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Coronavirus Quarantine: We’ve Been There. This is How We Got Through It

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Novel coronavirus Covid-19 has been grabbing headlines since it spread beyond its epicenter of Hubei province, in central China. As its numbers skyrocket in the EU — and steadily climb in countries such as the US — many are being asked to go into a self-quarantine situation for the first time in their lives.

While this situation is undoubtedly scary for some, and raising countless questions for others, China has been in this equally unprecedented situation for the past two months. (For context, schools and businesses in many Chinese cities were not asked to close during the 2003 SARS outbreak — to date, many are still closed now. Covid-19 cases also exceeded total SARS cases within a matter of weeks.)

From memes to online streams — and even giant bubble teas — people have been grappling with widespread lockdown and self-isolation in very similar ways to what countries like the US are beginning to experience now. The lockdown divided families and friends at the especially difficult time of the Lunar New Year, one of the most important traditional reunion periods in China.

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On a personal level, as RADII has strived to faithfully cover how China and the world have reacted to this pandemic, most of our staff have also been through some kind of quarantine in the early days of the China-based outbreak (some of us will have gone through multiple, by the time the virus is eventually contained).

We can speak firsthand to the fact that quarantine is a surreal, first-time experience — and one that may impact how industries and individuals interact with one another for years to come.

Below are some of our personal strategies — and tips derived from people’s experiences around China — for coping with coronavirus quarantine.

Get the Facts (and Follow Your CDC)

“Over the last six or so weeks, travel was limited, and many restaurants, bars, museums, public parks and landmarks — anywhere you could find large groups — were asked to close. Even now, the government is still encouraging people to stay indoors whenever possible.

The reason many governments are so adamant about people staying in is because it is likely the best way to help slow down the spread of the virus. Similar to the flu, the virus finds its way into your body by contact and is airborne for a period of time. So if I have to go out, I make a game out of this by pretending that anything I touch in public has wet paint on it. If I pressed the elevator, then checked my phone, then held my laptop — boom, wet paint all over my stuff (and in this case, wet paint = virus).

“So remember to wash your hands and wipe down your phone before you touch your face or go home. Here’s the US CDC guide for some easy best practices you can and should follow daily — because why wouldn’t you?”

— Thanakrit Gu, Visual Editor (and former Doctor)

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Read Trusted Sources (in Moderation)

“Twitter can be a whirlwind of misinformation and rumors at the best of times. In the midst of a pandemic, it can seem tailor-made to feed your anxiety. Breathless 24-hour news coverage is little better.

“At the beginning, I was consuming as much information on the (unpredictable, ever-changing) situation as I could. But I realized that for my own mental wellbeing, it was better to regulate my time on social media and my tracking of the numbers and news stories. It’s of course extremely important to remain informed, but you’ll feel far less anxious if you select a few trusted sources to rely on, and ration your time spent reading them.

“Follow trusted news outlets, follow your government’s official statements and advice, but check in on them periodically, rather than stay glued to them.”

— Jake Newby, Managing Editor

Related:

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Pursue a Passion Project

“Though quarantine can be crushingly uninspiring, being stuck inside for an extended period of time can also be great for getting on top of a side project that you are passionate about.

“Take some time for yourself each day to focus on a creative endeavor. Cook a meal you’ve never made before, set up a TikTok (or Douyin in China) account, sketch, write poetry, or take candid photos of your pets. In China, creatives of all stripes have taken to the Internet to livestream music and host art exhibitions.”

— Bryan Grogan, Culture Editor

Related:

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Take Care of Your (Mental) Health

“In a pandemic situation, maintaining your physical health is paramount. However, something I didn’t anticipate is that once you’ve spent even just a few days in self-quarantine, if you’re anything like me, you find yourself dealing with a noxious mix of boredom, anxiety, and at times, deep sadness and worry. Long stretches of being alone in this environment can take a less-talked about, but equally important, toll on your health. I saw it take an even harder toll on my Chinese friends, many of whom were consuming more news and stories daily about efforts to contain the virus.

“If you are able, make the extra effort to reach out to friends and family to make sure they’re mentally, as well as physically, sound.”

— Mayura Jain, Life Editor

Related:

6 Ways China Has Turned to Tech to Tackle the Coronavirus

Set a Work-from-Home Routine

“Being stuck in a hotel room for 14 days (like I am currently, due to current quarantine regulation in Shanghai), you quickly realize how much your mental state is affected by your physical environment. I often hear that keeping work out of the bedroom and taking walks outside are some of the most effective ways to de-stress.

“In the absence of these methods, you need to create a structured routine with set times for eating, working, and relaxing. Discipline is your only savior when facing the temptation to have 10+ hours of screen time. Pretend you still need to ‘go to work,’ and when you need a break, make it a hard mental reset.

“For me, that means 15 minutes of guided meditation using an app (I use Headspace on my phone), or a 30-minute workout (I search for home workouts on YouTube). These mental resets are especially important at the start of the workday and before bed.”

— Brian Lee, Head of Business Development

Related:

Does Traditional Chinese Medicine Have a Place in a Brand-New Epidemic?

Resist the Urge to “Other” Others

“In this virus-induced climate of fear, we’ve seen an increasing number of stories of people from a number of countries becoming the targets of xenophobia, abuse and violence.

“This does not need to become an ‘us versus them’ situation. A virus knows no borders. More now than ever, we need to show solidarity and stand together!”

— Tanya van Gastel, Marketing Manager

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Don’t Lose Perspective

“It might not seem like it right now, but we will all get through this. We will learn valuable lessons about our global health systems, the dependability of our digital ecosystems, and the toughness of our global communities. In Shanghai, the weather is now beginning to warm up, and cautious citizens are leaving their quarantine situations and going out on the streets again. With everyone’s cooperation, this will be the situation around the world before long.

“During these challenging times, our instinct may be to put on armor, to switch on our defense systems, and especially to blame others for how they are dealing with these emergencies. But what we need most right now is empathy. Don’t lose perspective on the fact that our commonalities are far greater than our differences.”

— Li Zhang, President

Have your own tips and tricks to share for coping with coronavirus quarantine? Leave your thoughts in the comments below.

RADII Staff
RADII (rā'dē-ī') is an independent platform of artists, writers and creators dedicated to sharing vibrant stories from the rarely explored sides of new China.