My grandfather is celebrating his 95th birthday this year, I asked him, does any part of this coronavirus remind him of something, maybe the war? He said not at all. We’ve never experienced anything like this before.
Well, does that mean if we pay attention, we can maybe discover things about ourselves we have never had the opportunity to observe in the past?
I am writing this to you from Hubei, the center of the coronavirus outbreak in China, where restrictions are just being lifted after 76 days lockdown - such exciting news to Wuhan, China and to all of us! I have no doubt the virus will pass, people will come close again, and joy will return.
Wuhan was the first city, anywhere in the world, which went into a massive and restrictive lockdown. If you are in Australia or other countries, I have had the privilege to experience everything two months before you! I want to share what I learnt from my time in isolation, what helped me get through all these months, in the wish I could support you, not only to survive, but thrive in this special period of time.
I am living in Melbourne, my parents and I travelled to Hubei to visit my grandfather in my holidays. The lockdown announcement was sent one day before the Chinese New Year Eve. A few hours later, transport into and out of the city was closed, all shops and restaurants shut, public transport stopped, we were asked to stay at home, the officials came every day to do health checks, one family could only send one person to buy necessary items every two days.
With no warning at all, my parents and I were stuck in this small, unfamiliar apartment - and we even couldn’t see my grandfather as he was locked in another place.
Our life changed in the blink of an eye.
For the very first week, I remember when I woke up each day, I thought ‘what did I do last Tuesday?’ I was outside walking in a park. I wanted to do the same, but I couldn’t do it. There was a bit of resistance, disbelief in the beginning. It was not comfortable, not normal, things were taken away from me which I wasn’t ready to let go of. When it came to the third week, I came to accept it. What I have learnt in this initial stage is that it’s important we accept it, hard as it is, but the earlier we accept the reality, the sooner we can start to cope – and we can come up with a plan. If you don’t do it, you are just going to drive yourself down, which won’t be really productive in this situation.
Controlling what you can control – keep daily routine
As I was still on holidays, I could quite easily stay in bed all day, hide in my pajamas, watch news, and get more and more negative. I could choose to numb myself with movies and snacks. But was there another choice? I realised even though I was in a situation I could perceive as a ‘waste of time’, I don’t want to waste that time, I want to make the most of it. I made the decision I would try to stay active. The only thing I can control is my mind and physical well-being - not my environment.
So I chose exercise to feel alive, and I chose books to educate myself. I would wake up at 6am, have a routine exercise (I follow an online video class), set up a good mind space and read in the afternoon. There were times I made up excuses and didn’t want to exercise but I always remembered how good the feeling was after my body was moving, and I never regretted that, so I cheered myself up to keep going.
It is the routine that has helped me survive this period of time, I keep my life structured as much as I possibly can, wake up the same time, brush my teeth, have a shower, eat breakfast…do all these things I normally do in my daily habit.
When you do these things every day, you are telling yourself - I am in control, I have enough self-respect to do my things.