Photo by Edwin Hooper on Unsplash
Episode 88—How to Survive a Quarantine

The above podcast episode is our silly and beer-fueled version of how to survive a quarantine. They say laughter is the best medicine, so you should probably download our podcast and take a long and giggly walk out in nature. The actual advice is scattered throughout the podcast, but I decided to expand it into a short blog post below.

I hope you are remembering to not only stay thunky, but to also spread the thunk to people in need—aka send the podcast to others who might enjoy a laugh in these challenging times!

If you enjoy our blog/podcast, I hope you'll consider supporting us on Patreon by clicking here.

The coronavirus pandemic is a weird time for everyone. Most locations are in some kind of a lockdown, and almost all businesses are either closed or forcing people to work from home. The quarantine is approaching the three-week mark, and all signs point to the fact that it will continue indefinitely.

That’s a long time to be stuck at home, and even with all the distractions of modern life—Netflix, HBO, cute puppy videos, etc—it’s easy to get a bit stir-crazy. If you’re trapped with other people, you might be getting at each other’s throats. And if you’re stuck at home alone, you might be having the opposite problem.

So with all the stress and uncertainty surrounding this current time, it’s easy to react negatively. It’s an unfortunate truth that being negative is much easier than being positive. It’s easier to eat crappy/processed foods than it is to prepare fresh and healthy meals. It’s easier to have a cranky attitude than it is to have an energetic and positive one. And most importantly, it’s easier to frame yourself as some kind of victim in this; “what an inconvenience this is—it’s preventing me from accomplishing what I wanted to this spring”.

But there is another way to frame this situation. In fact, there is always an alternate way of framing anything. This concept is central to the philosophy of Stoicism, a philosophy that I’ve been benefiting from over the past year. I recently finished the famous Meditations by Marcus Aurelius, and I wrote an article about how his advice can help you to reframe and endure difficult times:

7 Quotes By Marcus Aurelius To Guide You Through Difficult Times

In addition to Marcus Aurelius, I have also started reading William Irvine’s A Guide to the Good Life during this lockdown. It is all about applying Stoic wisdom in your daily life, and the timing could not be better.

In Stoicism, emphasis is placed on separating the data that our senses take in from the judgment that our minds place on it. Our suffering does not come from the external world but instead comes from our internal framing of the world. In a sense, Stoicism is about one single difference in how to frame life: are you viewing something as a blessing or as a curse? 

So in the spirit of viewing this quarantine as a blessing, here are six practical ways to use your extra time positively—to come out of this experience a better person.

1. Exercise and Outdoor Activities

This one seems obvious, but we humans are great at ignoring obvious things. And when we’re feeling down in the dumps, it’s easy to neglect the things that would snap us out of the negative mood. When we’re feeling bad, it’s almost like some part of ourselves wants to stay in a negative mood.

Exercise has always been my go-to way of snapping out of a negative mood. Whatever your fitness level is, there is an amount of exercise that would get you outside of your comfort zone. I am writing this in a great mood because I just returned from a long run. It included many challenging hills and I feel like a different person.

Before the run, I was feeling cramped in my apartment and irritable towards the world. It only took thirty minutes of running to let go of that energy and find a positive outlook towards the day. Exercise will decrease your stress and release endorphins that make you feel happier.

To put it bluntly, exercise will make you feel less like a piece of shit.

It can be hard to work out from home, but Joe from our podcast wrote an article about the creative (or crazy?) method of luggage workouts that he is using to keep in shape during the quarantine:

Luggage Workout During Coronavirus

Even if hardcore exercise isn’t your thing, get out in nature and take a walk. Breathe deeply and feel that you are a part of nature—you are a small part of the bigger picture. Get to a beach and see the water or go on a hike through the forest.

Keep your social distance from the other monkey humans, but get into nature and feel that you are connected to everyone and everything else.

2. Learn a new skill with your extra time, don’t just waste it.

This is something that I’ve been telling all of my music students during our online lessons. For my purposes as a teacher, I am trying to convince them to practice their instruments while stuck at home. I’m unfortunately not surprised that even in quarantine the students are just as skilled at avoiding practicing. They’re also just as skilled at inventing reasons for why they didn’t practice.

But the truth is we all have more time at home, and we should use that time wisely. Learn a new musical instrument, or set a goal for one that you already know. Take a game like chess and either learn how to play it or increase your skills to a new level. You can play games of varying lengths online—I used to play on almost every day—and find free educational resources as well.

Or you can learn a new language. There are plenty of free resources all over the internet for this. You can also use a paid service like Babbel or Rosetta Stone to get yourself started. I’ve been learning Turkish for almost four years now, and I’m using this time to try and beef up my skills. I just finished a Netflix series in all Turkish (Atiye) and I surprised myself with how much I was able to understand.

The point is that you want to stimulate your mind with a new skill. It will make it so that each day you respect yourself more and not less.

