12 Lessons From Quarantine

Despite how difficult the last few months have been, there are some positive takeaways.

By THE WELL Editorial Team
woman doing yoga at home

Think back to the start of 2020 — January, or even the end of February. Just a few months ago, a near-total shutdown of society would have been unfathomable. Now, anxiety-tinged grocery store trips, constant hand-sanitizing, and masks as a necessary part of daily wardrobing are the norm... at least for the foreseeable future.

Even as the world reopens, the trauma of catastrophic losses and the ongoing uncertainty persist. But amid the heaviness there have been some uplifting observations about how our former lives weren’t serving us as optimally as we may have thought. Below, THE WELL staff share some realizations you may relate to. 

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1. Waiting For a Special Occasion is Overrated 

In your pre-COVID life, how often did you tell yourself you’d do or try something new “one day”? That "I have all the time in the word" attitude shifted for a lot of people when they quickly realized that life is fragile and the future isn't guaranteed. 

In fact, every day is an opportunity for celebration or adventure. “During quarantine, some friends of mine had a black-tie dinner,” says Editorial Assistant Caitlin Kilgore. “The whole family got dressed up, lit candles, drank expensive wine and had their own little banquet.” In other words, don't save the fine china — literally and metaphorically! — for an event that might never arrive. “When you have a chance to do something, or go somewhere, do it,” adds Seane Marie Faulkner, VP of Product Innovation. Take the trip, go on the date, eat the cookie, wear your favorite shoes and seize as many "special" moments as you can. 

2. The Environment Can Heal — If  We Let It

During the global slowdown there were drastic improvements in the environment. The smog has lifted in Los Angeles, for instance, while residents of a small city in northern India caught their first glimpse of the Himalaya mountains in 30 years. “In terms of a shift or a change that really happened overnight, this has been unprecedentedly dramatic,” climate expert Lauri Myllyvirta told TIME. Scientists warn that it won’t last if we revert back to old habits, but it’s a glimpse at the potential for a greener, cleaner world.

Hopefully, some newfound eco-friendly habits, like riding a bike versus driving to run local errands, stick. Some cities in Europe have added miles of bike lanes so that commuters have options other than public transportation when it comes time to return to the office. Consider what steps you can take to continue to help the environment heal. A few ideas to get you started can be found here

3. We Don’t Need Much “Stuff” To Be Happy

With “non-essential” stores closed, we realized what really is essential. As Todd Allen, a Mindful Movement instructor, put it: "I have way too much stuff; I can live happily and well with a lot less." Faulkner adds: “I've learned how little I need to make me happy, and how important it is to stay connected to people we love.”

I have way too much stuff; I can live happily and well with a lot less.

4. Cooking at Home is Healthy and Satisfying

Living in New York City, it’s easy to outsource every meal — from grab-and-go salads at lunch to delivery for dinner. But when most restaurants went dark during the quarantine period, most people were forced to cook at home more often. As a result, we expanded our recipe repertoires, saved money and enjoyed the benefits of knowing what was going into our food — and that's always healthier. In fact, research shows that sharpening your culinary skills can improve your nutrition. 

That still holds true, even if not every meal is virtuous. The nationwide bake-a-thon of sourdough and banana bread that popped up on IG gave rise (pun intended!) to some surprising insights. As Valerie Oula, Director of Vibrational Energy Healing, notes: “Simple ingredients are miraculous. If things get sticky, that’s okay. Patience is key. Rest is best. The longer it takes, the better it tastes.” 

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5.  FOMO is a Thing of The Past

When all of your friends are hunkered down at home just like you, there's nothing to miss out on — and that is freeing. This period of time has also been especially beneficial for those of us who have been socialized to be givers and people-pleasers, says Lia Avellino, LCSW, Director of Head & Heart. "It can help us remember the importance of saying ‘yes’ to yourself and ‘no’ to what others want from you — more often.”

6. Quality Time — With Ourselves and Our Family — Shouldn't Be Rare or Rushed  

It’s kind of crazy that we needed a global pandemic to remind us how nice it feels to simply take some time for ourselves — and for that time to be more than a fleeting moment. “Whether that's a bath at night by myself or taking my dog Harper for a long walk, I've found it very important to schedule time for just me,” says Krista Fontana, Membership and Community. 

Similarly, we don’t need to be busy all the time. “I've learned that it's okay to not be multi-tasking constantly — checking off my to-do list, trying to watch TV while working, having tons of plans,” says Nikki Desai, VP of Digital. "I've learned to just be, which has been great — still hard, but I’m learning! I even went as far as laying on my roof and watching the clouds roll by for 15 minutes, which was really nice."

For those who bolted from their small city spaces to return home, The Great Pause also allowed for more quality time with loved ones. “Since I’ve been living back at home, I’ve had time to truly learn who my dad is now and to get to know my 17-year-old brother in a different way,” says Devin Bowman, Digital Marketing Manager. 

