemic
It’s so easy to fall back into scrolling on Facebook and read countless articles, one after the other, all describing a nightmare that doesn’t seem to end anytime soon. And panicking. And feeling the need to cover yourself under the blankets like when you were a kid and thought a monster was hiding under your bed. But then you wake up the next morning and nothing has changed. It’s just getting worse. And you can’t leave home now, can’t see your friends, can’t take a walk to enjoy the early-spring sun in Italy.
It’s hard when it feels like the world around you is crushing and you constantly keep an open tab on your laptop to keep counting deaths with the rest of the world. You’re worried for your family, your friends, your grandfathers. But you can’t do anything about it, expect hoping and staying home.
This article’s goal isn’t to describe the situation in Italy right now, there’s probably no need for me to do that. It’s been done already. Instead, I wanted to focus on how we can keep our mental state stable and as healthy as possible during moments like this.
Panicking is easy, but useless or even counterproductive and dangerous.
Long story short, we’re forced to stay home, so we have to get creative with it.
Working & Studying
Personally, I’m spending most of my time studying for my next university exams. With literally all the free time available to me right now, keeping a work and study routine is helping me stay mentally stable more than what I thought.
As soon as I heard universities were shutting down, part of me started dreaming of waking up late, hot teas and true crime series marathons. But in a couple of days, reality kicked in and it turned out not to be sustainable, nor for my physical or mental health. I was waking up close to lunch time and spending my time either in the bed watching tv or scrolling on Twitter reading news and comments and stressing more about it.
I’m in the South right now and we’re not quite experiencing the same as North Italy. Well, not yet: the numbers are growing rapidly.
Still, my anxiety started getting worse. I got out of bed and tried restoring my old routine before the outbreak. Sure, I couldn’t go to the library to study, but I could definitely do my best to mimic those habits as much as possible.
I also pushed myself to see the positive in all this: I had more time to write and work on those passion projects I had been postponing for a while. If you’re looking for suggestions, it doesn’t have to be work work. It can be a creative project you’ve been dreaming about lately. Or reading a book that’s been sitting on the shelf for too long. Make a list of activities you could dedicate yourself to if it helps.
Exercising can be great for multiple reasons, not only to keep your routine intact. It’ll strengthens your immune system and the after workout endorphins kick-in will help you relax and keep a good mood for longer.
Personally, for my exercising routine I’m trying a new workout everyday. One day I feel like doing a 30m full body dance workout, the next I only feel like stretching for 5 minutes. It’s fun, I don’t feel stressed about doing the same thing everyday and there are so many videos on youtube that allow me to do so.
Give yourself credit that you’re doing your best. Staying home and contributing not to spread the virus is a lot. It might not feel like it, but it’s an important step in prevention right now.
Take all this time off as a chance to relax, too. I realize that we do feel sad sometimes and like there’s nothing we can do about it. Sometimes accepting the sadness is just as helpful. You don’t have to be happy all the time.
If today you can only get yourself to watch tv in bed all day, go ahead. But make sure you try again tomorrow.
Personally, one activity that really helps me handle stress is assembling jigsaw puzzles.
“Bringing order to a pile of chaos can have an incredibly calming and relaxing effect.” — self-proclaimed puzzle king Peter Schubert
Who doesn’t need some mental order — even if brief— during a pandemic?
One Last Thought
I do believe choosing the right mindset to face any situation is a crucial way to make sure you’re controlling your mental state. This is what I’m personally doing to reach that goal.
First of all, I’m waking up every morning and reminding myself how thankful I am for the simple fact that I feel safe in my home, and healthy at the moment. Another day healthy feels like a win in times like this, even if I’m 21 and at very low risk to contract the virus. It still feels like a blessing, and it keeps me sane to acknowledge that.
Another thought I’m giving all my attention to is that I can’t control everything. Every time I hear my family talking about how someone else got sick and how the numbers keep growing, all I can repeat myself is: “focus on what you can control. The rest can’t be your business.” Right now, I know I can control my routine, my activities, the fact I stay home.
Stressing over how many people are getting sick won’t help them get better. Staying home as much as I can and sharing my support online might. At the moment, the hardest part is to accept this is all I can do.