It’s taken me a lot longer than I wanted to write this post. Mostly because I wasn’t in a headspace or overly motivated to write it in the first place.
The lockdown in Spain happened fast. So fast, that we didn’t have the luxury of social distancing. We went from closing schools, museums and tourist attractions to having the whole country in lockdown within a period of 3 - 4 days. The city and country went into a buying frenzy and supermarkets were left completely bare from panic buying.
We have been officially in lockdown since March 13th 2020, that was 44 days ago from the publication of this blog post.
But what was more frustrating was seeing friends and family in Canada, the US and England not taking the crisis seriously. Which prompted me to create this video:
Life under Quarantine
While my work life hasn’t changed much - as I was already a remote employee for 2 years working from my home or a coworking space a couple times a week - my personal life and freedom came to a screeching halt. Spain is a very social country, its residents love to meet in parks, hang by the beach or outside in terraces for a vermut, tapas and a good time. In March and April of 2020 we have all been strictly confined to our apartments. Unable to even go outside for a walk or to get some exercise. All of my workouts have had to be done from my living room.
Living in quarantine in Spain has been a wide rollercoaster of emotions. From the bombardment of news stories, constant stats being thrown at you and strict confinement measures, it’s really taken a toll on my mental health. I’ve also only left the house 5 times in a period of 44 days to help with groceries. I have asthma and therefore I am at higher risk for COVID19, so my boyfriend has been leaving the house when absolutely necessary to get food or other supplies. During the few times I have left my apartment, it has done wonders for my mental health. To stretch my legs longer than the length of my apartment, to feel the breeze on my face, hear the birds chirping, really lifted my spirits.
When I say it’s been a rollercoaster of emotions, I mean it - I’ve gone through periods of serious lack of energy and motivation. I’ve even had days where I couldn’t stop uncontrollably crying. I feel very lucky to work for a company that is taking the COVID19 crisis seriously, where I can cancel meetings last minute if necessary and my coworkers understand without question. But I’ve also experienced many moments of joy and positivity, more on that below.
I’ve had a few people ask if I have considered going back “home” to Canada during COVID. The truth is, Spain is my home. I am a resident of Spain, and a non-resident of Canada. I sold all of my possessions in Canada, and wouldn’t have anything to go back to. Sure I could stay with my mom in Brockville, but I also wouldn’t want to put her at a greater risk since I would be coming from a "red zone”. So to be honest, the idea of going “home” to Canada, never crossed my mind, it’s never been an option for me. My life and my home is here in Spain.
What I have noticed about life under quarantine is that there has been so much MORE communication with friends and family than usual because you can’t see each other. I’m grateful for all the messages, phone calls, video hangouts and for the people who take the time to check in, and check in often. Thank you.
Although we’re living through an unprecedented crisis with negativity surrounding us on the daily, some really wonderful things have happened during the pandemic. As an eternal optimist and overall positive person, I choose to focus on them. Here’s a quick summary:
The sense of community that has occurred across Barcelona and all of Spain each night at 8pm where we stand together on our balconies or poke our heads out of windows and clap for our healthcare workers, has been something I look forward to each night. You really feel that we are all in this together, and there’s a sense of common strength to help push you through another day in quarantine.
My street has been very lively, playing music every Saturday and encouraging dance parties on everyone’s balconies, blasting music, stringing together balloons across apartment buildings, and even creating a WhatsApp group by shouting each others numbers to each other with our names. We even have a collaborative Spotify playlist where we can request songs for the next dance party. It’s been a way for us to really connect with our neighbours, that started out just as timid waves hello, it has now blossomed into friendly faces, smiles and friendships.
Day 43 of Quarantine Life in Spain #mequedoencasa #covid19— Katie Hudson (@kt_hudson) April 26, 2020
I officially live on the best street in Barcelona. Today I played Bingo with my neighbours and then had a 2 hour dance party. pic.twitter.com/2f6C47uAwx
The Generosity of Others
A co-worker and an ecosystem partner of Shopify graciously offered to ship masks and gloves to my boyfriend and I so that we could share them family and friends. It’s currently literally impossible to get masks here in Spain. Their generosity brought me to tears. Thank you, Andy and Tim!
*and yes, I know I need to pinch the nose to fit the mask better to my face.
I did that after this photo was taken.*
People have lost their jobs, friends have gone through serious moments of depression and sadness. I'll admit I even have my own down days…. but when I’m happy and positive I like to share it with others and give back. Maybe it’s a pep talk, maybe it’s offering to help someone in need with zero expectations of expecting anything in return. It feels good to help others and it also genuinely lifts my spirit to see others happy.
Connecting with strangers and having fun
Myself and my friend who also lives in BCN got added into a weekly Trivia night over Zoom. We began the game knowing only one other person (the individual who added us) and we left the night having 10 new friends and a WhatsApp group. I was buzzing after that night of trivia (OK maybe it was the 3 glasses of wine I had) but I was beaming with happiness, positivity, and I had so much fun, it was vibrating through my body. Thank you, JC and Gabby!
Taking time to getting Creative
Since we can’t leave our homes, we’ve had to think of new ways to fill out time. I can only watch so many hours of Netflix, so my time during quarantine has allowed me to tap into my creative side. I started to learn how to work with watercolour paints, and I am taking a drawing class on Udemy with my boyfriend. Check out some of our drawings below, not bad right? It feels wonderful to sit down and focus on something different while tapping into another part f my brain. I honestly haven’t done anything this artsy since probably high school. I feel like a kid again.
