How to stay present if we are sent to the quarantine camp?
Some people were sent to the quarantine camp due to the confirmed cases of variant new coronavirus recently. Without both physical and psychological preparation, some of them may experience anxiety, anger or sadness due to the adjustment issues during the quarantine period. Besides, some people may also experience similar negative emotions during quarantine in the hotels when they came to Hong Kong from foreign countries. A client of mine reported having difficulty to concentrate for normal activities during his 21-day quarantine in the hotel. He experienced frequent panic-like symptoms and ruminated about the risk of being sent to quarantine camp again after the 21-day. Due to his anxiety and ruminations, he cannot function properly for online meetings for work as well as for leisure activities, such as exercising or reading.
It is inevitable for some of us to have some ruminations when being isolated in the quarantine camp. We may be preoccupied with our inability to cope with such a long stay or our worry about different aspects in our lives. In fact, we tend to attach to our worries as the reality. For instance, when my client worried about the possibility to be sent to quarantine camp again after he completed the 21-day stay in the hotel due to another case of variant new coronavirus, he attached to this content of his worry so much that he felt the probability of his worry was very high. He also attached to his worry about the possible downturn of his business due to his absence from the office for three weeks. When we focus on the content of our worries, we tend to see them as real. As a result, we are being totally absorbed by our ruminations. Another way of seeing our ruminations is to see ourselves as an observer of our mental experience. In this way, we exist as a sort of observer watching our experience. For instance, through cultivating mindfulness, my client can learn to be an observer of his worries and see his thoughts just as mental events.
In fact, being an observer of our mental experience helps us to be more present and be less ruminative. It is because we are being able to notice the contents of our worries as not being the same as our reality. By observing our worries come and go, we stay in the present moment. Futhermore, we can also embrace our anxiety, anger or sadness with self-compassion. That is, being able to surf with our negative emotions and to sooth and comfort ourselves. Without an obsession to get rid of the negative emotions during quarantine as soon as possible, we can act as an observer of our emotions and be kind to ourselves. For example, my client can pracitce mindfulness meditation for approaching his anxiety during his quarantine. When he was being able to approach his anxiety without judgment, it was more likely that he could sooth himself with different activities. By approaching his anxiety, he may find that the anxiety may subside itself gradually. As a result, he gradually was more present in his stay in the hotel. He was able to do some planning for his business as well as exercise and read.
To stay present during our quarantine experience is definitely not easy. With self-compassion and cultivation of mindfulness, we can learn to be an observer of our experience so that we can be more present.