By Lavan Sumanan
The Deep, Inspirational Introduction that Spurs You into Reading my Blog (or doesn’t)
Hello, fellow humans. I have lived through bad weather, bad people, and bad attitudes, but the coronavirus pandemic seems to have bested all my prior traumas. We here in Ontario have only been in lockdown for about two months now. If you’re anything like me, these two months feel like they have dragged on for much longer.
Although I am by no means an expert, nor an innately intelligent fella, I have made some observations about this whole quarantine situation. When news first spread of the contagious airborne disease and frightening asymptomatic incubation period, we were all swept up like sediment in a tornado, frantically raiding supermarkets, chugging hand sanitizer, and calling loved ones to say our goodbyes.
Two months later, the initial storm has calmed. We are no longer individual pebbles flung around and bashing into each other; instead, we’ve formed clumps, specific types of habits and tendencies to survive. In this blog, I shall identify and explain the advantages and pitfalls of each clump. By the end of this, you’ll either feel attacked (40% chance) or better prepared to take on self-isolation like no other (10% chance). Or or you’ll stop reading at this point because you have better things to do with your time, like binge-watching Friends and baking your third cake this week (50% chance). Regardless, I hope I can help you feel a little less hopeless.
Clump 1: The Action Figures
If you are an action figure, you will very likely reprimand the following clumps for being inactive during a freaking pandemic! Now is no time to be sitting around reading blogs by unacclaimed writers! There are to-do lists to write, supermarkets to empty, food rationing plans to be completed, jobs to be done so money can be made and the family can thrive.
My father is an action figure himself, and it can be both awe-inspiring and infuriating to watch these people go to work. They will look for any excuse to get out of that darn claustrophobic house/living space.
The advantages of action figures are that they refuse to let a pandemic interrupt their routines. The situation may be dire, but they can be counted on to provide for the family and help make quarantine life feel like it never changed.
The pitfall of these folk is that they may throw a bit too much caution to the wind, prioritizing routines over safety measures. As an action figure, try and keep the ultimate goal of quarantining in your mind at all times: flattening the curve, reducing the rate of viral infections, and allowing old routines to safely return as soon as possible.
Clump 2: The News Hawks
You folk are definitely reading this post all the way through, and you will likely use it as a stepping stone to scour the entire internet for coronavirus updates or information. After all, the only way to stay safe is to track every country’s coronavirus infection and death counts daily, making note of governmental actions and their effects on these statistics to best protect your family. And since you have so much more time now, the only logical way to spend it should be staying as informed as possible, practicing every social distancing measure, and maybe even creating new ones to give yourself and your loved ones the highest probability of survival. Or perhaps, you just can’t find anything else on the internet but coronavirus content and the only way to satiate your conscience is to read, read, read.
Your efforts are indeed backed by reason: information is a great source to base your actions on, and staying safe during a pandemic should obviously be a top priority. Thanks to your concern with staying informed, you are very likely following social distancing rules and supporting your community in preventing the spread of COVID-19.
On the contrary, information can also be a great vacuum, sucking you in and replacing the joyous moments of your life with dread and anxiety. Even intelligent, diligent hawks need to rest their eyes and ears to refuel. Make sure that reading the news or checking statistics isn’t sucking up a large chunk of your time because this can cause you to feel even more trapped in your house and in fear. A great way to prevent this is to take on a new task, a new hobby, or a new routine.
My mother was an archetypal news hawk, so naturally, we bought a puppy. She went from updating our whole family on the fluctuations of Spain’s daily death toll to playing with our little Goldendoodle. COVID-19 is a big part of our lives now, but we mustn’t let it consume us. Finding a new passion or building new routines will encourage you to make a new life out of quarantine, rather than quarantining making a new life out of you.
Clump 3: The Lost Souls
This is my lockdown hometown, but I think we all felt this way at one point. The lost souls are those whose schedules and routines got ripped apart; the cancelled plans, lack of communication, and removal of responsibility were too great a change at once to simply shrug off.
Now, we live as husks of our former selves, aimlessly scrolling through the Youtube homepage, refreshing socials, and opening the fridge every half hour in hopes that something scrumptious will magically appear. These are the folks who have so little stress in their lives that they also have no motivation; a lack of routine has resulted in a lack of purpose.
