Life On Pause: Something Major Clicked For Me Last Week.

It happened this past Wednesday, April 22nd to be precise. A gorgeous Spring day, I went out to do a couple of errands and by the time I got home, the energy had shifted and I was in a completely new and more positive state of mind.

I had an epiphany based on research I’ve been doing!

A few weeks ago when I was feeling particularly despondent, I started a little passion project researching how people who have been forced to live in extreme isolation managed to survive, e.g., people who have been kidnapped, those immunocompromised who have to stay cooped up in their homes, death row inmates in solitary confinement, the Hikikomori (Japanese social recluses). I also came across Viktor Frankl’s inspiring book, Man’s Search for Meaning, which he wrote after he survived the Holocaust. His book has been listed as “one of the ten most influential books in the U.S.” by the Library of Congress and is recommended as one of Amazon’s Top 100 Books to Read In a Lifetime.

Why Bother, You Say?

Because everyone I’ve spoken to over the last few weeks is struggling with these feelings. Most of us are being whiplashed by our emotions. We feel sad, we feel scared, we feel angry. And all in a span of an hour on any single day.

And it’s highly likely that some form of lockdown will be with us for at least a year.

So no matter how we dice and slice it, even with states and countries working on re-opening, it will be sporadic and there will be lots of setbacks as second and third waves of the virus hit.

My intention in doing this research was to learn – and be inspired – by how extreme isolationists have coped with endless fear, loneliness, and boredom while in some form of confinement.

That said, and while we’re clearly not out of the woods yet, something definitely shifted for me last week. I’ve had an attitude adjustment and am feeling much more in control, less anxious, more positive!

Scroll down for what I’ve learned as well as an update on how it’s going in Sweden (and in NY).

5 ways to survive isolation while in lockdown

1. Exercise

Mexican architect Bosco Gutiérrez was held for ransom for nine months, after which he managed to escape. He explains how he did 3 hours of exercise a day: sit-ups, and jogging (lifting his knees high and going back and forth in a tiny lockdown cell). He also explains how important it is to get physically tired every day in order to sleep well.

Tip/Prediction: Online, virtual workouts are turning out to be lifesavers. I hear a lot from my friends about their Peloton and paid yoga classes. Depending on how long this goes on, online workouts will definitely give gyms a run for their money after this is over.

2. Entertainment – cut down on the coronavirus news, watch this instead!

What would we do without the internet and streaming services? But the most helpful piece of advice (for me!) came from Ann Handley when she advised us to only watch the news in the morning, keeping afternoons and evenings free for entertainment. That one switch made a huge difference to my mental well-being and my ability to sleep soundly.

Here’s What I’ve Been Watching:
SNL Home edition

As much as I disliked the first go-around of this, the 2nd outing was perfection. My three favorites include Stuck in the House with Pete Davidson, Brad Pitt’s Dr. Fauci opener, and David “Big Papi” Ortiz (Kenan Thompson) making a big Dominican lunch in quarantine. Hysterical!!

The last dance: ESPN

10-part documentary on Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls. OMG, AMAZING!

Austin Film Festival’s “On Story” (PBS)

Lulu Wang’s fabulous interview about her movie, The Farewell is a must-see. Another great interview is with Larry Wilmore.

The Coachella documentary

Celebrating 20 years of the festival – one of my favorite documentaries ever!

3. Always Be Learning. Especially From and About Each Other.

Suleika Jaouad, a writer who spent most of her life in isolation because of leukemia is a major inspiration for turning the loneliness and boredom of isolation into a creative endeavor.

She turned her frustrations into a project called The Isolation Journals. She also created the 100 Day Project based on her journaling. It became the material for her column in the New York Times, “Life, Interrupted.”

She tells an amazing story of how after she recovered from cancer, she decided to meet some of the unexpected strangers who’d written to her about their own isolation experiences in response to her NYT’s column.

One was Lil GQ, an inmate on death row in Texas. He was one of the first to write to her about how much he related to her experience of being quarantined in the hospital (he called it “incancerated”). At that point, he had been on death row in solitary for almost half his life. He wrote about the unexpected parallels between their circumstances and the experience of trying to figure out how to hold on to a sense of self and a sense of sanity within these tiny confined spaces.

She visited Lil GQ on death row in Texas.

“He asked me what I did to pass all that time I’d spent in a hospital room. When I told him I got really, really good at Scrabble, he said, ‘me, too’, and explained how even though he spends most of his days in solitary confinement, he and his neighboring prisoners make board games out of paper and call out their plays through their meal slots – a testament to the incredible tenacity of the human spirit and our ability to adapt with creativity.”

Suleika Jaouad, NPR Interview

4. We MUST Socialize

In these pandemic times, we’re restricted to virtual get-togethers (or sometimes, a fire-escape happy hour with neighbors in adjoining buildings).

But mainly, for me, it’s FaceTime.

Virtual get-togethers are still glitchy but I’ve found FaceTime to be the best way to have meaningful conversations and add fun to the lockdown life.

Tip: I now schedule a week’s worth of FaceTime’s with friends. My preference is for 1-2 people only per call. It takes the edge off being hunkered down. I’m surprised at how much fun it is. I LOVE my FaceTime calls.

5. It’s Time To Hibernate/ Get Cozy

The Hibernation Project: Hygge And The Art Of Coziness

“It’s worth thinking about the pandemic like winter in that winter is temporary. Like winter, this will come to pass as well, and we will all come out of isolation. So there’s light at the end of the tunnel.”

