Using quarantine to be the most stable you have ever been sounds strange, doesn’t it? Quarantine and positive mental health don’t seem to be going hand in hand during this difficult, unknown and tiresome period. As a first-year medical student who had to pack her bags in two days and fly home, I was suddenly struck with the fact that I had six months ahead of me with no exams and not much to do. I felt as if I was standing on this foggy road – with no escape and a treacherous path ahead of me. The struggle to stay productive and not go down a path of overthinking and negativity was intense.
I made up my mind that instead of wasting quarantine lazing around I wanted to use this time to be the best version of myself so that when I am flung back into the fast-paced crazy life of medical school, I would be strong, both mentally and physically, and prepared to meet the challenges life has ahead for me. Here are some of the things which I have been doing over the last few months and also some things I started doing maybe just a few weeks ago, because that’s the beauty of it all: you can discover new things to learn at any stage of your journey.
My biggest tip – and this is going to sound tedious and tiresome – but make sure to do an exercise which raises your heart rate every day. I started running during quarantine and set myself the task to do a 5k run a few times a week. The first month was honestly the most torturous thing I have endured, but now when I look back and see that in the time it took me to run 2 kilometres a month ago, I can now run 4, I feel this sense of pride and accomplishment. But your movement does not have to be a high paced run. It can be 20 minutes of badminton in your yard or even a ten-minute abdominal workout. For me, Working out feels like I’m sweating out and burning off all the negativity and stress of the day.
My second tip, which goes hand in hand with the first, is to plan your day the way it suits your circadian rhythm. This is your sleep/wake cycle. For example, I feel at my most productive during the first half of the day. I choose to use this time for higher intensity work related to my course and I prefer to use the evening time for recreation and exercise. Since each person is different, choose a model which maxes out your productivity.
Another thing which I have been doing for the last two weeks which has put me in a more peaceful space mentally (and hear me out) is to listen to Disney music without lyrics while doing my tasks of the day. Having the soft tune of Beauty and the Beast playing while I am working or going through emails or writing an article for PopSugar takes me to this happy, comfortable and cosy place. My theory is that it reminds me of a simpler time and brings back those emotions of peace which were felt during that time.
Another tip is to start your day with a task which is outside of your ‘’work’’. This gets your brain stimulated and the completion of that simple task will give you immense pleasure. Before I start my work every morning, I have two tasks which I do without fail, and on the days which I don’t do them I feel like something is missing. I make my bed and take 5 minutes to make myself a vanilla coffee. I personally feel like if you wake up and head straight to your desk, your brain has no time to breathe and prepare itself for the mountain of emails. Doing simple tasks before you start your day prepares and programmes your brain to input information through the day in a more efficient manner.
The news these days is extremely negative. In terms of what’s going on in the world, it is so important to be informed and aware. In recent months however, I realised that I would wake up in the morning and scroll through Instagram and get severely affected by all the events going on. A tip I have is to follow positive and fulfilling accounts on Instagram and remove negativity from your feed. Reserve only a little time to keep yourself updated about the world.
Lastly, try to engage your brain in a positive and enriching activity which is not work-related. For me that includes trying out new recipes in the kitchen, reading fiction and learning a new language. I have also been trying to develop the habit of journaling to ‘word vomit’ my thoughts and feelings out every day. I try to do this before bed so I can go to sleep feeling peaceful.
Honestly, this period of quarantine is the perfect opportunity to recharge and revive your overworked and high-strung self. So, add to your routine, grow your mental health, watch a movie, facetime your loved ones and binge watch sitcoms on Netflix. If not now, when?