There’s no argument that 2020 was a long and arduous year. With the COVID-19 pandemic plaguing the continents worldwide, lockdown measures have persisted across the globe. Your location and leadership have much to do with the intensity of your quarantine circumstance, but chances are you have found it difficult, nonetheless.
Back in March people were panic buying and the latest trending headline was there was no toilet papers in the stores. It was the source of endless memes, gifs and jokes on the internet. Yes there was a shortage. But they restocked the shelves and it was still available. Guess what? They are still making it.
Towards the end of March 2020, three-quarters of Americans were experiencing some form of quarantine order. Nearly one year later, hospitals across the country are near or at capacity and the coronavirus has fully infiltrated the country. The difference? Much of the nation is no longer under lockdown guidelines.
Social distancing and self-isolation are still largely encouraged, but a majority of Americans are not following this advice. Shops and restaurants are still open, and more than “essential workers” must make it to their jobs to secure a paycheck.
To emerge from this global crisis healthy and largely unaffected, it will be necessary to heed the advice of experts and self-isolate, regardless of government mandates or the availability of a vaccine. What much of the last quarter of 2020 has proven is that even with recommendations, our world will not stop. You will need to practice self-discipline and mind-mojo to look out for yourself and your family amidst this pandemic.
Things are changing and embracing change through Stoic philosophy can be a step forward in a brave new world. But it means not being afraid of change.
“Is it change that a man fears? Why, what can have come to be without change, and what is dearer or more familiar to Universal Nature? Can you yourself take your bath, unless the firewood changes? Can you be nourished, unless what you eat changes? Can any other service be accomplished without change? Do you not see that it is precisely your changing which is similar, and similarly necessary to Universal Nature?” Marcus Aurelius, Meditations 7.18
There’s positivity and beauty to be derived from all of this. There’s opportunity to be grasped as people move forward
Accepting the Pandemic Circumstance
To begin your journey into quarantine enlightenment, you will first need to accept the pandemic. I mean fully accept that this is the current state of our union and make your peace with that fact. If you’re consistently looking to escaping self-isolation and dreaming of a magic cure, it’s going to be a long fallout.
Yes, the vaccine is a positive thing! What the vaccine is not, however, is an immediate cure all to our current woes. In time, the vaccine will help us regain control of our lives. Currently, the need for self-isolation and preventative measures should still be at the forefront of your mind.
As the vaccines become available everybody is rushing to get it. It is as if there is the belief that by getting the first shot everything will return to normal. That is not the case and is only the first step.
He is free who lives as he wills, who is subject neither to compulsion, nor hindrance, nor force, whose choices are unhampered, whose desires attain their end, whose aversions do not fall into what they would avoid. Who, then, wishes to live in error?—No one.—Who wishes to live deceived, impetuous, unjust, unrestrained, peevish, abject?—No one.—Therefore, there is no bad man who lives as he wills, and accordingly no bad man is free. And who wishes to live in grief, fear, envy, pity, desiring things and failing to get them, avoiding things and falling into them?—No one at all.—5Do we find, then, any bad man free from grief or fear, not falling into what he would avoid, nor failing to achieve what he desires?—No one.—Then we find no bad man free, either. Epictetus Discousres 4.1.1-3
Accepting this fact as well will better prepare you to stay mentally and physically healthy for the long haul. Acceptance will be necessary not only for peace of mind, but for growth.
Reflecting and Growing in Isolation
The key is to accept that this is where we are as a community and start to look at what can come of this. While you may not be able to go out and safely be surrounded by hoards of people at the moment, the pandemic has presented us all with an extraordinary opportunity to look within.
Aside from the coronavirus, are there aspects of your life that you were unhappy with before all of this began? Maybe you didn’t love your job, but you couldn’t find the motivation to reframe your life. Maybe you wanted to exercise, but something else always seemed more important.
The beauty of the pandemic is the gift of reflection and time. With this time alone, you can truly focus on yourself and figure out what you would like to be doing. Approaching isolation with a positive mindset and viewing it as a gift versus a hinderance, will allow it to become a gift.
Tell yourself, first of all, what kind of man you want to be; and then go ahead with what you are doing. For in practically every other pursuit we see this done. The athletes first decide what kind of athletes they want to be, and then they act accordingly. Epictetus, Discourses 3.23.1-2
You could reinvent yourself. You could discover a new hobby. You could make more intimate connections with family. Whatever it may be that you didn’t have time for before, life has given you an opportunity to invest in yourself. Like a phoenix, you could rise from the ashes.
Goaling Yourself Out of the Pandemic
If you were able to change your mindset and truly reflect, chances are some goals began to take shape in your mind. Hopefully, these goals are fire-lighting within you. This is what will carry you through. Once you’ve reconnected with yourself and your desires, the prospect of bringing your dream to fruition should be enough to motivate you most days.
I won’t pretend that some days will not be a mental struggle – this is okay. We are still in a pandemic, after all, and it is normal for the trauma of it all to catch up to you. Your mindset and your hope for what’s to come – should you imagine it – will be the torch lighting the way.
But no matter how excellent and guileless was the life of the men of that age, they were not wise men; for that title is reserved for the highest achievement. Still, I would not deny that they were men of lofty spirit and – I may use the phrase – fresh from the gods. For there is no doubt that the world produced a better progeny before it was yet worn out. However, not all were endowed with mental faculties of highest perfection, though in all cases their native powers were more sturdy than ours and more fitted for toil. For nature does not bestow virtue; it is an art to become good. Seneca, Moral Letters 90.44
With your calendar clear and your time free, you can work towards these goals. The internet is a fantastic resource for increasing your knowledge on any subject or career. There are endless e-courses for free and for purchase that can help you learn just about anything you’re interested in. With all of this time dedicated to yourself and your desires, you are in a position to build what you want to build and pour into what you want to pour into.
Making the Most Out of a Pandemic Situation
With all of this in mind, hopefully you will be able to view the pandemic as an opportunity to invest in yourself. An opportunity to find what you love, fix what you don’t, and reinvigorate yourself for what’s to come. Adopting this mindset for adversity will not only help you manage quarantine but will prepare you for many of life’s struggles.
Yes there was shortages of toilet paper. Reports are this could happen again. And the vaccine for COVID does offer hope. But people need to stop panicking, blaming and carrying on. Be patient and let the process play out. Take advantage of this time of change to evolve yourself.
Your principles are living principles. How else can they become lifeless, except the images which tally with them be extinguished? And with you it lies to rekindle them constantly. ‘I am able to think as I ought about this; if, then, I am able, why am I troubled? Things outside my understanding are nothing at all in regard to my understanding.’ Master this, and you stand upright. To come back to life is in your power; look once more at things as once you did, for herein to come back to life consists. Marcus Aurelius, Meditations 7.2
It’s quite possible that the world as we know it will be the circumstance for quite some time. Choosing to accept what you cannot change and reflect on what you can change will alleviate the struggles within your mind. You can come out of this collective experience drained, traumatized, and feeling like you lost years of your life, or you can emerge full of life, with perspective and optimism for the future.
The choice is yours to make.