Quarantine was without a doubt a unique experience for all of us, for better or for worse. And it offered us all plenty of lessons if we were willing to look for them.
This gives us the great opportunity to share them and learn from each other’s experiences. So as I’m looking forward to hearing yours, these were the biggest ones for me:
1. Have a Robust Strategy for Your Financial, Physical and Mental Health
Few people saw COVID coming. But it quickly spread through societies and affected all our lives in various ways. At the very least, it scared us a bit because it was new and unexpected. So the next time the world goes in lockdown, we’ll all be a little more prepared and therefore a little less scared.
But the main lesson I took from this, is that instead of preparing for an other lockdown, we should be preparing for unexpected events in general.
Becoming Financially Robust
Unlike some other people, the quarantine did not affect me much financially. It did cancel my plans of playing music in bars during this period, so I lost some potential income. But luckily, I make most of my money online.
Still, this situation opened my eyes to the fact that it’s not a smart strategy to make all your income from one source: What if suddenly the internet dies of a virus? What if your industry ceases to exist?
If you’re currently putting all your eggs in one basket financially speaking, what can you do to set up some different income streams? And if no immediate answer: What sort of skills can you acquire now that can help you get different jobs later if ever needed?
Another important part of robust finances is having enough savings. If you don’t have any savings now, no matter how little you earn, try to save at least 10% of it each month.
Ideally, you would have at least 6 months worth of living expenses stored somewhere for situations like this. This may seem like a lot of money, but it doesn’t have to be. There are 2 parts of this equation.
A) How much money do I have in my savings account?
B) How much money do I need to live for a month?
The solution to increasing the amount of months you have in your savings account is to focus on B). (Which kinda looks like a smiley wearing ski-goggles. But maybe that’s just me.)
If you’ve never consciously evaluated your expenses, you’ll discover that your monthly cost of living is way lower than you think.
I know that it’s possible for me to live with $800 / month because I’ve done it before. Nowadays I spend way more. But I know that if needed, I can always go back to that and I wouldn’t even be living a “poor life”. I’d just pay for rent, utilities and food, and that’s it. This greatly reduces the amount of savings I need to survive without jobs for 6-12 months.
And that’s where the trick is:
- Don’t buy any snacks or takeaway
- Don’t eat out
- Skip the starbucks
- Unsubscribe from all newspapers and magazines
- Don’t buy apps or in-app purchases
- Don’t buy any unnecessary stuff (which is almost all stuff)
This will not only reduce your cost of living but increase your savings at the same time.
While I occasionally splurge on a gadget that will improve the quality of my every day life (those 3 euros for the orgasmatron were definitely well-spent), I still follow these rules. If I were to move to a different house right now, I could do so with a few bike rides (money saved by not using a moving van as well).
Staying Fit During Quarantine
I usually stay in shape by going to the gym. Even when traveling, I try to find ways to have access to a gym or stop by some pull-up bars. I’m not accustomed to training without equipment at all, so the first weeks of the lockdown were challenging in that regard.
In the end I found a more independent strategy for saying fit wherever you are:
- Doing yoga every single day. Try it for a month, stick with it, get good at it. When done right, yoga can take care of your core strengthening and mobility needs.
- Build free-weights out of household objects
- Learn to run.
- Acquire a mini home gym. Mine now consists of some resistance bands, a kettlebell and a pull-up bar. But this step is not 100% necessary. It actually took me 8 weeks before I bought the first toys arrived because everything was sold out. While it was an improvement over using heavy household objects, it’s not necessary. A strong grocery bag filled with rocks can easily replace a kettlebell. A strong backback filled with heavy stuff can be used for chest presses, cleans & press or overhead squats, etc.
What I like about this plan is that you are no longer dependent on places or equipment for your physical training. Everything becomes a gym if you want it to be.
The other part of the health equation is learning to cook if you don’t know how to already. If you live from takeout, it’s not easy to maintain healthy eating patterns. And it also won’t help you with the financial part 😉
Getting Your Psychological State In Order
If you hadn’t spent any serious time and energy on getting your mental health in order, now is the time to become emotionally and psychologically self-sufficient. Or you’re not going to be able to deal with isolation well.
- If you’re still stuck in a cycle where you need other people, distraction or substances in order to feel good about yourself, you’re going to be fudged. Sooner or later you’ll be deprived of one of these.
- If you haven’t learned to handle disappointment or unexpected changes well, you’ll feel very bad whenever big events like this disturb the status quo, so you better get it handled.
Which leads me to lesson 2:
2. Mental Health Is Still Too Much of a Taboo
This situation clearly caused many people to lose their marbles. As evidenced by their behavior in public:
- There were fights in the supermarket.
- There were loads of otherwise intelligent people suddenly believing in the most ridiculous conspiracy theories to avoid having to face the fact that life is unpredictable and no one is in control.
- Most recently, there were suburban white kids using the Black Lives Matter process as an excuse to get some fresh corona-air and engage in some destructive window shopping.
But one thing I didn’t see often was people publicly admitting that they felt bad or had a hard time dealing with this sudden change. In my friend group, some people opened up about it. But most did so in a way that betrayed they felt kind of guilty for bringing down the “vibe”.
