University of California, Riverside professor of psychology Kate Sweeny has studied China’s quarantine that precipitated the coronavirus pandemic, which has been in the forefront of the United States for the past few weeks.
Sweeny, who has taught at the University of California, Riverside, for 12 years, was asked in February by her colleague, Wei Wei Zhang, associate professor of psychology, to collaborate with him and his colleague, Renzai Zhou, of Nanjing University in China, on a survey of quarantined Wuhan residents.
Surveys were sent to 2,000 residents under quarantine and 3,000 residents not there yet about their well-being during that time of uncertainty.
The survey was given Feb. 12-19 and is currently undergoing review for a scholarly publication.
The quarantined residents were asked about depression, loneliness, anxiety, eating junk food and exercising in relation to their isolation.
Sweeny has researched for the past decade how uncertainty can affect our mental health and how waiting for; uncertain news can take its toll.
If one knows that something bad has happened, that is easier to deal with than uncertainty, Sweeny said.
Uncertainty during times of rapidly changing circumstances when you are in social distancing is stressful, she said.
Americans are now understanding the effects of having to stay at home in order to save lives because there is still the threat of spreading the disease through contact with others. We are social creatures.
“We are just not made to be alone,” Sweeny said.
Being under quarantine shakes up our daily lives and often signals a constant threat in our lives, Sweeny said.
She and her husband, Ryan Johnson, who does institutional research for UCR, saw their lives become uncertain when UCR had to stop holding classes for its students over two weeks ago.
Spring break was approaching but they had no idea that they too would also be mourning the loss of their classes and not seeing their students for an indefinite period of time, Sweeny said.
She said they are fortunate that they have a happy department that is staying in touch with each other through videos.
There are two things that can help us through isolation and quarantine, she said. One is mindfulness that keeps you grounded in the present.
Number two is getting into the flow state. “It’s the feeling you get when you so enjoyed an activity and you completely lose yourself,’’ Sweeny said.
It may also be time to find a new hobby or skill that you can work on during the isolation.
Sweeny said it’s important to balance the amount of social media you are taking in.
There also can be long-term effects of isolation and listening to a lot of the newscasts It is ok to keep up to date on the news, but we also have to take time to be with those we love. When this quarantine is lifted, we need to once again enjoy going to dinner with friends and trying to recapture our lives, even though we are living a new normal.
Staff writer Julie Farren may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org