How to Survive Quarantine Fatigue

We’ve exhausted the Zoom calls, the sourdough starters, the puzzles, and Animal Crossing. We’ve gotten our pandemic puppies and eaten our weight in takeout.

And here we are, a full year of pandemic pandemonium later, theoretically on a home stretch to a “new normal” that seems to keep getting further and further away.

So what now?

Honestly, I haven’t been all that sure.

But after rage-typing for a few hours (it’s my therapy), I put together a little system for intentionally bringing more happiness-inducing elements into your life to combat quarantine fatigue.

Because regardless of your exact situation, I know your life ain’t like it used to be.

How to keep social distancing like you haven’t considered running naked around the block just to feel something

Ignoring that visual…

Imagine, if you will, a zoo.

In this zoo, there’s a tiger pacing back and forth in a confined space. (Sound familiar?)

Now, as a zookeeper, you have a choice. On the one hand, you could choose to throw some meat in pile, maybe clean out the exhibit once in a while, and just do the basics to keep the tiger alive.

But we all saw what happened in Tiger King, right?

Smart zookeepers, on the other hand, know that an important way to keep a tiger happy-and less likely to eat a zookeeper-is to provide enrichment.

At a good zoo, tigers don’t just get a pile of any ol’ meat. They get meat frozen into giant meat-cicles that provide hours of entertainment. They get meat hidden in trees and meat stuffed in toys. They also get jungle gyms and trees and giant balls to play with-anything to mimic the tiger’s natural lifestyle. Zookeepers keep a strict list of enrichment activities that are cycled in and out each day to keep the animals happy and engaged.

Well, guess what? You’re an animal (you sexy tiger, you). And you have to learn to enrich yourself.

But frozen meat probably won’t cut it. And if it does, I don’t want to know.

Luckily, some dude went and compiled the masterlist of human needs. Let’s start there.

How a mid-century psychologist can solve your distancing dilemmas (or pandemic problems, quarantine qualms…)

Abraham Maslow was an American psychologist who’s best known for his Hierarchy of Needs-a pyramid of needs that humans seek to fill throughout their lives. Now, while he believed these needs build on each other, more recent research suggests that it’s not so much a pyramid as merely different categories that humans seek out in whatever order they want. So don’t get too hung up on the pyramid part. But for history’s sake, the hierarchy looked like this:

Each of these categories covers a variety of sub-topics, which look something like this:

Self-actualization: growth and development, morality, creativity, spontaneity, problem-solving, lack of prejudice, acceptance of facts

Esteem: self-esteem, recognition, confidence, achievement, respect

Belonging: friendship, family, intimacy, inclusion

Safety: security, financial stability, shelter

Physiological needs: food, water, sexy sexy times (that’s a technical term), sleep

We are beings with a lot of needs. And throughout our lives, we find ways to fill those needs. Some of those ways are helpful. Some of them are harmful. And some of them used to be helpful but are now potentially harmful. Exhibit A: Hugging your friends. (What a world, I know.)

Right now, most of us have needs that are not being adequately fulfilled. And when it gets bad enough, that’s when the last thread snaps and we get super sad/stressed/angry and seek to end the icky feelings as quickly as possible… which usually involves some crappy decisions.

But it doesn’t have to get to that point. Instead, let’s get proactive and find new ways to meet those needs-preferably before you throw a party with 20 of your closest friends.

Think of Maslow’s hierarchy as your zookeeper chart

What is your inner tiger missing? Your goal is to come up with the Frozen Meat Activity List: Human Edition.

I’ve found it helpful to examine each hierarchy category in-depth and ask three questions:

  1. Are there any needs in this category that aren’t being met in my life?
  2. If so, what are the ways I’ve filled that need in the past (good and bad)?
  3. How might I fill this need in new, creative ways (that won’t, you know, endanger my loved ones or society at large?)

It’s ultimately a brainstorming exercise.

My hope is that you’ll spend time examining your needs and coming up with your own ideas for fulfilling them. But to make this a bit more tangible, here are some of the thoughts from my own exploration:

As I’m sure is the case for many others, my “love and belonging” category is in a sorry state. A lack of clarity around my work and career has caused some decent erosion in “esteem,” and since I have a lot of ambitions and desired experiences that aren’t possible right now, “self-actualization” has taken a hit too.

Belonging

I used to fill this through…

  • Dining out and doing art with friends
  • Sunday night dinners with the family
  • Being a part of the copywriting community
  • Spending time with my husband (which I still do, of course, but this is not enough on its own)

New ways I can fill this need include…

  • Virtual game days with the family (Codenames is a board game we love that’s totally free online!)
  • Virtual art happy hours with friends
  • Calling my parents at least once a week
  • Planning fun at-home date nights with my husband
  • Streaming on Twitch or Facebook Live (I streamed my drawing process on Twitch for a week and it was so fun!)
  • Forming a virtual book club with some friends

Self-actualization

I used to fill this through…

  • Developing my writing business (which isn’t limited by social distancing, but is something I’m no longer pursuing in the same way)
  • Experiencing more of the world through travel, cultural events, etc.

New ways I can fill this need include…

  • Picking up new hobbies (so far I’ve learned to crochet and gotten halfway through refurbishing a table built by my great-great-grandfather)
  • Engaging in my existing interests as much as possible (these currently include writing and drawing)
  • Continuously committing to being fully present, which is a spiritual/mental practice that does wonders for my mental health
  • Going on totally self-contained camping trips
  • Ordering a ton of library books on any topic that catches my fancy

Esteem

I used to fill this through…

  • Attending conferences
  • Helping clients and seeing the results of my efforts
  • Wearing my best outfits to professional events

New ways I can fill this need include:

  • Accepting that life changes often come with a messy middle and trusting myself to figure it out
  • Doing things that make me feel like the master of my domain instead of feeling out of control (this means cleaning the damn bathroom already, Jessie)
  • Dressing well even if the only people who will see me are my husband and the grocery curb pickup guy (But this may backfire. My last grocery pickup led to a 10-minute conversation with some college kid who probably thought I was a fellow teen hitting on him. I’M SORRY. I WAS STARVED FOR SPONTANEOUS CONVERSATION AND I FORGET EVERYONE THINKS I’M 16 WHEN I’M WEARING A MASK.)

Once you have a list, make a plan to implement the new practices pronto. Get it in your calendar, set reminders-whatever keeps you doing stuff normally, I guess. I don’t need to tell you what to do. But do it!

I’ll leave you with the words I keep repeating to myself:

It’s time to stop dwelling on what you can’t do and focus on what you can.

(Because there IS a whole lot that you can do.)

(You can make it through this.)

(I love you k bye.)

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Originally published at https://jessierlewis.com on March 4, 2021.

Writer, YouTuber, (aspiring) cosplayer. Subscribe to my emails to learn how to build a following around what you love → https://bit.ly/2ClDIFT

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