I guess this is the toxic side of the “good vibes only” coin. When we feel bad, many of us don’t want to bother others with that stuff because they all seem to be having fun. I also felt this when I was dealing with my dad’s death, and it caused me to grow distant from many of my friends.
If you have the impression some of your friends are not handling this period well: Let them know that you’re there for them. That’s okay to feel whatever they feel. Show up at their door with a few beers or a thermos of tea, and go for a walk together. Give them the space to open up about it. (Tip: You can do this for yourself as well ;-))
If you are going through a tough time yourself, realize that:
- Many people are feeling the same way. This is a golden opportunity to connect with them.
- Don’t have friends? Being alone is a tremendous opportunity to finally face those demons you’ve been avoiding your entire life. Take some of this time to shut down the TV and get to know your own thoughts.
- Don’t have the courage to face them alone? There are plenty of qualified and affordable online therapists. Get the idea out of your head that therapists are only for “broken” people. Literally anyone can benefit from them.
- When all else fails and you have no one to connect with, you can always masturbate while injecting yourself with oxytocin.
Remember that going to therapy doesn’t mean something is “wrong” with you. All it means is that you are taking responsibility for your mental state. If you haven’t gotten this part of your life handled, it should be a priority. Because the way you feel inside and experience reality is literally a filter on top of all your other experiences in life.
3. Most Goals Are Arbitrary
Before the lockdown started, all my plans seemed so important. Like there was nothing that could stop me from executing them. But then COVID came and it became impossible to work on any of my goals until further notice (except for recording an acoustic EP, which I ended up doing at home).
The most shocking part was how few consequences there were emotionally or practically. I did not feel disappointed or hindered. I just chose to work on different things. Like re-launching this blog.
I’m a very goal oriented person, and usually I have a strong reason for wanting my specific goal. But this situation showed me that those goals are completely arbitrary. It’s always fun to create something new, to improve something in your life, or to challenge yourself. But in the end, they were not as necessary as I made myself believe.
There’s nothing in my life that really needs to be improved. There are no songs or blog posts that need to be written. No mountains to conquer or skills that I need to get good at.
Life is good as it is. And on top of that I can set goals. Which is great, because those goals motivate me to do something. To grow. To expand. To add more beauty to life. So I’ll keep setting them and achieving them. But the truth is that they are completely arbitrary. And the only reason I feel I have to achieve them is because I once decided that I would.
So if anything ever goes wrong, it really doesn’t matter in the end. It was just an arbitrary goal 🙂
4. Individualism Has Its Downsides
A lot of my blog posts in the past have been about thinking for yourself, questioning convential knowledge and living life on your own terms. Ironically, a big part of that is simply because I adopted the values of the culture I grew up in, which celebrates individualism.
When the news about the lockdown came, my first reaction was “It’s the last day before the lockdown, I better go out.” But the day after I started to realize how immature this reaction was. It’s not about following rules or regulations, it’s about behaving in a way that contributes to the well-being of all the other people in society.
I actually loved the feeling that for once, there was a very simple thing I could do that would directly contribute to the good of strangers. It made me feel way more connected. I got enthusiastic about it. But many people did not agree. I saw people partying with their friends for weeks into the lockdown. Visiting others while they felt ill or roommates had symptoms. Saying “Ignore the rules, just use your common sense.” or “Why is this all happening to me? What do they make me close my shop and can others go to work?” etc.
And then I realized a lot of that is a consequence the exact mindset that I have been preaching on this blog. But in this situation it does more harm than good.
Who are you to think you know better than advisors who specifically study how this virus spreads through society?
It’s a ridiculous idea, yet many, many people still either thought they knew better or didn’t care about it because they were not an at-risk patient themselves. Which I believe is a side-effect of a culture so heavily focused on individualism.
Am I saying we should accept everything “they” tell us to do? Definitely not. For example, I wouldn’t use the contact tracing app because I think it can have dangerous repercussions (imagine this technology was used during the second world war).
Am I saying communism is a superior culture because it focuses on the collective? Also not.
But it is something to think about. If everyone focuses only on themselves, what they want, and what they think…Then what if war strikes? Who will will you be fighting with, side by side, knowing that everyone has each other’s backs? That everyone sticks together to defend their society?
Thinking these thoughts, it also increased my appreciation for the people contribute to our well-being on a daily basis: Garbage men, police men, nurses, some of the politicians, etc.
I think we can all benefit from paying some more attention to our thoughts and behaviors and analyze where we are being needlessly individualistic.
Next time you think you know better than people who are specialized in a subject. Or next time you catch yourself caring only about yourself, ask yourself:
What if there’s a good reason for these rules and regulations but I’m not seeing it?
What can I do for other people today?
How can I make someone else’s day a little better?
What luxuries can I give up to contribute to the greater good of society (staying doors instead of hanging out with your friends was a grate example)?
How can I become a more trustworthy person when it comes to taking up responsibility towards the greater good?
How can I become the kind of person my friends would choose to go to war with?
Then allow them to shape your character throughout the day.
If we all do it, everyone benefits.
As long as we don’t forget to put our own oxygen mask on first 😉