The Hell Zone of Quarantine Is Real
Your Hell Zone won’t sync up with other people’s, and that’ll make you feel weird
Perhaps you recognize the pattern: You’re riding a string of pretty productive quarantine days, all things considered — you’re getting work done, exercising, keeping up with your friends. Maybe you’ve even signed up for an online class or started baking bread. You’re worried about the state of the world, sure, but you’re also starting to feel like you’re adjusting to this so-called “new normal” as best you can.
And then the dip comes.
A wave of anxiety and sadness washes over you. You’re not sure what triggered it — maybe it was a glance at the news or the sight of someone at the grocery store without a mask. Maybe it wasn’t caused by anything in particular, but you’re still feeling sort of “off.” Time slogs along as if you’re wading through chili. When you log into your next Zoom meeting and see a virtual room full of smiles, you wonder, “What’s wrong with me?”
I call this quarantine state the Hell Zone. I know the Hell Zone. While I’m healthy, employed, and about as lucky as anyone can hope to be during a crisis like this, my mind keeps pulling me back there in an almost familiar rhythm. Some pretty good days. Hell Zone. Some genuinely nice moments. Hell Zone. Repeat, indefinitely.
What makes it even more stressful is that even though these emotional lows are extremely common right now, they happen to each of us on separate schedules. We may all go through Hell Zones, but we go through them alone.
As unpleasant as it is, the Hell Zone does feel like an appropriate emotional reaction right now with the rising death toll, the collapse of the economy, and all the deep flaws in our society that are now more glaring than ever. Still, it’s not a sustainable state. Uncertainty is hard on our brains. And a study in Biology Psychology found that just six weeks of chronic stress can lead to depressive symptoms such as mood swings, even in people without a prior diagnosis. And so we let our minds contort into thinking things are normal, at least for a little while.
But if the okay times are temporary, so are the low ones. When you’re in a Hell Zone, it helps to acknowledge it to get a…