|Schools, shops, gyms, bars, and restaurants are closed and citizens are encouraged to stay at home to avoid catching or spreading Covid-19. / Photo by Deliris via Shutterstock|
Many countries are currently in some degree of lockdown. Schools, shops, gyms, bars, and restaurants are closed and citizens are encouraged to stay at home to avoid catching or spreading Covid-19. Suddenly, some people found themselves with more free time than before. There are two critical choices here: waste away the moments that make up a dull day or use this time toward meaningful endeavors. If your answer is the latter, here are historical role models who made the most of their time while social distancing:
Historical role models
In his early 20s, English mathematician and astronomer Isaac Newton were avoiding the bubonic plague that hit England. Cambridge University canceled its classes too so Newton stayed in his family estate about 60 miles away so he could continue his studies without worrying about responding to professors’ video conferencing and emails. But it was during this quarantine that he produced some of his best work. He wrote papers that would, later on, become the early calculus. While in his bedroom, he experimented with bending light through prisms and this led to his theories on optics, according to news provider MSN. He also used the time to develop his theory of gravity, probably inspired by the apple tree outside his window.
During a pandemic, English poet William Shakespeare also used his time wisely. He was a shareholder and an actor with the theater troupe The King’s Men when the bubonic plague hit London. Public playhouses were closed and Shakespeare suddenly found himself with no steady job and plenty of free time. Before the year was over, Shakespeare wrote the plays King Lear, Anthony and Cleopatra, and Macbeth.
Playwright Thomas Nashe gained fame around the same period as Shakespeare. While there was a bubonic plague, he fled to the countryside to avoid infection. He also made use of his time by writing the play Summers’ Last Will and Testament. The Elizabethan stage play is a comedy that reflects Nashe’s experience living through the plague. A popular passage reads, “This world uncertaine is, Fond are lifes lustful joys, Death proves them all but toyes.”
Norwegian painter Edvard Munch is best known for his work The Scream, which became one of the most iconic images in art. He did not just witness the Spanish Flu but contracted the disease too around 1919. However, instead of becoming a victim of the pandemic, he continued to create great art. The moment he felt he was capable of moving, he searched for his painting supplies and started capturing his physical condition and reflected it in a painting. This gave birth to his art titled Self-Portrait with the Spanish Flu. As a symbolist painter, he was able to show his thinning hair and face while sitting in his sickbed.
Italian writer Giovanni Boccaccio also lived through the bubonic plague as it ravaged Florence in 1348. His father and stepmother succumbed to the outbreak but Boccaccio flew the city and went to the countryside. It was during this period that he established his literary fame by creating The Decameron, a collection of tales and has been regarded by scholars today because of its cultural significance. The book has become a part of the knowledge base of the civilization that we now know. The Decameron narrates about a group of friends while they were quarantined in a villa.
But it’s okay not to be productive
Nevertheless, people don’t have to feel guilty if they are not productive during these trying times. Julie de Azevedo Hanks, Ph.D., LCSW said that we link our behavior, productivity, and performance with our self-worth, which is the reason why we feel that we are doing something wrong or we feel bad if we are less productive than others. Sometimes, the best ideas can also come if you are relaxing or taking a break. That is the powerful paradox of unproductivity, she said.
Physician Susan Biali Haas M.D., who writes and speaks about stress management, mental health, burnout prevention, and resilience, shares the same thought. She said that it is okay for a person to feel overwhelmed and be unproductive amid a health crisis. Aside from celebrating the human drive to rise above our circumstances, people should also give each other permission to be afraid, to sit with their emotions, to grieve, and to slow down if they need to. For people struggling and feeling fear because of the pandemic, she reminded them that it is a normal reaction. Ask help from a counseling professional who works by phone or virtually, if necessary. Taking care of both your physical and mental health should be a priority now, too.
The American Psychiatric Association took a survey between March 18 and 19 and the results show that more than 1 in 3 Americans said that Covid-19 is affecting their mental health and 1 in 4 have difficulty focusing on things other than the pandemic.
Living under quarantine
Meanwhile, database company Statista and market research firm Ipsos collaborated on a survey in France to determine the share of people willing to accept quarantine measures to contain the spread of the novel coronavirus in the country. A majority (70%) of the respondents would accept total quarantine measures to manage the risk while 30% believe that a total quarantine is excessive. But a large number of people in other parts of the world are still skeptical about the impact of travel restrictions and isolation of citizens. Ipsos’ survey of 14,000 people in 14 countries found that 62% of respondents in Japan said isolation will not stop Covid-19. Residents in India were also the least in favor of isolation as 61% of Indian respondents said restrictions wouldn’t stop Covid-19, followed by Germany 55%, Australia 52%, USA 46%, China 38%, and Italy 37%.
Being quarantined today is less socially straining compared to a few decades ago. This is largely tanks to the internet, which can help people virtually reach out to others. They may not have to be as productive every single moment or achieve the same level as their quarantined ancestors, but they can still cope and make their unexpected downtime interesting.