Thoughts from COVID-19—Next year, and the importance of mental health during isolation

Thinking through what it means to be back at home and creating a new normal.
April 4, 2020

It’s safe to say that no one planned for 2020 to be this much of a crazy ride. At first, it was like watching a car accident happen as you drive by on the highway. It was horrible, it was affecting a lot of people in serious ways, but we had the luxury of slowing down, taking a look, and continuing on with our lives, unaffected. Then, BAM, the entire highway closed down. Now, this has us all feeling a lot of different emotions, which have evolved over the weeks since this pandemic first reared its ugly head. First, it was a distant threat, then it was a mild inconvenience, and now it is something very real, where we know people who are directly affected.

What I lay out here are some of the things that I am feeling in an effort to engage YOU, the reader, in conversation. I’d like to hear about what you’ve been feeling, even if some of it feels petty or insignificant in the face of a very serious and real threat to millions of lives.

Should we make plans for the near future?

No one is clear on exactly how long all of this will last. Rather than admit that outright, a hopeful mix of estimates and lockdown deadlines keep getting pushed further and further back. As of three weeks ago, our creative agency was looking forward to our first international reunion. We’ve been working together for over a year at this point, but we have not yet had the luxury of all working in the same place in the same time zone. Pretty crazy, right?

The question has become, do we continue with our plans in the face of this pandemic? Do we purchase tickets and reserve places to stay, and hope that we can be refunded when the time comes around and this global pandemic is still restricting social gatherings and travel?

I don’t have an answer to this, but I can tell you where I’m at on the topic… Let’s wait and see. I think this philosophy is one that can be extended to so many different facets of business and personal life. It seems foolish to expect things to change in the next month, even as a conservative estimate. We’d like to pretend that this will all blow over in a couple more weeks once this famous curve has flattened, but I think it’s safe to say that even after that, we’re all going to have to be careful. If we go out and celebrate triumph as we did after World War II.

I think it’s safe to say that our flattened curve would be back on the rise in no time. So, when the curve flattens, we’ll likely then have to wait another 2 weeks (probably more) before we can come out from our caves.

So, if you want my two cents, plan on doing something close to home this summer. Luckily there are lots of options to plan on with your quarantine buddies or a few other people. We will have to save our bigger adventures, reunions, and gatherings for next year. Trust me, I know that stinks, but hey… boohoo, we can’t go to Europe this year, life goes on and as long as we and our loved ones are safe, that should be enough. That being said, I know there are folks that were planning on getting married this summer or maybe you’re far away from your loved ones and you long to be with them … for those people I don’t want to make light of your situation. This situation is s@#%t.

When 'wait and see' won't cut it

So, it’s week number who-knows-what, and we’re still having to quarantine and continue a lifestyle of isolation for an indeterminate amount of time. If you read the section above, it seems like the only logical response is to put off making decisions about the future, because there’s just an utter lack of reliable information. That’s not to say everything should be ‘wait and see’, especially as it pertains to your everyday life.

If you’re anything like me, you may already be fed up with the ‘things to do while in quarantine’ posts…except for the amazing posts you’ve been reading from the 409 Co team of course 😉. Different things work for different people, and maybe such strategies are the only things keeping you from losing your mind through all of this. Those live streams of zoos, those free yoga classes you can do at home—there are a lot of great resources to help make social isolation a little bit less painful. Personally, it has been absolutely critical to get some sort of exercise during this time. On days where I’m depressed and lonely and just want to curl into a ball and sleep through all of this, it’s that exercise routine or a jog around the block that keeps me sane and participatory in our new, very virtual society.

I feel very fortunate that my work-from-home lifestyle is one I had prior to the pandemic. However, not going out and playing soccer, going to the gym, and having all those little conversations with all those people in my life, has made me realize how important those conversations truly are to my mental health. In turn, I have learned that there are no small people in my life, and to be thankful for all the kindness I receive from each person I interact with on a daily basis.

Sure, maybe we’re all having epiphanies kind of like this one, which may make us better people once this all blows over. Others are coming to less poetic realizations while in quarantine… like, how the hell did I ever stand interacting with my quarantine buddy before all of this? Or I can’t stand how self-centered my roommate is! To my roommates reading this, no… this is not directed at you, I love you all… for now. These thoughts, once they pop into your head are things that you shouldn’t let simmer, because once you begin to ruminate, you’ll only find more and more evidence as to why you are right about everything.

There’s no silver bullet for maintaining good relationships. It takes work. When you’re in such close quarters, you need to be careful about how you deal with interpersonal problems. I guess my main advice to you is: communicate. No, don’t yell at them and don’t leave passive-aggressive notes—these are tried and true ways of making things worse. Try to be upfront about what your expectations are for hygiene or food sharing, and try to come to an understanding that works for both of you. Sure, that’s easier said than done, and depending on your situation there are next steps that you could take. Mainly, don’t let these things get worse by not addressing them. Family dynamics or roommate dynamics are a minefield under ideal circumstances, and we’re certainly not living in ideal conditions right now. Remember, although it may feel like it, YOU ARE NOT ALONE.

If a silver bullet does exist, it would be reaching out to a qualified mediator or mental health professional. These people aren’t on the frontline of this pandemic, but they’re absolutely available for phone calls to help you work through these problems that you may be dealing with. As luck would have it, the Brief Therapy Center has a network of qualified professionals trained in the Problem-Solving Model of Brief Therapy. These therapists have worked for years in understanding systemic thinking, which is to say they can help you come up with uniquely tailored solutions to your interpersonal problems.

Reach out and make sure to advocate for yourself and for what you need right now. Sure, we can’t go outside, but there are lots of resources and people that are here to support you from afar.

Oh, and give your grandma a call. I’m sure she’d love to hear from you.

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Note from the editor: a photo was removed from the original version of this note that showed a Navy sailor kissing a woman at the end of WWII. We were informed of the complex history of the photo and decided to remove it from the note.

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Contributed by:
Andreas Winsberg
Co-Founder and Strategy Director
Proud Alum of Haverford College, where I met Co-Founder Stephen Davis. I'm a lover of nature, food, friends and travel in no particular order. I believe quality design is equal parts collaboration, communication and empathy.
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