4 Things I Learned From Medical Quarantine to Offer Hope to Those Struggling

We need to focus on our mental health and look forward to better times

Illustration of a man hiding behind a shield
Allow yourself to imagine a day when you get up and feel confident you know what the day will hold. It will come. Getty Images

As we head into the next weeks and month, one can’t help but feel a sense of worry, dread and exhaustion. To those of us in the advertising and marketing community, this may hit even harder.

Advertising is a people business, a giant service industry built to squeeze the most out of each employee. This adds up to long hours, constant anxiety and an always-on mentality. A survey in 2019 found that about 40% of people who work between 50 and 59 hours a week said they were worried about their mental health. This is a pre-Covid-19 stat, when the market was hitting its peak.

As a group of people who run high on stress and anxiety, we are asked to constantly outthink a situation and use creativity to solve problems. It’s a fiercely dichotomous situation to put our brains and emotions in.

While I have no experience in a global crisis like this, I did go through two bone marrow transplants that required quarantine at Massachusetts General Hospital for over 60 days in one hospital room. (Anyone who has been through this procedure knows this protocol, and I applaud you). Additionally, upon return home after both transplants, I underwent what they call “the first 100 days,” where you stay home and can’t go to stores or restaurants until you are off immunosuppression.

We are spending so much time helping our brands respond, we must take time to think about how we are responding and feeling.

This six-month quarantine led to some learnings about what I could expect from my brain, my heart and my soul during crisis and confinement. I offer these tips of self-care in hopes that our advertising community can come through this with self-worth, a sense of purpose and, above all, hope instead of fear.

Respect that you are in fight or flight mode

As Melanie Greenberg in Psychology Today wrote, “When your brain perceives a threat, the amygdala hijacks the brain into emergency mode.” We are receiving new “threats” daily, from counts of ill or dead to new restrictions.

From personal experience, I can tell you that this is a unique environment to be creative/insightful in. Some of us may feel inspired to think our way out of this, some may feel totally frozen. No matter how you feel, know that it is not just you. Your evolutionary history is trying to keep you safe from this threat. And if it’s affecting your work or passion project, embrace that and go easy on yourself.

Understand that unemployment will not last forever

I was out of work for a year, and it is terrifying and sad. Like a loss of a limb. Not only is your income stream different but your self-worth comes into massive question. What I can tell you is that this is not about you specifically. This is a global coin flip—a bad one. But it is a coin flip that went wrong. This is not about your performance or your abilities. Additionally, what I can say is that work will come back. It may look different, but it will come back because your skills are needed and most likely will be needed sooner than later.

Explore your feelings of grief

Did something on a call make you feel afraid? Did something make you feel excited to engage in work? Did a call with a friend feel odd? As Harvard Business Review reported, these are all feelings of collective grief. Take the time to explore what those feelings were and honor them. This helps alleviate that fight or flight response and pays homage to your reactions and response to this crisis. We are spending so much time helping our brands respond, we must take time to think about how we are responding and feeling.

Project yourself into the future

Allow yourself to see yourself on the other side of this pandemic curve. Allow yourself to hear the clinking of silverware at a restaurant and having to talk loud enough so the person on the other side of the table can hear you. Allow yourself to see a moment where you work in the same room with others and present work in person that you are proud of. Allow yourself to imagine a day when you get up and feel confident you know what the day will hold. It will come.

As we move through the different stages of this pandemic, I can’t help but feel a sense of hope that our community can help people find meaning and a way out of this when the time comes. The only way we can do that is if our bodies and minds are healthy enough to do this when the time is right.

And while I have no answers, what I can tell you from over a half a year of personal quarantining, no work and a constantly changing new normal is that the chaos ends. Numbers and stats normalize. You decide it is time to go to a restaurant. You get a haircut. You have thoughts and ideas that don’t feel forced. You regain that creative power you always had.

Have hope over fear, my friends.

@erinssss Erin Swenson Gorrall is svp, communications planning lead at MullenLowe MediaHub.