Finding purpose and meaning in the time of quarantine
ALL IN MY HEAD - Monique Toda (The Philippine Star) - April 1, 2020 - 12:00am

It is only the first couple of weeks of the lockdown. Though this is a physical lockdown, emotionally I go through the stages of grief. I think I am now in the stage of acceptance right after a long period of being unable to fully absorb the worldwide impact of the novel coronavirus pandemic.

It seems that every hour I hear something new: confirmed cases, countries on lockdown, updated government directives, recovered cases, and sadly, all the deaths. Sometimes I feel like I am watching a bad movie, horrified and panic-stricken, but as a third person belonging to an audience. My bubble finally burst recently by simply encountering those around me.

I ventured to the bank and drugstore at the strip mall close to where I live. I was two hours early because I am “segurista.” I didn’t want to get caught in lines and compromise my social-distancing practice.

Since I was an early bird, I caught a briefing of security personnel. They were complete and in full force. Geared with facemasks in the heat, the guards were still pleasant and very helpful. Amazing. I chatted with a couple of them and found that they haven’t gone home and just sleep in the mall. They provide for their own meals by buying food at the grocery nearby.

Then I witnessed the employees of the bank and drugstore come in and prepare like it was a normal day. I was touched as I watched the staff of the bank pray together in a circle prior to opening their doors.

Needless to say, they assisted me with a smile. I wanted to cry. I was reminded of Viktor Frankl’s Man’s Search for Meaning, where he narrated his experience in a Nazi concentration camp. Of course I am just talking about the strip mall across my house, but please indulge me.  To paraphrase Frankl, he states that human beings have a choice, even under the direst circumstances. This could be a choice to have a purpose, be hopeful and find meaning in what you do. This is the key to survival.

Making the best of quarantine

What’s that saying again about making lemonade from lemons? I think it applies to our quarantine state. So I categorized what I will do in the days to come to make the most of my time. Many people warn against having “groundhog days,” referring to Bill Murray’s movie where every day was the same.  I don’t want to have any “groundhog day.”


1. Eat healthy and don’t indulge. The good thing about grocery rationing is that you plan your meals. Eat right and feel good. This isn’t a time to diet, though, because we have to be strong and healthy.

2. Boost your immune system. I have been taking a pill version of colostrum for a while now, which I get in Healthy Options. Since then I haven’t gotten sick. I also take vitamin C, but the drugstore informed me that they ran out already. I am also drinking a “tonic” that I ordered made from ginger, turmeric and other ingredients. It claims to be anti-inflammatory, anti-bacterial, anti-viral and an anti-oxidant. When I run out of these supplements, I will make my own. Google is my friend.

3. I am my own salon. Just because we are home, I don’t think we should let go of grooming and self-love. Doing beauty routines at home can be fun, such as a manicure, pedicure, or foot spa. Plus, it uses up a couple of hours in the day. Use beautifying facemasks or make your own. Again, Google is your friend. I bought hair dye in the drugstore and I will try it one of these days. Pray that my clumsy hands prevent me from creating unintended modern art on my walls in chestnut brown.

4. Do some form of exercise that suits you. Since I am not into anything active and prefer a more relaxed type of exercise, I watch Qigong videos and exercise in front of the TV.


1. Read. I have been reading old favorites, conjuring past wonderful feelings. Since I have read these books already, I choose those that made me laugh, touched me deeply, and mostly those that will make me feel good. Recently, I reread Nora Ephron’s I Hate My Neck and now I am reading Truman Capote’s Grass Harp. Should I reread Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s Love in the Time of Cholera?

2. Since I am WFH (working from home), I am in touch with my colleagues on a regular basis. Zoom calls are the best. Aside from business, I understand Zoom is being used for bible and prayer groups and social get-togethers like “e-numans.” Social distancing at its best. I love technology.

3. I will not allow my brain to atrophy. My sister recently invited me to join, where you can choose from 80 online classes from the best of the best on writing, design, science and technology, business politics, lifestyle, film and TV, and so on. Speakers include Neil Gaiman, David Mamet, Frank Gehry, Annie Leibovitz, Diane Von Furstenberg, Bob Iger, Anna Wintour, Natalie Portman, Martin Scorsese, Serena Williams, Stephen Curry, and so many more experts in their fields. I am so excited for this.

4. Watch Netflix, Viu, HBO Go, and other streaming sites. Since I am into K-dramas, I watch current series releases. I have just finished Itaewon Class and the very stressful Kingdom. I am now watching When the Weather is Fine and A Piece of Your Mind. I am looking forward to Lee Min Ho’s drama premiering in April called The King: Eternal Monarch. Watch K-dramas, it feels good.


1. It is the best time to be introspective and reflect on what is happening to the world. I start my day with a few minutes of meditation and silence. You have no idea how this can set your day right.

2. Practice gratitude. I have a gratitude journal where I jot down all my blessings. My friend, happiness guru Lia Bernardo, says it is the quickest way to “raise your frequency.” Feeling down or having a bad day? Think of your blessings and see a shift for the better.

3. Savor what I call “pockets of joy.” Happiness doesn’t have to be this grand event in our lives. The little things that make us laugh or put a smile on our faces are just as good.

4. Do a kindness or pay it forward. Sometimes it is overwhelming to see all those in need and in pain. There is this frustration of being unable to help everyone in this world. It’s a start, though, to help or show kindness to those closest to you or those you encounter. You can go further by donating or volunteering. Whatever it is, pay it forward.

5. Last but not least, pray. I believe prayer is most powerful. Let’s pray for the brave healthcare workers, for those who go to work despite the circumstances, for the health of our loved ones, for those afflicted by the virus and their families, and finally, for this virus to disappear for good.

When this lockdown period is over, I would like to look back and think I didn’t let it dampen my spirit.  I made a personal choice, which is to be productive, be resourceful, and find purpose and meaning in the time of quarantine.

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