March 13, 2020. Friday the 13th almost seemed too fitting. This was truly the last day that my life was completely normal. I spent this day celebrating the St. Patrick’s Day weekend with my friends. The next thing I know, we’re all getting a mass email stating that spring break has been extended. 2 weeks go by, and instead of going back to campus, I move out of my dorm. Another 2 weeks pass by, and suddenly we’re in the midst of a global pandemic and stuck in quarantine.

Like many others, I never got the chance to process what all this meant and how exactly our lives were changing because it happened so fast. It’s almost as if we were all going through the stages of grief over the loss of normalcy. Being immunocompromised, I’ve essentially spent the last 7 months at home to keep myself and my family safe, as we all should. Ironically, being in quarantine started off as such an awful, scary thing but then became something that I had accepted. 6 months ago, I was someone worried about the future and not giving herself the self-care that she needed. Eventually, I’ve become someone who values herself and her well-being, takes it one day at a time, and has changed her lifestyle for the better. Now, I’m not saying that I’m suddenly this woke Instagram guru, but I’ve learned to turn a scary and unknown situation into something that promotes self-growth and self-reflection!

When this pandemic first started, I was angry and confused with the state of the world, sad that I couldn’t see my friends, and mad at myself for wasting the time I had before. With finals around the corner and a new, confusing online format, I could tell that my stress was at an all time high. Once school was over, I finally took some time for myself and relaxed. But after a week or two of doing this, I thought “now what?” As someone who always needs to be doing something to feel productive, the beginning of quarantine was somehow mentally exhausting. I went from being busy with school, research, friends, and simply life to staying at home and doing nothing.

From these months of isolation, I learned that my value doesn’t depend on my productivity and that what I am doing in the moment is enough; I AM ENOUGH. This concept was so hard to grasp for someone like me who is pre-medicine and essentially bred to always be working and getting experience. Once I came to this realization that there is only so much I can do right now and need to learn to appreciate my worth, the rest of quarantine wasn’t too bad. I spent my mornings studying for the MCAT but then took the rest of it to do family activities, spend time in nature, exercise, and simply have quality time with myself. I learned to cherish my mental health and focus on bettering my eating habits, priorities, and overall lifestyle.

I truly did go through the five stages of grief without realizing it, and I’m sure those you reading this subconsciously did as well. But instead of thinking of it as the stages of grief, I think of it as the stages of self-love and growth because it’s a process that can be long and sometimes painful. I went from being constantly being a worrier and angered with how life was, to finally accepting my new normal and becoming a warrior. This took time too! I didn’t just wake up one day content with how life was. There were so many days that I didn’t feel good mentally or was upset with how isolating quarantine had become. I remember having days filled with anxiety and sadness because I was terrified of our correct situation. I think one of the worst parts of quarantine is being alone with your thoughts and finally having to think about the things you always pushed to the back of your mind because you were too busy. I realized that there’s a lot I wasn’t happy with internally in terms of how I was treating my body and mind. I spent so much time being nice to others that I forgot I still need to care for myself. So, I started by making small changes and doing things more for myself. In light of this, I co-created a blog called NaNi Vaato as a healthy stress outlet! Right now, I’m prioritizing MYSELF and my mental and physical well-being above all because all we really can do is take it one day at a time.