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Coronavirus Quarantine: 6 Ways to Stay Positive

March 15, 2020 | by Dr. Jacob L. Freedman

How to stay sane and healthy if you're in quarantine.

As a psychiatrist working between America and Israel, I often find myself speaking with anxious patients. With the current coronavirus pandemic, I’ve had my hands full, fielding queries from patients in multiple continents with all sorts of challenging issues.

The most common question has been, “How can I keep myself from getting it?” The answer to that one is easy: follow the national health care organization’s recommendations – whether it’s the Israeli Ministry of Health or the American Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The second most common question is a bit more novel: “How can I stay sane if I’ve been quarantined?” With this in mind – and with millions of people across the world in either voluntary or enforced isolation at home – there is the potential for serious stress, loneliness, and fear of being stuck at home with nothing to do and nowhere to go. So whether you’re in isolation or worried you might be at some point in the near future, here are 6 ways to stay positive during quarantine.

1. Stay in contact. In Judaism, we have a beautiful mitzvah called Bikur Cholim, visiting the sick. This mitzvah helps our fellow Jews to stay positive in a time of illness and to help them in their recovery process. While it’s against Jewish law to visit people when you could expose them to a contagious disease, that shouldn’t stop you from calling them. For every person who’s going stir crazy in their apartment, the good news is that you’re not alone and can easily call a friend, family member, colleague, or neighbor who’s stuck in the same boat. This fulfills the mitzvah of Bikur Cholim and reminds us that we are never alone.

2. Exercise. Just because your gym is closed doesn’t mean that you can’t do your daily exercise routine. Many good studies show that daily cardiovascular exercise works as a treatment for anxiety and depressive disorders. Not feeling anxious or depressed yet? Exercise is also a preventative measure to promote mental wellbeing. So dust off that treadmill, unroll that yoga mat, or start a new regimen of push-ups, sit-ups, and jumping jacks today.

3. Mindfulness. We’ve all heard about mindfulness but very few of us actually practice it. Somewhere between meditation and relaxation is this form of psychological self-soothing that allows a person to be aware of their internal state. Mindfulness is a tremendous tool for decreasing one’s emotional temperature, especially during times of stress! Now is a great time to learn mindfulness practice and to put it to use. The smartphone apps Headspace and Calm are a great place to start.

4. Make it Happen. Have you ever wanted to understand how volcanoes work, wished you spoke better Hebrew, or learned how to weave your own kilt? Now is your chance to take on that amazing academic project you always wanted to tackle! Not only do you have the time, but it will keep your mind off of anything worrisome while simultaneously keeping you productive. Perhaps you wanted to join up with Daf Yomi, the daily Talmudic study, that tens of thousands of Jews do on a daily basis world-wide. Maybe it’s time to start reading the daily Torah portion. Wherever your learning level is at, there’s always more to be done and now you finally have the time!

5. Pray. Yep. For sure it will help. Many good scientific studies have shown how prayer keeps people grounded, and optimistic. This contributes to better medical and psychological outcomes due to the power of positive thinking. Across the world, everyone is praying because the truth is that without a vaccine and any better advice than staying vigilant and washing our hands, we have nowhere else to turn than to our Creator. Starting with Psalms is always a good place: “I lift up my eyes to the mountains, from where will my help come? My help will come from God, maker of Heaven and Earth,” (Psalms 121: 1-2).

6. Keep the Big Picture in Mind. The coronavirus is only a few nanometers in size and yet it’s wreaking havoc upon the mightiest of people and has brought the mightiest countries in the world to their knees. The irony should not be too hard to grasp and we should all remember how many miraculous things we have going for us. Just consider it for a moment how good life is: If you’re reading this, you have electricity and most likely clean water and food. Presumably someone shared this link with you which means that people care about you and the people you’ll share this link with are people you care about too. Remember how blessed you are and with God’s help we will all get through this alive and well.

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