How I’ve Learned to Deal with Confinement
Sitting with my emotions
Know that it’s OK to feel sad, depressed, unmotivated, unenergetic, and generally robbed of happiness these days. Read that again, it’s OK. I find that just sitting with whatever I’m feeling on a particular day allows my mind to accept the situation, feel it and then move on.
Exercise or move every single day
Whether it’s a quick stretch, a simple workout challenge or a full-blown workout. It has been my goal to get my body moving to increase my heart rate and simulate the production of endorphins every single day. Did you know that with high endorphin levels, we feel less pain and fewer negative effects of stress? No wonder exercise literally helps to make us feel better and happier. It’s my goal to redefine what a "quarantine body” is going to look like when this is all over.
Talk to others going through the same thing.
While it’s great to speak to friends and family in other countries about what’s happening, it has been even more helpful to speak with my friends here in Spain who are going through the exact same situation as me. As I mentioned above, each day is a roller coaster of emotions and sometimes you really question whether or not what you are feeling is “what you should be feeling” and if it’s ok to be feeling the way you are. WhatsApp has been a live safer with my girlfriends here where we very honestly share how shitty our days can be, and how down we might feel on a given day. But what’s been wonderful is that I find each of us feel differently each day, so on a day that I am feeling low, my girlfriends will help lift me out of my funk, and vice versa for when they are feeling sad.
Get some Vitamin D when possible
My boyfriend has calculated the number of minutes in the morning that we get direct sunlight into our living room. He will take apart our couch and build a lounger on the floor, puts on a white noise machine of waves, and we open the window and pretend we are at the beach. I also try to eat at least two of my meals outside on my small balcony especially in the mornings to get as much fresh air and sunlight as I can.
What I’ve Learned During QuarantineLeave it to me to be living through a literal global crisis in one of the world hit countries in the world, and I’ll still be able to find lessons out of my experience. Here are a few worth sharing:
- I will never again take simple pleasures in life (ie. going outside, seeing friends) as well as being able to travel and discover new places for granted ever again.
- I am grateful to be from a country and now live in a new one that has universal health care.
- Patience. I thought I was a patient person before, I’ve just upped my patience abilities 10x
- To not look at the number of global cases and death data every day, and limit the amount of news you’re consuming about COVID19 each day.
- My relationship with my boyfriend is even stronger than I thought. Nothing has changed between us - even being together 24/7 during this stressful time. We don't get on each others' nerves, we don't fight. We support each other, love each other and make each other laugh.
- To focus on the good news happening in the world, it’s not all bad out there (Thank you, John Krasinski, I nominate you for President of the World).
Tips: How to Survive a Quarantine Lockdown
As more countries will enviably go through their own version of strict quarantines, here are some tips to help you get through it.
Move every single day: whether it’s a HIIT workout, stretching, yoga, doing laps around your apartment (no matter how small it is), do something to get your heart rate going, and move your body. It will help boost your emotion, motivation and overall well being. Trust me.
Know it’s OK to not be OK: you’re going to have your up and very down days. Know that it’s perfectly normal, and reach out to friends or family members who you can have a really honest emotional conversation with. Naming your feelings and releasing them from just being in your mind is the first step to validating what you’re going through and will help you to begin to process everything. Know this is also a daily practice as each day you can be feeling different things.
Don’t feel you have to be your most productive self: Instagram / Facebook are highlight reels. Read that again. Just because people may seem like they’re doing a lot, and being their most productive self while under lockdown doesn't mean they also struggling with finding motivation, having down days, or aren’t going through heavy shit themselves.
Remember to eat your veggies: well, it’s official, I’ve become my mother (spoiler alert, she’s awesome, so this is not a bad thing). It’s important to eat your veggies, and have a balanced diet. But also remember the 80/20 rule and you’re going through an unprecedented world crisis, so if you want to binge on chocolate, pizza, per whatever soothes yourself, go for it. Treat yourself. But also remember, BALANCE. Eat well, stay healthy - it will help with your mental and physical wellness to ensure you have the energy to get your your workday, or be fully present with your kids.
Clean your apartment/home often: you’ve literally 10x’d the amount of time you spend in your apartment daily. Make sure you are cleaning it well. Not because of potential COVID19 contamination, but because of dust and other dirt that can build up and affect your allergies, asthma or any other conditions you might be dealing with. A clean home is a happy home! Make that sh*t shine!
Check in with your friends and family OFTEN: ask them “how are you doing, today?” - I guarantee it won’t be the same each time you check in. With the pandemic changing daily and sometimes even hourly, checking in once with friends isn’t enough. So ask often, how are you doing, today?
Learn a new or practice an old skill: if you’re feeling up to it (with absolutely no pressure to be committed), consider learning a new skill, or practicing an old one. With your lack of ability to go outside, and more time inside, use it to your advantage to try something you wouldn’t normally have time for or otherwise wouldn’t prioritize in your free time.
Through it all, please remember to be kind to yourself. Listen to your body. If you are tired, sleep. If you are unmotivated, don’t force yourself to do something. If you want to stuff your face with pizza, then treat yourself. Our brains are literally on information overload and on top of that also in survival mode. Not to mention we are also worrying about money, our jobs, food, housing, the economy … the list goes on.
Take one day at a time, remember that you’re doing your best. And above it all, stay hopeful. We’ll get through this together by staying apart.
Sending all the love from a locked down Barcelona.