The Quarantine Manifesto
As we come up for air in the shock of our present situation, the reality sets in that our isolation and social distancing will be extended. The first week may have felt like a series of snow days, but now we are trying to carry on our work, school, or family life from home, keeping our distance from any gatherings or unnecessary activity. Now that we know that this will be extended for weeks, if not months, how can we best use this time of quarantine? How can we emerge stronger from this time of isolation? Don’t squander this God-given opportunity!
What follows is a recipe for taking advantage of our present quarantine. We need to know what to focus on, and what to look out for, if we are going to use this time wisely. Seek to implement the following: structure, goals, and avoiding growth killers.
Now that your calendar has been cleared, your life is devoid of any structure. When to get up? When to go to sleep? Should I actually get dressed and take a shower, especially if no one will actually see me today other than my dog? Sounds like fun for a day or two, but live this way for a while and it will sap your energy and your drive to use your quarantine time well.
Set a wake-up time of no later than 8 am, and get out of bed when your alarm goes off. In the first hour of being awake, eat some nutritious food (avoid sugary carbs), spend some time reading Scripture and praying. Get dressed for the day like you normally would for work or school. This will help you feel like it’s work time!
Then commit to writing out what work or assignments need to be done and do those first! Knock out your work before you choose any rest or relaxation. If you procrastinate, it will push your bedtime later and impact your wake-up time.
Schedule relational connections throughout the day. Use video conferencing software or just a phone call. Have one or two people that are walking with you during this time to help you implement structure. Be proactive with your calendar.
What do you hope to accomplish by the time this quarantine is lifted? What would it take to be able to look back and know you used this time well? Here are a few areas to set goals in.
It’s a great idea to make regular exercise a part of your quarantine schedule. This will increase your mood, energy, and mental health. Run, do an online fitness program, or creatively come up with your own. But do something! I decided to do a 90-day workout program that I’ve always wanted to do but never thought I’d have the time. I’m on Day 9 and my energy levels have really picked up. Come up with some fitness goals like losing weight, building muscle, or increasing your endurance. Prioritize getting outside in the sunlight.
One incredible opportunity that is now available to us is rest. “I’m so busy” is a constant refrain of many of us. Well, not anymore! Schedule a weekly Sabbath where you unplug from tech, work, and school. Find what gives you rest. Take a walk, a nap, read a leisurely book. We may never again have an opportunity for rest like this!
What do you need to accomplish for your job or schooling? Make a list of goals. When you are making your structure for the week, schedule time to knock these out. I signed up for an online course that I had been considering, and also plan to finally finish editing a small group Bible study. What projects can you finish in this time?
What books can you read now that you have extra time? Do you have a specific interest or spiritual need? Why not grab a book on that topic during this time! If you can’t visit a bookstore, you can still snag a digital book and most libraries will loan digital books for free!
What relationships can you pursue in this time? If you are quarantined with family or roommates, then those are obviously the people God has put in your life for this season! How can you use this time to develop those relationships? Play games together, exercise together, schedule video conference calls if you are distant, but plan to work on those relationships. Stop right now and think of 2-3 people you can pursue relationally in this quarantine season. One unique part of this time is that our in-town friends are now just as accessible (or not accessible) as our distant friends, so consider catching up with friends who live far away.
What about your relationship with God? Ultimately, He is the one who has sovereignly slowed all of us down in this season. He has cleared our calendars and stopped all our travel and meetings. How can we stop, reflect, and grow in our walk with Him? Now would be a great time to schedule and plan for extended time alone with God. Read your Bible, pray, and journal. Consider fasting for a meal or two. Find some Scripture that speaks into your present circumstances and pray through it, meditate on it, and memorize it.
There are many dangers now available to us with increased isolation and time. What are the things you must avoid in this quarantine season? Watch out for medicating your pain and simply wasting time!
Isolation and boredom give us opportunities to experience discomfort. Loneliness is painful and we will look for ways to avoid that discomfort. What are the numbing behaviors that you often default into? Video games, excessive entertainment, social media, drugs, alcohol, overeating, or acting out sexually are easy options to escape our painful emotions, but these will not develop us into the people we want to become.
Increased isolation during the coronavirus pandemic can easily fuel addictive behavior. Porn use has increased while much of the world is on lockdown. One of the largest porn sites is seeking to capitalize on this by offering premium services free of charge. But is boredom and isolation an excuse to participate in the exploitation and abuse of human beings? A recent viral social media campaign titled “Traffickinghub” exposed the clear link between this site and human trafficking. They have refused to pull down rape videos and content containing minors. Don’t be deceived into thinking porn doesn’t hurt anyone. Let’s not pursue our own temporary pleasure at the cost of others’ exploitation and abuse.
Make a list of the destructive tendencies that you know you need to avoid during this time. Rather than medicate your pain, explore it! Bring it before God and ask Him to reveal to you what this pain means and how He can meet that need in your heart. Invite a group of trusted friends to help you reduce or eliminate destructive behaviors from your life. If your goal is to exit this quarantine season stronger than you entered, you must say no to the things that will pull you down.
How can you limit your entertainment and social media time? Use an app that tracks your screen time and app usage so you can draw some clear boundary lines. Even if the apps, video games, and content you are consuming are not necessarily sinful, are they helping you develop and use this time wisely? What is gained from binge-watching on Netflix or Hulu, reaching the next level of a game, or getting lost in social media?
Will this quarantine season end up being a blessing or a curse? I believe God can use it for good! “Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen” (Ephesians 3:20–21).