The Daily Tar Heel
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The Daily Tar Heel

Editorial: Quarantine state of mind

Going on a walk is one way to keep yourself occupied during quarantine as long as social distancing is maintained.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, America’s physician and face of the COVID-19 response, is about the closest our country has ever been to having a superhero. Not only is he putting in 19-hour work days, day in and day out, but this isn’t even his first time staring down a pandemic! 

Fauci’s tireless commitment to the American people is nothing short of outstanding, and we hope he gets the honor he deserves after this pandemic ends. But, it's also important to remember that we can't all be like Anthony Fauci.

It’s easy to look at his example and think, “Wow, I’m reading this at 3:00 p.m. and I haven’t left my bed yet, I suck!” In fact, most of us only leave bed to refill our coffee cup. The desire to berate ourselves for not being hyper-productive within the comfort of our own homes is overwhelming. As the media highlights the stories of the incredibly brave first responders fighting off this pandemic, that inclination only grows.

However, odds are, if you’re reading this, you are not a medical worker or a first responder. You are not responsible for coordinating the nation’s response to one of the worst crises in living memory. No one lives or dies because you decided to binge watch all the seasons of Gossip Girl in two sittings.

Our aversion to leisure has been conditioned from day one. Our lives are given meaning by our work and accomplishments. We're told that we live in a meritocracy, and if we’re not getting ahead, then we're falling behind. 

Though we know that this isn’t necessarily true, and it’s a good thing to be praised for hard work, what happens when the desire to work prevents you from ever stopping? 

The COVID-19 quarantine might be the first time college students have had the opportunity to take a breather, and we don’t need to feel guilty about it. Take the time to do things for yourself: Read a fantasy novel, watch a sappy TV show, take a walk, learn a new skill or hobby for sheer entertainment. Now is the time to do things that won't add another line item to our resumes.

The key to benefiting from this quarantine is to let go of the inner desire to work to get ahead. The idea that we should all be working 19-hour days is a fallacy, and it's unsustainable. 

This is the first time that many of us have had the freedom to spend our days however we choose. Our responsibilities have been all but eliminated. Our plans have been eradicated. The future is uncertain. 

Although that might be intimidating, it doesn’t mean we can't find silver linings. Most of us find the uncertainty to be anxiety-inducing, and it takes concentrated effort to snap out of that frame of mind. But it is well worth it. For one thing, it will make the quarantine much more bearable. Like it or not, we are in this for the long-haul. 

This is not to say that you should do absolutely nothing of value. But, rather, to do things that aren't a sneaky value-add to some job opportunity years down the line. Do things that will add to your personal capital. 

Do things that strengthen your body. Do things that increase your mindfulness. Do things that make you feel better and more comfortable. Even when it feels like time is being wasted, in reality, it is just being used for a different purpose.

The road ahead will be hard, we all know that. Our mental and physical health will be strained, and the end will remain uncertain until we get there. So, instead of prioritizing productivity, let's put empathy, creativity and self care at the top of our to-do lists.

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