Finding Balance

Quarantine Coping Skills

We’re saddling up here in northern Italy for week five of school at home and our increasingly-more-locked-down life as I write this. I have friends who have shared daily or weekly posts since COVID-19 hit our area of northern Italy–sharing inspiration, frustration, activities, recipes, educational and cultural resources, and most importantly, humor. I’ve appreciated their insights and wondered how I could add my voice to support others, especially our American friends on the cusp of this experience.

I know absolutely nothing about epidemiology or infectious disease. Please rely on experts for information about that.

What I do know is this: This is your life. What is going on right now in the world is absolutely crazy, but it is just as real as anything and everything else.

Life as a military spouse has given me a lot of practice staying sane, managing information consumption, and maintaining a somewhat normal life when the world at large seems crazy. Case in point: just when I thought my husband’s upcoming retirement from military life was going to allow me to give some of these skills I’ve learned over the years a rest, here I am, engaging every one of these skills to its fullest to cope during a worldwide pandemic. Good thing I appreciate irony.

You don’t get this time back. You have to choose how you will navigate things right now, how you will cope, how you will empower yourself to make the most of a bad situation. You’ll try different things and some of them will work. Some of them won’t. That’s OK.

We are all learning as we go.

Santa Maria della Salute in Venice

Suggestions and Strategies for Coping with Quarantine: Unsolicited Advice from an American in Italy

Social Media

Don’t binge on misery.

Set some limits for yourself on social media consumption. Whether that limit is a time limit, a blood pressure limit, or whatever, find a way to make the most of connecting on social media without being drawn into despair or worry. 

Mute and unfollow friends who are coping in ways that aren’t healthy for you, or who are posting things that make you angry. You have control of your timeline.

Cite Your Sources

Seriously, look ‘em up and cite ‘em.

It is smart to stay informed. It is silly to treat all information equally. A lot of information out there just isn’t trustworthy.

If you share a “fact” please also share the primary source for that fact. Or, at least the “primar-i-est” source you can find. Include a link to or mention of where the information came from. This helps you sort out the true information from the rabble, and it helps me not block you from my news feed.

Clothing Optional

Wear what makes you happy.* 

I get up and put on real clothes every morning. That makes me happy. I have a friend who stays in her pajamas all day. That makes her happy. My son spends his days Google-hangout-ready in pajama pants and a snazzy sweater. That makes him happy. Wear what makes you happy.

*If work or school requires you to be dressed a certain way for a digital meet up, then just please comply for the short time that is required of you. This is a personal pet peeve, which I will cover in detail in the next item on the list… 


It isn’t just you.

This thing that is happening. It is global. Global. That means that it is happening to all of us and we are all doing our best to muddle through. Some of us have been in locations where this has been happening for weeks, some are just feeling the effects of this pandemic now. Wherever you are on that curve, you are not alone. This is something that should comfort you. It is also something you should take into account when you interact with others.

*If you feel like this is the time for you to call out your boss on Twitter for the purpose of publicly hashing out your department’s policy requiring you to wear a shirt to online meetings, then let me be the first to enlighten you that this is actually not the time for that and that you are probably the reason for that policy. I did not investigate the person, department, or institution involved, but I was blown away by a thread on my Twitter feed last week where this was an actual thing. As my local friends and I were reeling from the news of unprecedented deaths in our region, and of doctors making unimaginable choices regarding who to withhold treatment from for lack of resources, and so many people in the United States were waiting for news about whether they would be laid off, some asshat on Twitter was thinking of resigning from his position because he was being asked to wear a shirt to a meeting. (I did not follow my three strikes social media rule that day and wish I would have.) I know we would be overwhelmed if we took on the worry of every region in the world, but a little situational awareness outside of your own bubble will serve you well and keep people from thinking you are a global level jerk.


Everything is perfectly normal.

Narrator: Everything was not perfectly normal.

This isn’t normal. None of it is normal. We all have to adapt right now to a crazy, unimaginable situation. We have to pull together and think of others. We have to take care of ourselves, but also to think of society before ourselves. We can do this. 


Apply grace and understanding liberally to every situation.

*I’m gonna bring up the “don’t wanna wear my shirt” guy again. He’s a good example of where I should step back and offer a little understanding. The situation was new to him. He was probably a little freaked out, and that’s understandable. His department head could very well have been trying to gain some control in a world that seems out of control. Whatever the case, perhaps responding with a little understanding and kindness is a better strategy than calling him an “asshat.” It’s a process for all of us.


Embrace whatever humor gets you through.

Satire, gallows humor, sophomoric jokes…humor is a valuable coping tool.

If all else fails, and you can’t find anything that makes you laugh right now, try watching the video below. Imagine which haircut featured in the video you will give yourself during quarantine. Think about the fact you could dress like any of these people for your next videoconference. Play some music. Get out your old instrument and make some noise—play well or badly, but with heart. Dance—with yourself, with your pet, with your people that are quarantined at home with you.