The Guilt of Enjoying Quarantine

In such a devastating time, many people feel guilty about how they enjoy their lives after they have been put on hold. However,many studies focus on the negative psychological effects of quarantine. How can such a costly pandemic produce a positive experience for families?

Vinita Mehta of Psychology Today in her article “What are the Psychological Effects of a Quarantine?” led with a story about a woman who had to self-quarantine for two weeks: “‘Now I know what an inmate feels like.’” But what if not everyone feels this way? Is it possible that there are positive effects on the mind in quarantine?

Sydney Roland and her dog Riley Roland

To examine the effects of quarantine, I interviewed some family members and friends in my grade as a sophomore. I asked them “What are some positive psychological effects of quarantine? How has quarantine positively impacted your mental health? How do you think that quarantine affects the mind?” I essentially asked the same question but reworded it as a sort of psychological experiment. The last question opens interpretation for them to talk about negative effects. But all four I interviewed chose to speak about the positive effects. 

Some of the responses to my interview questions, can attest to the positive effects of slowing down. Sophomore Sydney Roland said, “Quarantine has affected my mind positively in that I have learned what I really enjoy doing when my schedule is not packed to maximum capacity. I have been able to spend more time with my family, read for enjoyment, and improve my artistic skills. I think that quarantine has allowed me to take more time for myself and take breaks from work because I don’t have so many things going on. Being outside in my backyard and not at school has also improved my mental health.” 

Me (the left) with Julianna Han (the right)

Sophomore Julianna Han responded: “I honestly think quarantine has affected my mind positively. Before quarantine, I felt really lost and my mental and emotional health was not great. I was self conscious about small things and cared a lot about what other people said about me. Having a lot of alone time in quarantine helped me become stronger mentally and emotionally. I strongly believe I will feel like a better person when I come out of a quarantine.”

The studies of the effects of quarantine on the mind and one’s mental health center around the financial problems and indirect sources of bad mental health according to Mehta. So naturally, everyone is supposed to hate quarantine, right? We should want to be at school, killing ourselves over a paper, or staying up late because we had a nine hour track meet. Essentially, most of the problems revolve around adults, who usually have manageable schedules, with work and their families. But what about the teenagers? We want to learn to choose to be happy during quarantine because that is the only way we will get through this.

Me and Tammy Nguyen on Christmas

Sophomore Tammy Nguyen said: “During quarantine, I have more time to learn things about myself and what I really enjoy. I feel less stressed from school work and can spend more time with my family. It also helped me realize how much some small things I cared about really don’t matter in the big picture. Also I get to spend time doing things I enjoy which I wouldn’t have had time for before and I get to spend more time outside.”

Moreover, Mehta discusses the indirect sources like financial problems creating anxiety and depression. Out of the four people I interviewed, not one expressed anxiety. But rather, they expressed being released from anxiety. No one is openly admitting that quarantine has a positive effect on their mental health because of how much devastation it’s causing for other families. This guilt itself is creating another psychological layer of shame, causing suppression of anything positive, which is exactly what we need.

I found my brother Dashell Scura’s response particularly interesting: “Some positive effects would include much less stress and more relaxation due to the much more manageable school hours and work loads. Getting more sleep during quarantine has been very helpful towards my mental health because I am now feeling much more natural at ease and the days are filled with much less anxiety. I think quarantine just helps one’s mind take a reboot and step away from everyday life and truly allow time for one to reassess.”

My brother Dashell Scura and me in the Bahamas

All of the students I interviewed expressed some sort of “reboot”, as Dashell put it, in their mental health. Whether quarantine allowed them to reassess their values and weighing those priorities or simply allowed them less anxiety over school or more time to spend with their family than they’ll probably ever get to spend in their lifetime, quarantine has positive psychological effects.If this is true then, why is everyone talking and writing about the negative effects.

We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used to create them.”

— Einstein

What we need to hear is the positive effects of our mental health. Because everyone is telling us to think about this as a devastation, some aspects of quarantine should be embraced. At DHS, we have a chance to appreciate and take advantage of the more relaxed grading system and other blessings that quarantine has given us.  

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