None of this is said to make you feel useless; conversely, this was all said because the lost souls are perhaps the luckiest of all quarantined individuals. You have the most potential to completely flip the course of your lockdown life because your only barrier is the lack thereof.
That all sounds fun and poorly researched, but what am I supposed to do?
Good question, Lavan. No matter which clump you are in, there will be obstacles in the way of your happiness. When I learned that my grades could not be lowered, that I would no longer have tests, and that I only had to complete three hours of work per course per week, I was ecstatic for a day. Then, I was bored for a week. Not long after, I was deeply saddened for a month, stuck in a perpetual pattern of doing nothing productive during the day and beating myself up relentlessly at night. I wanted so badly to be able to make myself work, but my mental drive seemed incapable of propelling me past regret and into action.
For those of you who feel this way, don’t give up. It will take more than a day to build back your mental fortitude after what this pandemic has done to it. The best way to return to your pre-COVID attitude is to make small, progressive steps each day.
The Staircase to Success
That seems overused. How about...
The Staircase to a Sketchy Attic with a Trapdoor to an Overly Complicated Analogy Depicting the Steps Leading to Success
(yes, this is much better)
The First Step: Communication
When I tried to break out of this cycle, the first thing I did was an attempt to fix my sleeping schedule. I set borders rather than specific times: I had to sleep before 2 am and I had to wake up before 1 pm. Unfortunately, I made little progress, constantly ignoring myself and returning to that cursed Netflix. So, my first suggestion is to work with others. I messaged a good friend of mine and suggested we encourage each other to fix our sleep schedules. Not only did this help me form a new habit, but it also made me feel a lot less hopeless because I was reminded that, even if I’m struggling, I’m not struggling alone.
The Second Step: Influence
Then, I watched a show about a powerless teenager in a world of heroes and villains being granted power and pushing himself beyond any barrier to achieve his dream of being a superhero. Sounds like a cheesy show, I know, but this really changed my perspective on quarantine. We all feel powerless, but deep down we haven’t changed a bit. This show helped me realize that I too need to use the gifts and resources provided by my ancestors and country to realize my true potential. So my second suggestion is to surround yourself with motivating media. Whether it be songs that make you dance, shows that make you want to conquer your fears, or social media that inspires you to pursue your dreams, replacing those empty show binges and chip bags with motivating media can provide you with just enough vigour and enthusiasm to get out of bed and start making a change.
The Third Step: Goals
Speaking of goals, my third suggestion is to set goals and create action plans around those goals. Write them down! Make them your phone lock screen! Inscribe them into your forearm! Whenever you feel down, focus on your goals, or the goal of this entire lockdown (stopping the spread), and let that ambition fuel your actions. For me, I wanted to improve my physique, since lockdown turned my stomach into a bottomless pit of junk food and juice. Thus, I wrote down a weekly workout plan to test out for two weeks. I listened to invigorating music during each workout and committed to completing each rep each week. I rewarded my progress with lowered diet restrictions (AKA snacks!!). This helped me snap out of my lost soul stage, setting in motion a new routine where I intermittently work and relax during the day, work out before bed, and wake up early, excited to do it all again.
The Deep, Inspirational Conclusion that Spurs You into Action (or doesn’t)
Perhaps none of my suggestions seem helpful. Maybe you’ve tried this all and you still feel like a sack of feces. If that’s the case, there are many sources you can use that will give you better advice than a 16-year old kid will. I’ve linked one at the bottom of this post. But maybe, just maybe, this post can be that motivating media, that source to help you realize that, no matter who you are, now is the time to reconnect with your friends/community, reform your routines, and rekindle your dreams and ambitions. We have all been given a reset button for our day-to-day lives. You can either press it and push yourself to new heights, or ignore it and reminisce about days long gone. If anything I’ve said has stuck with you, you’ll know what to do.
Resources (yes, I consider myself a resource):
This site has various links depending on the type of support you are looking for: https://www.verywellmind.com/best-online-therapy-4691206
If you want a quippy teenage friend, feel free to send me a message as well at firstname.lastname@example.org
Lavan Sumanan is a Grade 11 Pre-AP and SHSM student at Markville Secondary School. He is passionate about science, engineering, and software/web development. In his free time, he plays various instruments, develops sites/games, and tries (but fails) to get enough sleep. In his stolen time, he advocates for change in his community as a member of L.I.G.H.T. and student council.