Quarantine Thoughts: Are you stressing yourself out?

April 23, 2020

By Boyuan Gao

What is happening right now?

We’re now more than a month deep into this pandemic, at least here in the U.S, and depending on whoever your governor is. For me, a month seems like it should be enough time to settle into a new routine, find my stride, even some pep, right? But this shit…this is some other shit. I’m still trying to figure out how to wake up at the same time every morning or remember to simply eat. It’s hard to find the grace in this disconcerting reality, especially on the backdrop of a “work hard, play hard,” social norm, on top of the greater and more ominous backdrop of “we don’t know what the hell the world is going to look like once the dust settles.” 

That seems like quite the paradox, so how are any of us supposed to know how to prioritize our time? 


What can we do?

We are (by default) folding our old-world norms into the making of an unknown future. 

There’s a particular way it’s playing out for ambitious millennial women in my immediate circle – women who are used to being on-point, getting ish done, running businesses or in highly demanding careers, who are now contending with job loss, sudden purposelessness, and even dealing with friends and family who are getting sick, or worse. Rather than taking a moment to feel all of the feelings, there’s an unrelenting forward propelling energy to: apply for unemployment & federal business grants, volunteer at the local hospital, sew copious face masks, start new businesses, while attending 10 webinars a day, and checking in and providing guidance to every single family member, ex, colleague or friend. 

Everything feels crazy, right?

I don’t know about you, but that seems like a recipe for a complete mental breakdown, and spiritual implosion, but it’s hard to not do it. 

I’ve been asking myself why I can’t stop doing stuff. Maybe it’s wishful thinking that things will go back to “normal” and I’ll be well-positioned and ahead of the game (always with that capitalist thinking cap on for that sweet competitive edge). Maybe it’s an addiction to control. Since I don’t know what the hell is happening around me, I might as well hyper control every damn thing to feel like my life is meaningful. That’s better than not doing anything, right? RIGHT?!

soul searching

What does soul-searching look like?

Through some deep and soulful chats with friends, it’s clear that so many of us are in this sludge of emotional murkiness in the messy in-between of existential and deeply personal questioning. As a result, what I’m finding is that many of us are doing too many things, with very little focus. 

We’re mostly doing it because we think we should. 

We’re mostly doing-the-most, to prevent from feeling like we’re doing-the-least. Sound familiar? 

What’s right and what’s wrong here?

There’s no right answer to what folks are supposed to be doing right now. Learn how to code or hone your photoshop skills if it provides a good creative outlet for you. But also, sleep for 10+ hours a night if you need to play catchup after years of hustling your ass off. If you find purpose in sewing up 1000 facemasks and donating them to your local community center, DO THAT! If you need to be inward and being on 20 Zoom calls a week doesn’t work for you, then it simply doesn’t work for you. 

There’s so much pressure to be altruistic, giving, generous and charitable right now – but much of it is from a fear of looking like we’re not doing enough – i.e. not being enough. And you know what? That’s an old-ass story, especially for women, and especially for women of color. So, I’m going to urge us to take on another way of being. 


How can you check in with yourself?

The key here is to actually check in with yourself. Put your damn phone down for a hot minute. Take a deep breath. Feel the air on your skin. Feel your actual body. Maybe you get there through a guided meditation. Maybe you get there through looking out the window and slowing down to the speed of the tree down the block that is moving ever so slightly with the breeze. That’s the frequency of nature and the speed in which you can actually feel your intuition. 

What arises when you eliminate all of the bells and whistles? Is it sadness? Is it grief? Gratitude? Anxiety? A little bit of all of the above? Let that guide you out of what you need to be doing right now, and into what it is that you need


What is the opportunity?

At this moment, we have a great opportunity to resist the pull toward urgency and action-for-action-sake and reimagine how we can best utilize our efforts/gifts toward a more sustainable and workable world, whether that’s our micro-world around us or something for the greater good. The truth is that this global situation we’re in is going to be a longish-term one. Let’s not exhaust our reserves in the first sprint. 

What’s your experience been like? What tools and tips can you share from what’s working for you? Please reach out 🙂 

Until next time, 

Boyuan Gao

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