4 Lessons to Learn About Yourself From Quarantine

A legacy of self-love and self-discovery.

Posted Jul 20, 2020 | Reviewed by Ekua Hagan

iStock/Morsa Images
Source: iStock/Morsa Images

As scary and difficult as the COVID-19 lockdowns have been, they have also been a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to get to know ourselves — a time to learn who we actually are and not who we think we are supposed to be or who others tell us we ought to be. Even if you had­­­n’t thought about it during the many months of isolation, now, as we move into the next phases of reopening, is a great time to think about what you have learned about yourself.

1. Your Personality

During this pandemic, maybe for the first time, we were truly on our own. Even if we were quarantined with others, we were still alone with our inside world more than our outside world. We had to figure out what helped us stay stable and sane enough to work from home, check-in with loved ones, cope with macabre media reports, care for children, and protect ourselves and others when we left our bubble. We learned about our own M.O. (modus operandi, or how we operate) and most likely fine-tuned it as time went on.

Truly learning more about yourself can be difficult, and a good way to start is to write down a few sentences that start with, “I am someone who…” and then add a new ending every day for a month. Finish the sentence with something factual, not judgmental. For example:

  • “I am someone who has more energy in the evening than in the morning.”
  • “I am someone who is more sympathetic than empathetic.”
  • “I am someone who gets very irritated by complainers.”
  • “I am someone who loves social media.”

When you are done, you will have a list that teaches you about the real you and your behavior. Then, you can be your own best friend and accept yourself, exactly how you are. Want to make some changes? Forget about shoulds, woulds, and coulds — your changes are your choice!

2. Your Self-Care

We all recharge differently. Some of us are introverted and some of us are extroverted. Some of us love talking, and some find even texting to be a chore. Some of us need laughter, others need to be left alone.

Check-in with yourself and see which activities during the past four months boosted your mood, and which did not. Since we lack control over many large aspects of life during a pandemic, we usually find that we try to increase our control over the smaller things. I found myself trying to do this by constantly rearranging my kitchen storage shelves. My daughter tie-dyed every old t-shirt in her house and my husband finally organized the garage.

If you found that working out helped you feel in control and watching the news gave you anxiety, continue to restructure your routine to make sure you’re getting more of what nourishes you and eliminating what doesn’t.

Self-care is not only about our nutrition, exercise, and sleep; it’s also about knowing how to soothe yourself and entertain yourself. It’s not waiting until we’ve taken care of everyone and everything else before we take care of ourselves. It’s adding ourselves to our list of loved ones. Most of us have finally had time to do that, so let’s continue to do so!

3. Your Patience and Understanding

We have had a chance to see for ourselves that our survival instinct is real, and our general patience is beyond what we would have predicted. As stay-at-home orders went out, we went into shelter from the viral storm to reduce the numbers of critical patients flowing into overloaded hospitals. We may have to do it again, but we have learned that if we understand why we must live this way, for now, we can do it. If it means we are protecting our loved ones, we can do it. If we remind ourselves that, “this too shall pass,” we can do it. We can do it because we make it our choice and priority.

4. Your Resilience

We’ve heard so many commentators predicting a great psychological fallout after the extended stay-at-home experience and death toll reports, that I checked the research about emotional recovery following 9/11, the SARS pandemic, floods, hurricanes, and even war trauma. To my surprise, I found data suggesting two out of three of us are resilient enough to return to daily life and normal functioning within six months after extended trauma.1 It seems that we are built for daily life and its rhythm restores us. I hope you have seen and been proud of your own resilience.

But what about first responders? A first responder’s resilience is even more astounding. It will take longer to digest the experience, and will take a lot of support, but thankfully, data suggests only about 15 percent of first responders will have still have distress after 18 months.

What can we learn from their ability to endure and bounce back? Almost every nurse, physician, frontline worker, and hospital worker I’ve spoken to about coping have told me they look at everything they still have to be thankful for every day — their own health, their ability to help others and save lives, public appreciation, and contact with their family and friends.

Focusing on gratitude and hope is a choice. It is a difficult choice at times, but it is still a choice. It nurtures our resiliency. If you have found that positivity helped you through the quarantine, applaud your capacity and let it increase your sense of self-worth. If this hasn’t been in your skillset, the American Psychological Association says you can develop it by focusing on potential, avoiding negativity, and reaching for hope.

The quarantine legacy for each of us will be a mix of many emotions and experiences, and learning about yourself will hopefully increase your self-love, self-knowledge, and self-acceptance. For me, I have learned to face forward with a new appreciation for life. I hope your self-discoveries will serve you well, too.

References

1. (Bonanno G. A., Westphal M., Mancini A. D. Resilience to loss and potential trauma. Annual Review of Clinical Psychology. 2011; 7: 511–535).