Student Resources
2 min read

Finding meaning in the experience of confinement

Mark Wennington
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The meaning you give to the isolation process can have a significant impact on how you experiencing it, and may be a factor in avoiding negative consequences from the process. To use an oft-repeated quote from Victor Frankl, a Jewish psychiatrist who survived the Holocaust:

"Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms—to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way" - Man’s search for Meaning, 1946

It’s really worthwhile questioning your attitude toward the process and really committing to it, rather than simply following along or doing it “because you are forced to”. Which of your values does this behavior fit in with? What does following these instructions say about you?

If you are struggling with feelings of being constrained by the situation, or feel excessively constrained by the quarantine measures, you can:

 

Refocus on the people you are helping by staying indoors

Toolbox - Who are you doing this for?

Write down the names or print out pictures of those for whom you are staying inside (parents or grandparents, vulnerable acquaintances, your friends’ families) and put it somewhere you can go look at them when you need to remember the point of all this.

Once you have done the exercise, make sure to contact them and encourage them to follow the appropriate safety measures, and also to offer what support or assistance you can if you haven’t done so already.

 

Calculate the impact

Toolbox - Mathematics of contagion

Over the course of infection (roughly two weeks), the average coronavirus patient infects 2.2 other people with the virus. By self-isolating, how many people - remember to include yourself, if you haven’t caught it – have a lower risk thanks to you? In two weeks of confinement, you have prevented 2.2 infections (even 3.2 if you count yourself). In a month, 7 including you. In six weeks, 17.6 people including you, and so on. And this is a conservative estimate, as passing on the infection will probably happen early on rather than later in the process. Each of us carries a considerable impact in this fight.

 

Take the opportunity to journal and make sense of the experience

Any major event, personal or impacting society as a whole, is an opportunity for self-reflection and growth, to reevaluate your values and the meaning you may wish to give to your life.

Using journaling – in the sense of recording your daily thoughts, emotions and experiences as part of an active personal growth process – can:

  • foster insight into your values, needs and biases
  • help manage priorities
  • bring some clarity to complex situations.
  • detach yourself emotionally from a problem
  • see an issue from a new angle
  • slow down your mind

 

Taking an active role

On an even broader level, getting involved in the many support efforts, such as:

  • shopping for vulnerable people
  • offering listening time
  • providing online study support for classmates or school-age children
  • donating food or medical gear (for example excess masks)
  • providing entertainment and enjoyment for people (through art, music, dance, baking or many more)

There are many platforms and opportunities for this, easily accessible through social media or other websites. This can be a great source of meaningful activity, a welcome addition to studying and a way to feel like you’re giving back.

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You can also make use of the excellent advice already available from the following websites:

Written by

Psychologist-Psychotherapist at EHL Lausanne

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