One Week of Social Isolation

by Whitney HadleySurvivor and AYA Oncology Support SpecialistApril 6, 2020View more posts from Whitney Hadley

Well, it’s been a one week of social isolation. After one full week of physical distancing and isolation, I’ve noticed a shift in my mood and generally how my body feels right now. Friday was a hard day emotionally. Saturday I felt on edge and almost hungover from my emotions on Friday. Sunday I napped. Hard. As Ron Burgandy would say, I was in a “glass case of emotions”!

Now that Monday has arrived, I am still feeling a little bit of that grief hangover. To be honest, I could go back to bed right now and be totally fine with that. But I know that I need to shift my focus or I will turn into a full-blown Eeyore for a long time.

This morning I found this article from the Harvard Business Review (https://hbr.org/2020/03/that-discomfort-youre-feeling-is-grief). It really explains this transition of how I’ve been feeling. The shift I felt on Friday was a shift from the ADRENALINE of going into isolation and social distancing and working from home to GRIEF. I was grieving the way things were, the way things might be (anticipatory grief), and just grieving for the collective sadness and fear of what is happening around us all.

Here’s what I’m doing:

  1. Letting myself grieve. It’s OKAY to feel these emotions and to let them out! It’s OKAY to cry then take a long hot shower and make a fort on the couch. What I’m not going to let myself do is wallow in this for days and days.
  2. Getting fresh air. Every day, I am stepping outside. If it’s pouring rain, that’s okay – why else do I need an umbrella right now? Also, isn’t the smell of rain in the spring so comforting?
  3. Taking a social media hiatus. I tried something new over the weekend and turned off access to Instagram and Facebook on my phone. I was feeling overwhelmed with the amount of information that has been coming through about the world outside my little isolation bubble and the scary facts of COVID-19. After my emotional day on Friday, this felt like something I needed a break from. Turns out, it was an awesome experience – I spent more time checking in with family via text and calls, actually read half of the book I’ve been trying to finish, and watched a few more movies than I’d like to admit. But, again, I’m taking care of myself in a new way and spending a weekend in sweats was exactly what I needed in my grieving.
  4. Setting small daily goals. I think most of us are feeling this general low energy feeling right now. If you are, it’s normal to feel a little less productive than normal. Because of that, I am narrowing down my to-do list from its usual 4-6 daily items to 1-2. Today, I am planning to make sure I move my body. I found a new workout that I’m loving – boxing! (I’m usually the yoga and barre kind of girl, but envisioning myself punching little COVID creatures has been energizing and fun lately).
  5. Practicing gratitude. I am being conscious of things that I am grateful for. I don’t know about you, but this past week has uncovered so many things that I’ve taken for granted but am now incredibly grateful for. I’m making a note in an old notebook or journal daily. I pick three things that I’m grateful for each day and write them down each night.

I know this is just the beginning of what will likely be an ever-changing experience of isolation, self-discovery, and new realities. I also know one of the best things we can do for ourselves is to start practicing some more self-compassion. Our new reality requires a new approach to doing things and some of these things are slower and less productive than they were “before”. My weekends were always full of adulting – groceries, cleaning, laundry, visiting with friends, going places, doing all the things. My new weekend schedule looks a lot different. And that is okay. To weather this storm we need to make these shifts, and I’m slowly getting there.


All of the posts written for Elephants and Tea are contributed by patients, survivors, caregivers and loved ones dealing with cancer.  If you have a story or experience you would like to share with the cancer community we would love to hear from you!  Please submit your idea at https://www.elephantsandtea.com/contact/submissions/.

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