Wayne Garrett, Artist/Co-Founder Hibernation Project

The Hibernation Project is a domestic art intervention created by a Canadian couple as a tool for embracing – and combating – Winter in Canada. The idea is to make the most of isolation, and pursue all sorts of hobbies.

Each weekend a community of artists, musicians, and participants respond – virtually – to a theme, installing work in and around a house for the duration of one night. The Hibernation Project is a gestation period for concepts, for workshopping ideas, for snowy day projects, for the dreams of we who wake to sleep.

They recommend embracing the boredom. Rather than grabbing your phone when you’re bored, “allow yourself to think and wander, and that can lead to great creativity.” Find a new passion project that you’ve always put aside for a later date or pick up a new skill.

SWEDISH UPDATE – as of 4/27/20

“Covid-19 is not a disease that can be eradicated, at least not until a vaccine is available, which might take as long as two or three years. So we have to come up with sustainable solutions that keep the virus’s circulation manageable for a long period to come.”

Anders Tengel, Chief Epidemiologist, Swedish Public Health Agency
Sweden is playing the long game.

Anders Tengel, the chief epidemiologist at the Swedish Public Health Agency and architect of the country’s strategy for handling coronavirus, believes that a society cannot be ordered locked down for 2-3 years.

As a result, Sweden’s approach to flattening the curve is built on:

  1. Being sustainable for a long period of time
  2. Developing some level of herd immunity (currently 26% in Stockholm) for when the second wave of the pandemic strikes later this year.

In contrast to other countries where political leaders have fronted the national response, Dr. Tegnell has led the majority of Sweden’s news conferences.

  • His tone is typically matter-of-fact, with a strong focus on figures, and few mentions of the emotional impact of the crisis on victims and their families.
  • The Swedish Public Health Agency has maintained high approval ratings throughout the pandemic.
  • And the public follows recommendations: Usage of public transport has dropped significantly, large numbers are working from home, and most refrained from traveling over the Easter weekend. The government has also banned gatherings of more than 50 people and visits to elderly care homes.
  • Although stores (and restaurants and bars) are open, retail activity has dropped by 42% in Stockholm.
  • However, there has been a swell of activity at local parks, with an average of 84% more people across the country venturing to green areas than usual.

NY’s COVID-19 Update (Sources: The Hill/ Journal of the American Medical Association)

NYC is the epicenter of coronavirus with over one-third of cases. A vast majority of people treated for coronavirus (COVID-19) in New York City have had underlying medical conditions, a report by the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) reported this week.

Here are the facts and data:

  • Two-thirds of fatalities were in patients over 70 years of age
  • More than 95% were over 50 years of age
  • 99.2% of the 6,570 confirmed COVID-19 deaths fully investigated had an underlying illness (most often hypertension, obesity or diabetes)
  • The overwhelming majority of patients who were on ventilators eventually died, and those who did more often had diabetes than any other condition.

Protecting older, at-risk people to eliminate hospital overcrowding.

Based on data from New York City, the hotbed of COVID-19 with more than 34,600 hospitalizations to date.

  • The median age of patients was 63 and 56.6% percent of all coronavirus patients suffered from hypertension.
  • Nearly 42% of those treated were obese, and nearly 34% suffered from diabetes
  • About a third of all patients arrived with fevers while 17% were breathing too fast and another 30% needed extra oxygen. 
  • Patients were sent home after four days on average.
  • For those under 18 years of age, hospitalization from the virus is 0.01% or 11 per 100,000 people
  • For those 18 to 44 years old, hospitalization is 0.1%
  • For people ages 65 to 74, 1.7% were hospitalized.
  • Dr. Leora Horwitz of NYU Medical Center concludes “age is far-and-away the strongest risk factor for hospitalization” and “obesity is the single biggest ‘chronic’ factor for NYC hospitalizations.”
  • Early WHO reports noted that 80% of all cases were mild, and more recent studies show a far more widespread rate of infection and a lower rate of serious illness. 
  • Half of all people testing positive for infection have no symptoms at all.
  • The vast majority of younger, otherwise healthy people do not need significant medical care if they catch this infection.

In the UK, people over 70 could face extended lockdown

Politicians have warned that the government is considering a “blanket ban” to prevent older people from leaving their homes during the coronavirus crisis.

“It is an unfortunate fact that those who are medically vulnerable are singled out by the virus. We have to put in place measures to protect and safeguard their lives. It is the virus that makes this discrimination, not the government.”

Lord James Bethell, UK Health Minister

Marianne Taylor of the Herald (Scotland) has this response (as do I):

“What’s so galling is the idea that no-one over 70 can decide for themselves what risks they are willing to take with their own health and wellbeing. One of the most interesting aspects of this crisis has been the way it has forced all of us to examine and question what makes life worth living. Many of us, will have come to the conclusion that social contact, time spent with other human beings, is the most precious thing in our lives.”

Marianne Taylor, The Herald (Scotland)
To read Marianne Taylor’s entire, brilliant article, link here.
Bottom Line.

The whole thing seems to be kind of a crapshoot. And by next month, quarantine fatigue will make us all turn rogue. Good luck keeping us locked in our homes then, politicians!

And, finally, WATCH THIS (below)! It’s how I now feel about Cuomo’s press briefings! I’ve gone from totally crushing on him to rolling my eyes! COVID-19 has made me so fickle!

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