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COVID-19 Pandemic
My Experience with Self-Isolation

Image of colourful game pieces. One is shielded alone under a glass bell.
©tillburmann via Pixabay

A few weeks ago, Lebanon confirmed the first case of COVID-19. As the number of cases started increasing, the government recommended to close public places and asked businesses to operate remotely. I began to work from home, my daily routine suddenly changing. Feelings of anxiety and stress snuck up on me. For the sake of my mental and physical wellbeing, I needed to adapt.

By Youssef Karaki

As a public health officer in a research company, I usually work full time from 9 am to 6 pm on weekdays. This routine has been comfortable for someone like me, who is interested in building a career and improving his skills. I wake up every day at 7 am, pet my cat, wash my face, brush my teeth, and get dressed for work. I make sure to prepare my own healthy lunch, then drive my car to work. I am a cheerful person to work with. I greet all my colleagues before I sit down at my desk and start working, trying my best to maintain a positive attitude. Every day, we sit together during our lunch break, chat, laugh, and discuss health-related topics.

The Beginning of My Self-Isolation: Anxiety, Stress, and Bad Habits

A few weeks ago, Lebanon detected the first case of COVID-19. As the number of infections started increasing, the government recommended to close public places and asked businesses to operate remotely. I, too, began to work from home, my comfortable daily routine suddenly changing. I struggled with the new situation. The government urged everyone to self-isolate, to stay home, and only go out if urgently necessary. As a citizen and healthcare professional, I felt responsible to follow the recommendations. First, I told myself it would only be for a few days, so I was careless about my schedule and did not bother to create a new routine. Being an emotional eater, I started eating up to ten meals a day, snacking most of the time without paying attention to the quality of food. In addition, I began feeling anxious and stressed; I was tired most of the time and took several naps per day. All those bad habits distracted me from my work tasks and affected my productivity.

Being at home twenty-four seven for ten days was not easy; it had an impact on my physical and mental health. I was in low spirits and gained three kilograms. Therefore, after realising that this situation might go on for weeks, if not months, I began to make some changes.

How I Overcame the Negativity

In an uncomfortable situation like this, it is only normal to feel down and anxious. But what if there were ways you could make yourself feel much better? As a coping mechanism, I drew up a list of things that I liked or wanted to do: food I enjoy, books to read, series to watch – even some adult movies I could enjoy (hey, if not now, when!). My list is becoming longer and longer every day. It is comforting to think about what I like to do and what makes me happy.

Luckily, I have started ticking those boxes, and not only does this fill me with a sense of accomplishment for experiencing any one of these new things, but also for generally adapting better to a difficult situation. My mood has indeed changed for the better.

Sticking to a Schedule: Working Hours and Me Time

I have created a new daily schedule, wrote it on a piece of paper, and fixed it to the wall of my room. My new routine starts at 8 am, then follows my usual morning activities. I even wear the same clothes that I used to wear for work; this restores some of the comfort I would feel if things were back to normal. I am back to eating a healthy breakfast, which consists of milk and cereal or a light cheese sandwich with a lot of vegetables. Later, I sit on my desk at home and do my routine office work, from research, data analysis to report writing. Just like I used to do in the office, I take a one-hour break to have my lunch while socialising with my friends online. My healthy lunch usually contains low-fat meat, rice or pasta, cooked vegetables, and a big bowl of salad. After that, I go back to work and finish at 6 pm. I shut my laptop with a satisfying thud, in order to remind myself that work is now over.

My “me time” starts with focusing on my health: I put on my sportswear to exercise on my treadmill for one hour, followed by stretching exercises and some yoga, for which I follow the instructions from Youtube videos. Staying fit is essential during this period; daily physical activity helps me maintain a healthy bodyweight, keeps me in shape, improves my physical health and my mental wellbeing. Afterwards, I take a warm shower while listening to music, which relaxes me. Then I put on my pyjamas to mark the end of the day and start of my nightly rituals. Once I finish those, I prepare a healthy dinner, which is usually porridge with fruits. After that, I check the daily updates about COVID-19 in the world and what the new recommendations of the World Health Organisation are. Before I go to bed, I watch an episode of the TV show “Friends”. I laugh so loudly, my neighbours can probably hear me! It fills my mind with positive thoughts. Finally, I talk to my friends and relatives to make sure they are ok and then sleep tight next to my cat.

Image of the author, Youssef Karaki, a man with short dark hair and a beard. Youssef Karaki | ©Privat I am sharing this to say please be responsible: Isolate yourself, if you are able to do so, not just for the sake of your own health, but that of the people around you. Make sure to always share your feelings with the people you love, the people who care about you, and encourage others to do the same.

You are going to struggle at first, but you will adapt. Always remember that nothing is impossible.