3. Games and Puzzles

Nothing much to say here. Find games and puzzles that seem interesting to you and your family. The idea here is just to find any activity that isn’t the standard move of binge-watching Netflix or anxiously watching cable news.

Do something real that you can touch—something that will slow down your sense of time and make you connect to the people around you.

4. Be silly/drink a reasonable amount of booze.

“If you can love whoever of your family and friends come through the door; if you can see your neighbors travel to fantastic places without a twinge of jealousy; if you can sleep after a day of running around without a drink or a pill; if you can eat everything that’s put on your plate; if you can find contentment just where you are…you are probably…a dog.”

Jack Kornfield

Being a human is hard, and it’s extra difficult when we’re all stuck at home with our existential thoughts. Booze will help with having fun and being silly, but please don’t drink if you know you’re not supposed to. And don’t abuse alcohol, it just makes it less fun. You’re all adults, so just be smart (short term and long term) with this one and remember that you can be silly and fun with or without alcohol.  

Having said that, beer is my usual drink of choice. I’ve also been having plenty of wine with dinner and the occasional shot of whiskey when the mood strikes. While this quarantine is about our physical health, it’s important to keep a close eye on your mental health as well. I’m lucky enough to live right above my friends and fellow podcasters, so we can regularly drink together and let out steam. 

Our podcast is centered around the silly combination of thinking and drinking—what we now call “thunking”. So with our podcast studio—aka Joe’s bedroom— right downstairs, we have plenty of time to record silly podcasts that keep ourselves sane. 

The point is to figure out a way to take the ridiculousness of this situation lightly. 

Don’t take your safety lightly, but generally have a less serious approach to life. Choose certain nights to let go and party a bit. Laugh a lot and be silly. Be more loving and generous instead of cranky and irritable. 

There are plenty of reasons to be cranky, and I’ve definitely struggled with feeling irritable during this lockdown. The feeling of having no control over your life builds up negative energy inside, and it’s easier to lash out at people rather than getting your energy out in a healthy way. But it’s still not a good excuse.

So cheers! And we hope you’ll consider our ridiculous and silly podcast as a way to get a few stress-relieving laughs. You can laugh at us or with us, we don’t mind either way.

5. Try meditation.

Meditation can be difficult to recommend. It’s easy for people to interpret your recommendation in the wrong way. You can easily come across as an arrogant asshole—a sort of “I have this secret knowledge that you don’t” type of thing.

Let me do it anyway. Use your extra time to give meditation a try.

Meditation, more than anything else, has changed my life for the better. It has given me so much freedom. It won’t magically change your emotions, but it will change the relationship that you have towards them. And there are so many resources specific to this coronavirus pandemic. Many meditation apps are also offering full access for free. 

I most recommend Sam Harris’s Waking Up, and I’ve written a few articles reviewing and praising that app:

Waking Up: 30 Days Using the New Sam Harris Meditation App

The Best Part About the Waking Up Meditation App

More recently I wrote about how meditation is helping me deal with coronavirus anxiety. The truth is you don’t have to meditate. There’s so much material adjacent to meditation—thought experiments, tools, and frames of thinking—that you can connect to without actually practicing. They will help you process whatever difficult emotions this pandemic is bringing up.

With or without meditating, at least consider reflecting on something that I think of as the most important skill in meditation: embracing uncertainty.

In normal life, you might be able to fool yourself that you’re in complete control. But you aren’t. Embracing uncertainty and insecurity means that you stop trying to fight it and just find peace with it. It’s such a relief when you can manage to do that.

6. Take extra care with food and drink.

Having this extra time at home is a great excuse to up your kitchen game. Try new recipes and push your boundaries. Try to make pasta at home instead of using the boxed stuff. Make a fancy cocktail for your designated party night. 

Or you can up your coffee game. Order some specialty coffee and try some new brewing methods. I personally love to make a pour-over coffee in the morning. It’s a slow, quiet, and mindful time. And when I nail the extraction, it really energizes my day in a positive direction. 

Enjoy the process of making a delicious and healthy meal. Enjoy a nice glass of wine while making the meal and while eating it. Research where the wine came from and learn something about it. Contrast it with a different style next time and try to notice the differences.

The point here is to take the things that you normally do in a rush and make them slower and more thoughtful. What’s the point of taking a shortcut if you aren’t in a rush? Time is weirdly moving both fast and slow right now, but I prefer it to be slow on my terms.

So find ways to do that. And the momentum of doing things more thoughtfully will spread into other areas of your life as well. This is really just giving yourself permission to slow down and be more present. You’ll get better results and it’s just more enjoyable.

Thanks for reading, and I hope these tips were helpful. Stay safe out there, and leave some comments with the fun ways that you are surviving quarantine life! 

If you enjoy our blog/podcast, I hope you'll consider supporting us on Patreon by clicking here.