#StayAtHomeStory: Three Activities That Were Good for Me During Quarantine

The unexpected quarantine interrupted a lot of plans and changed the routines of many people. As I hear from my family, friends and coworkers, the isolation affected most of them. They had to deal with cancelled events, business closures, fear of losing their jobs, seeing family members every hour of the day, all that spare time nobody knew what to do with. It affected me as well, and while I (like everyone) have my own fears and doubts, I have to admit that the quarantine led to some positive changes for me, both mentally and physically.

I’ve always considered myself an introvert. I was optimistic, and even enthusiastic, about the idea of isolation in my house with my coffee machine, piles of books and comfortable sofas. You can believe that’s exactly how spent the first week of the quarantine! Then the second week came, and with it the realization that to stay sane, cheerful and productive, I needed to occupy myself with more than reading and drinking coffee. I started planning each of my days to focus on healthy tasks that would fill my mind with new information, keep my hands busy, and hopefully help me lose the extra pounds that came along with the ice cream and indulgences of the first week. In addition to my usual writing, I assigned myself daily exercise, literature study, and painting. After 37 days of quarantine, my new daily routines had an important impact on me.

I’ve always considered myself an introvert. I was optimistic, and even enthusiastic, about the idea of isolation in my house with my coffee machine, piles of books and comfortable sofas. You can believe that’s exactly how I spent the first week of the quarantine! Then the second week came, and with it the realization that to stay sane, cheerful and productive, I needed to occupy myself with more than reading and drinking coffee. I started planning each of my days to focus on healthy tasks that would fill my mind with new information, keep my hands busy, and hopefully help me lose the extra pounds that came along with the ice cream and indulgences of the first week. In addition to my usual writing, I assigned myself daily exercise, literature study, and painting. After 37 days of quarantine, my new daily routines had an important impact on me

I’ve never been a sporty person (except horseback riding), and I’ve always told myself that my exercise was limited to a daily maximum of twenty minutes of stretching because I just didn’t have the time. As soon as the quarantine started, I no longer had that excuse. After spending the first week of quarantine feeling completely overwhelmed and eating too many unhealthy snacks, I browsed YouTube for exercise videos to help me feel healthy and energetic. That’s when I discovered online barre workouts. Since starting barre, I really enjoy spending time early each morning doing barre’s combination of cardio, stretching, and ballet movements.

I’ve also always wanted to learn about literature and art, but never felt like I had the time due to work, family, and life in general. Fortunately, in the age of the internet, access to free quality courses from major universities—including Harvard!—is unlimited, and that is where I found myself. As soon as I discovered a few classes open to the public, I was showing up for online lectures every day to study Goethe, the Odyssey, world literature, Impressionism, and Renaissance paintings.

Perhaps learning about some of the most significant art ever created inspired me to return to painting. When the pressure of devastating news about the virus expanded, and anxiety touched us all, I pulled my brushes and canvas out of the basement. They say to paint flowers when you’re anxious, and that’s what I did. The stress lessened. Painting fruits and flowers brought me back to studying in art school as a child. Those happy times somehow returned with every brush stroke. The first day I pulled out my painting essentials, I drew for hours. It calmed me, giving me hope and inspiring me to create more, whether it was more pictures or writing pieces. While I was occupied with studying, exercising, painting, four weeks of quarantine passed by.

Time moved as quickly as before the quarantine, but I didn’t waste time complaining. Instead, I got back to the joy that exercising daily, studying literature, and painting bring me, and these activities had a huge impact on my mental and physical health. It’s common sense that your body needs physical activity, and your mind needs learning. But caught between chores and obligations in a busy world, we often forget the impact these basic practices can have. I know I forget quite often!

While the quarantine was devasting in many ways, I was able to find a routine of pleasures that restored me. In taking as much time as I wished for exercising, writing, and studying, I found reconciliation with part of myself I had forgotten exists. It was as if with the world falling apart, my little nest of delightful activities was building up. But don’t get me wrong: I can’t wait for the end of this global pandemic and the pain it has brought for so many. I can’t wait for the simple ability to travel or spend an hour in a coffee shop—little things that we used to take for granted. But there was something marvellous in living like a lady from a novel, who spends her days in a garden reading or at her easel painting flowers.

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