Social Distancing for the Brain

“So, what is your reason for today?” my dad asked, half annoyed.

I thought about it and really couldn’t come up with anything that would make sense. On the 22nd day of nationwide lockdown in India, I still woke up late, groggy and all shades of insane. Since the day the coronavirus knocked us out of our whimsical worlds and fantasies, I have failed to put things, my life and, most importantly, my sleep cycle in order.

I woke up and did my not so fair share of household chores – don’t get me wrong, the burden has been extra heavy on my parents and not me.

I then switched on my laptop to relocate to my office magically. One of the first lessons I learnt was that choosing your work station is crucial and that your bed should be ruled out as an option in round one itself. If only I remembered my own lessons.

It took me only a week into the lockdown to realise fully that my routine had been flipped. I struggled to find suitable places to work during the day, constantly battling the overpowering urge to sleep only to transform into an owl at night. As the day finally came to an end, mine would just not shut down.

Remember when you wanted to close your laptop and rush to freedom but it would mischievously surprise you with software updates you couldn’t skip – well, it’s a similar feeling here. I would turn and twist, steal quick glances at my phone and then throw it away, shutting my eyelids tight, imagining I was already asleep.

If only that was it. I would soon think of the tray of eggs I touched that day, of possible contamination and replay the events in my mind, wondering if I had washed my hands in time. And if I did, was it for 20 seconds? Oh wait, I won’t know for the next 14 days!

A calming thought, good enough to stress me to death – but not put me to sleep.

Also read: It’s Okay If You Didn’t Do Anything Today

As days passed, I was frequented by my old companion “over thinking” – whom many of you may be acquainted with – at night. We would chat about random movies, google their plots, read lyrics and of course, fuss over not being able to sleep, only to get back to thinking about another topic, another friend, another comment passed to a fellow student back in class 10 and wondering if he’s still alive.

The days become boring and mundane every now and then. As people put up marketing course completion certificates on LinkedIn, I only had first class in sweeping, cleaning and ‘no dust in any corner’ to boast about and really didn’t feel like adding it to my professional profile.

All the conversation, quotes and write ups on being productive made me want to procrastinate even more. I felt like punching every celebrity who posted “a look, I’m cooking and washing dishes” video. Thank god for baby and dog videos, or else the social media challenges, tasks and updates are getting harder than my board exams. One visit to Instagram and you get ten stories of people doing headstands.

That this article is mostly a personal rant should have been clear by now. But if you’re still reading, can we just mutually agree on how so many news channels appear to be doing their best to spread paranoia with their coronavirus updates? I wish that they’d consider a person with anxiety who is stuck indoors with the not so comforting company of negative thoughts, and what happens in their brain when watching their panic inducing way of delivering news.

If only COVID 19 was the only issue we had to battle. Staying indoors with our brains hooked to the flood of content flowing our way from brands, friends and colleagues has only made the isolation worse.

Instead of self-introspection or the quality family time everyone has been talking about, we are all just out there following one trend after another mindlessly. One day it is Dalgona coffee, the next day it’s a pretty sari.

While challenges are harmless and people are free to choose how they spend their time, the challenge culture again can also have mental health implications. The desire to show yourself a certain way on social media, or the feeling of missing out on a challenge or trend, doesn’t allow people to relax and rejuvenate.

A close friend shared how he lost at a game with one of his friends the other day. A simple loss annoyed him so much that he abused his friend and uninstalled the app. What happened had got nothing to do with the game, but everything to do with the frustration, annoyance and the stress that the virus has brought with it.

With our busy schedules, deadlines and to-do lists, we had all mastered the art of escaping our own thoughts and feelings. But now that we are staying in, we are running out of reasons to ignore ourselves.

What we need is probably a lot more social distancing of the mind by following a good brain diet where we filter what we hear and read. It’s a good time to learn the art of being on one’s own, without posting about it. After all, there’s life beyond Facebook and Insta updates.

Rant over, scroll ahead.

Wamika Singh a writer, conceptualiser and a moody poet.

Featured image credit: Adam Nieścioruk/Unsplash