Self-isolation as a gift, not a grind

Staying home is not only a sanctuary from a virus but also a still place to reorder life’s priorities.

Rich Alldritt, vicar of St. Thomas Church in Oakwood, Britain, conducts an online service via Youtube March 22.

As it leads the global battle against the coronavirus, the World Health Organization has advised people to manage their mental well-being as much as their physical health. The advice is especially true for the hundreds of millions of people who have self-isolated during the pandemic. WHO suggests engaging in healthy activities to relax, eating well, and keeping regular sleep routines.

Yet WHO also knows such advice may not be enough for those people hunkered down at home with feelings of fear, loneliness, and sadness. The agency also recommends people be empathetic toward those with COVID-19, seek accurate information about the crisis, and find safe ways to help others in isolation.

“Assisting others in their time of need can benefit the person receiving support as well as the helper,” the agency stated.

In other words, one’s home is now both a sanctuary from the virus and a place to rethink the principles that ought to govern home life. Are we seeking out truthful sources of news? How can we better calm a friend with loving assurance? What new ways of expressing life might be possible during the still silence of self-isolation?

For many, the pandemic is reshuffling the notion of home as a sanctuary, or a sheltering space that allows one to anchor one’s thoughts and values. People are redefining their cords of attachment in new ways. Instead of going to religious services in person, they are worshipping online. Instead of going to parties, weddings, sporting events, or even funerals, they are holding digital gatherings. 

Adjusting to a new life of quarantine can have its rewards. “All of this can be overwhelming, but it doesn’t need to be,” wrote the leaders of the United Methodist Church in Simsbury, Connecticut, in a message to congregants. “This can be a time where we can deepen our prayer life, increase our meditation time and work to expand the peace of God around us as those near and dear grapple with heightened anxiety.”

WHO’s call for people to maintain their mental well-being is meant as a challenge. In the sanctuary of one’s home, some of the old ways of thinking about relationships, skills, and interests must be rethought. The isolation can be a gift, not a grind, especially as a new inner life leads to bettering oneself as well as the lives of others.

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