May 3, 2020

How the Quarantine is Changing You

How the Quarantine is Changing You

At the time of this writing, LA County is 44 days into the lockdown/quarantine.

The quarantine is changing us - physiologically, emotionally, mentally and psychologically.

Last week I watched a documentary on the Antarctica. At one point in the film they discuss something called "Polar T3 Syndrome" that happens to people who winter-over in the Antarctica. The descriptions and interviews of people who have experienced this hits very close to home. I think you'll agree.

Below are excerpts from the Wikipedia article on "Winter-Over-Syndrome":

"...the immobility, monotony, harsh physical environment, sexual deprivation, and the general isolation, are believed to contribute to increased anxiety and depression among the residents of the station.
"The most important psychological stresses appear to be: the problem of individual adjustment to the group, the relative monotony of the environment, and the absence of certain accustomed sources of emotional satisfaction."
"...the lack of privacy and constant gossip that existed within the community, had a negative influence on social relationships, especially between men and women. As a result, 60% of one's leisure time is spent alone in a dorm room, whereas others are forced to work and live in confined spaces, due to the nature of their work."

Speaking for myself, cooped up and working from home with my family I can attest to experiencing several if not all of the above symptoms over the past 44 days. I've also noticed every member of my family spending more and more time alone, in their rooms, away from the rest of the family. Often, these extended periods of self-isolation in a confined room are excused because of school or work - but after reading the Wikipedia article I couldn't help but see the connection.

Certainly we are all suffering from a lack of privacy and monotony. I have noticed an uptick in social media drama with some friends and family members. Recent texts and emails from friends are all saying that their anxiety levels are the highest they've been since the quarantine started.

I've also noticed in myself, a hesitancy to reach out to friends and connect. At first, during the first few weeks of the quarantine there was a buzz and a yearning to connect with others over Zoom, text and phone calls. Now, it takes specific and deliberate effort to make those connections - as I become more and more satisfied with "being alone" - even if I'm sad or crave a connection. The spark is fading - or almost gone.

Even when I go to the store (once a week on average) I find myself avoiding eye contact with other people - uninterested in making a connection - satisfied to hide behind my mask. Not because of the virus - but because of the lack of spark. The only exception I've noticed is that I've actually had more local conversations with my immediate neighbors over the fence or while jogging and walking.

I thought that we'd get used to it after a few weeks - but the reality is that the longer we are confined - the more internal damage we are sustaining - without a healthy outlet.

And, while I believe things will get better I'm concerned that there could be long-term effects from this quarantine. Physiological changes to our mind and bodies are not corrected over night. Not to mention that once we do 'open-up' that it will be a gradual opening and I fear that many of isolationist feelings will persist for some time.

My greater concern is that while I do believe we will eventually emerge a stronger society after this COVID19 event - I believe that our society (and us, the people) will have changed dramatically. I believe that this will usher in a new perspective on every aspect of our lives.

This isn't the way humans are supposed to be/act. Whether we like it or not, humans are social and we've set up massive institutions and rituals in our culture that have endured thousands of years - all to socialize with one another.

I like how Naval Ravikant put it in this tweet:

Schools aren’t about learning.  
Offices aren’t about working.  
Churches aren’t about praying.  
Restaurants aren’t about eating.  
Obvious now?  

Source: https://twitter.com/naval/status/1249026997914750982

We've already seen the impact on school, work, shopping, entertainment, public health and our political views. With such fast and radical changes to our lives - combined with most of the World experiencing even a mild version of Polar T3 Syndrome - our future will not be like the past but instead something completely different.