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7. Our Immune System Needs Holistic TLC

We've learned more about immunity and how our immune system works than maybe ever before. We started to follow advice from experts like Dr. Frank Lipman, our Chief Medical Officer, to improve our immune response — like getting enough sleep, staying hydrated, downing ginger juice and taking supportive supplements, just to name a few. We also re-learned the importance of washing our hands (for at least 20 seconds) and using hand sanitizer more frequently, which we hope will continue to keep us well, pandemic or no pandemic.

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8. We're More Adaptable Than We Think

While it may not have been easy, we managed to adjust to completely unprecedented circumstances — and we'll recalibrate again as we begin to re-emerge. “I’m amazed by the ability of my brain to effectively adapt to shocking new circumstances,” says Locke Hughes, Deputy Editor. “I went from having a jam-packed schedule, living in New York City and managing my own life, to going to stay at my parents’ home where I hadn’t lived since I was 17 years old. The initial shift was really rocky, and I desperately missed elements of my ‘old life,’ but after a few weeks, I got used to — and began to enjoy — living under my parents’ roof again. Then it was hard to imagine going back to my own apartment!”

This period has also coaxed us to surrender more easily — and simply let things be. “I'm learning the beauty of loosening your grasp and making room for new beliefs, people and experiences,” says Emily Johnson, Marketing and Mindful Movement. 

When there’s nothing we can do about a situation, it becomes about acceptance—at least until we're able to exert some control over our circumstances once again. 

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We managed to adjust to completely unprecedented circumstances — and we'll recalibrate again as we begin to re-emerge.

9. We Can Stay Connected From a Distance

Staring at the faces of our friends, family members and colleagues through a screen can get really old after awhile (yep, Zoom fatigue is real). And while nothing beats real human interaction, these innovative new ways to connect via technology are worth keeping.

At THE WELL, we experimented with several different ways to keep our team members connected to each other and engaged on Zoom and Google Hangouts — not only through now-ubiquitous Happy Hours, but also through murder mystery games, cooking classes, DJed dance parties and more.

Outside the office, there were FaceTime first dates — some of which actually turned out to be less awkward than  expected! Virtual meet-ups have their limitations (especially when it comes to romantic endeavors), but they can be a sanity-saving stopgap when being in literal touch isn't an option.

10.  WFH Also Stands for Workout From Home

Maybe you were never an at-home workout person before, but chances are good that you've at least tried yoga in your hallway or busted out some cardio bursts in your living room. And by cutting out the commuting time to the gym, it's possible to have shorter, more efficient sweat sessions. “I’ve grown to appreciate the convenience factor of being able to work out right next to the bed when I wake up in the morning,” says Hughes. 

We're working out differently, too. "Right now, I don’t have access to heavier weights (or my trainer!)," says Michele Promaulayko, Editorial Director. "Instead, I set up my mini-trampoline in my apartment so I can do some rebounding, which is great exercise and a great stress reliever. And when I do want to ramp it up, I just put on my bala bangles — you'd be surprised how much harder a cardio workout is with just 1.5 pound weights on each wrist."

Another of Promaulayko's favorites: The variety of Mindful Movement classes at THE WELL, which are part of our Digital Membership

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11. Without Routine, We Need Rituals

While some of us had additional responsibilities during quarantine — hello, homeschooling plus a full-time job — others found they had a lot more time on their hands to pick up new habits and routines. “The part of quarantine that I plan to keep with me during emergence is dedicating time to attend educational workshops and programming,” says Kate Anthony, Executive Support. “With organizations pivoting to digital and on-demand content, I have relished opportunities to lean into my curiosities. This has helped me maintain a beginner's mind in all areas of my life.” 

Staying at home has also allowed us time to stay connected to ourselves through the power of ritual. "Rituals have gotten me through and enabled me to feel empowered and connected," says Raj Barker, Health Coach and Mindful Movement instructor. "Some have been as simple as opening the curtains in the morning to indicate that my day has begun and others have been more about daily nutritional foundations to keep myself healthy." 

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12. We Have More Work To Do 

The pandemic isn’t the only huge shift the world is currently going through: We’re also in the midst of a massive reconciling of long-held racial injustice issues. As a fortuitous side effect of most of us remaining at home, we have found more time to focus on these issues and learn how we can take action in the fight for social justice, perhaps more than we’ve ever had before. 

As Avellino puts it, the pandemic-induced slowing down and turning inward has also empowered her to choose to do more for the world: “I’ve seen how constant motion keeps me within the grip of my own personal traumas as well as white supremacy,” she explains. “Instead of ‘having’ the time, I see that I can ‘choose’ to have the time or not. I know that this is what I need to do in order to honor what my heart responds to by giving myself space to feel, reflect and act with care and intention.” 

We've been able to turn our focus to the things that we have the power to do to affect overarching, and hopefully long-lasting, changes in our society. As an organization, we've solidified our Guiding Principles to work toward wellness equity and created an anti-racist Action Plan. And as individuals, we're vowing to continue to vote, read, watch, learn, unlearn and have hard conversations. (Here’s a working list of anti-racism resources that we’re turning to in our own journey.)

Despite all that we've learned from this time, there are still no easy answers right now, and there’s certainly no clear path toward a more just, equal, and COVID-free world. But by reflecting on what we can take away — and the actions we can take moving forward — we hope we’re forging the way to a brighter future ahead.

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