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Notes on Self-Quarantine: Some Observations

It’s been nearly four weeks since the start of our work-from-home routine and me writing writing these posts on the coronavirus, so today I want to try something a little bit different and switch things up with my style. Instead of writing another free-form essay type of article, I am going to give you some (maybe more random) observations in note form (yes this will look like a list, but no, this will not be a listicle). 

Why am I doing this? Well, for one, I think sometimes it’s good to break out of routines (we at Nazobako have advocated this for a long time), especially while in quarantine mode, when time seems to be melting in front of us. Experimenting with form and style helps keep the mind sharp and the blood flowing, and hopefully it will add a fun surprise to your day as well.. Also, I want to share some things that about working from home and being in self-quarantine that I think others could learn from, but I don’t want to proselytize or sound like I am an expert (I am definitely not an expert). Essays can tend to be a bit didactic, while notes/lists are a little bit friendlier and down-to-earth. 

FInally, in my essays I have tried to extract some meaning from all of this and to present my views on the situation in a way that distills an essential message. I love doing this and writing these. It helps so much to be able to think through this situation and to be able to express how I feel about it in a form that others can read. I am also so grateful to have the opportunity and support to do this. But it does take a lot of emotional labor, and there are times when I think that there doesn’t always need to be meaning. Sometimes we can just observe and let our thoughts swirl around us, and sometimes it’s good to let the mind just run its course into unexpected places. And who knows, maybe some of these could be turned into posts of their own. 


So without further ado, here are my top 15 things to do in self-quarantine observational notes on self-quarantine based on my experiences so far.

Time

1. I’ve seen a lot on social media about how no one knows what day it is. I haven’t found this to be true for me. I always know what day it is, and what day of the week it is. Maybe it’s because I write these every day? Or because I keep a journal where I write down the date? What I have noticed is that it doesn’t really matter anymore what the date is. There’s no events on the calendar, so there’s no real difference between March 31st and April 7th (just now when I wrote those two dates I tried to remember something that happened on them–I could not). 

2. Days of the week are different, though. I know which days I’m supposed to be working and which days I’m not. I think it’s important to make that clear distinction, since it’s so easy to just work every day. I also have a weekly schedule that I try to stick to, with different activities/chores on different days. Monday, Tuesday, Thursday are always exercise days; Wednesday is cooking day; Thursday is laundry day, etc. It makes it a bit easier to remember which day is which and to distinguish between days. Each week feels almost exactly the same though.

3. Having a schedule during the day is good too. Thankfully work gives me a semblance of this: morning meetings at 9:30, lunch at 1:30 or 14:00, end of the day at 18:30. Starting off the day with a meeting, even if it’s not a work meeting, is a great idea. Just begin the day by talking to someone or calling someone. It helps with the isolation. 

4. Sticking to a sleep schedule is highly recommended. I’m actually really surprised that I’ve stuck to one. My natural state is as a night owl, so that coupled with the anxiety of everything, and I was afraid of becoming an insomniac. Going to bed at the same time every night really helps with this. I end up waking up at the same time every day, and I actually wake up a lot earlier than I did (probably because I don’t move anymore). 

5. I read a really fascinating piece recently on why everyone is having trouble remembering what day it is. There is apparently a psychological effect called “the oddball effect”. During “oddball” moments your brain gets deluged with new information and new ways of doing things, so you feel like time is passing differently. The same effect happens when you travel. Which is a somewhat interesting way of looking at this pandemic–we are in some ways on a very long trip mentally, despite the fact that we remain in the same physical location every day. But even so, we are physically in different spaces than we otherwise would be, and we are in the middle of processing an entirely new way of doing things and living our lives, almost like we landed in a completely different country. In that case, are we all experiencing culture shock?

Hobbies

6. Journaling is a great hobby to start during the pandemic if you’re worried about losing track of time. It’s also good for organizing thoughts and relieving some of the anxiety, worry, or sadness that can become a little oppressive. I would also suggest writing and reading poetry (especially if you are feeling like disconnecting from social media). There’s something about the lack of narrative and the associative imagery that allows you to just dwell in them and discover beauty in the moment–even the most mundane or ugly one. Hobbies that are tactile like sewing or painting help concentrate on something other than your phone.

7. I thought it would be more difficult to work out from home because it requires a lot of self-motivation. I find that I really enjoy it, but not as much for the workout itself and more so for the meditative aspects of it. When I get into it I can sort of zone out for a little while. I can take my time with it too, since I have nowhere to rush off to afterwards. 

Working From Home

8. There are some things that are a lot harder and some things that are easier. The things that I know how to do and that I am working on alone I can get done is half the time. The things that I am working on with others, or that I need help with are more frustrating to complete because you can’t communicate in person. 

9. I say this a lot here but I love the morning meetings that we have. Four weeks in and they are still a major part of what keeps me going through the day. Am I going to cry when I see my coworkers IRL again? There is a distinct possibility…

10. There are times when I am more distracted, but that is normal, especially with this pandemic raging outside. If I do get distracted I don’t give myself a hard time. I don’t know what to think about productivity. I wrote an article about it a few weeks ago, and I guess I should take my own advice because I constantly feel like I should be doing more and the work is right there next to me. I think it’s the convergence of spaces–work and life, and it’s difficult to distinguish between the two. Apartments and houses in Japan are small too, so a lot of us here don’t have the luxury of retreating to our home offices. 

11. It will be interesting to see what happens with telework after the pandemic and self-quarantine are over. Will people really want to go back to their offices? Maybe a lot of people will want to be around coworkers again, especially if they had a good experience working with them from home. But maybe people will be afraid of being in closed spaces with people? I think there’s going to be an interesting back and forth for a while.

Social Life

12. There are two types of people in this brave new world of self-quarantine: those who enjoy Zoom parties and those who don’t. Don’t feel bad if you fall into the latter category. 

Note: Due to some other work responsibilities and holidays I will likely not be posting tomorrow through Wednesday, so the next post will be on Thursday, April 30th. Have a nice, healthy, and reflective weekend.

Stay safe, stay home, stay strong, and stay connected.

With Love,

Lee and the staff of Nazobako/Invite Japan

(Photo by Ervin Halebic on Unsplash)

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