Dubai: I was in a similar "self-isolation' situation at this time last year. The journey to Everest entails being on the mountain for about two months.
Picture being isolated from the outside world away from family and friends, sometimes connected- other times not, living in a tent in extreme conditions, with a mere handful of food variety, and oblivious to what the next day will be like.
Not to forget, if by any chance you catch a cold, most of the expedition will be jeopardized leaving you behind. You get isolated; the rest of the team stays away from you at all times. During meals, you will be left eating alone in a different tent to avoid spreading the virus.
Sounds enough like quarantine?
We are all in quarantine now, perhaps in fancier, more comfortable conditions- for some.
Some of us are complaining and some are embracing, some are productive, and others are not, some are alone while some are craving a quiet zone, some need a push and some need a pull. Most are counting their blessings and some are in the process of assessing, some can’t wait to reunite and others just lost that appetite, some are losing their jobs and most are fighting against all odds, some are considering a break up while some are wishing to wake up next to each other.
We are in this pandemic together, even if you are in a different part of the world, on a different time zone, you are still equally responsible. What is asked of us is universal: ‘Stay Home to Save Lives’. Might as well act responsibly for humanity to reach the same goal/summit which is overcoming COVID19.
What each and every one of us is going through is okay as we are all in the process of climbing the same mountain- even though we might be climbing different facets, with different climbing skills and different ways of coping with various conditions.
That being said, I’d like to share the main takeaways from my experience on Everest that can be applied during this quarantine period.
1. Self-love and appreciation
We live in a fast-paced world and most of us are always racing against time to get what we want or provide for those we love. Being on an expedition in the mountains usually slows down or pauses my normal life, allowing me to focus on myself and to simply appreciate “me”. While none of our settings are identical during this quarantine, most of us do have a little bit more of free time than usual. Take full advantage of that. Book an hour in your calendar every day to simply enjoy yourself and express self-love.
2. It’s okay to break down
It’s healthy to speak to people around you (luckily in quarantine it’s family and friends). I had my own share of tough moments while climbing Everest and I embraced them. I broke down, maybe more than once, to express and deal with the amount of stress I felt from things like catching a cold to simply being extremely exhausted. But I got back up every time. On that mountain, we were a team and some friends I made became family. They were my shoulder to cry on when I needed it - and it felt good! I also called home to hear the warm voices of my family who showered me with love and encouragement- and, that too, worked.
3. Take it one day at a time
Not knowing what the plan is for the next day is frustrating but being always prepared is a good idea. On the mountain, the weather forecast is what determines what we do and when we do it, and sometimes that same forecast turns out to be wrong. The change in plans might happen just 30 minutes before we take off, so uncertainty is a major factor on the mountains. Always having multiple plans is a good idea to coop with such situations. I encourage you to reflect and create your own plan A, B, C & D.
4. Remember that this is temporary
Just like all situations in life, it’s an impermanent phase that will come to an end so try to make the best out of it. During my summit day at 2am at about 8,500m of altitude climbing in a -30 degrees environment with an oxygen mask on my face , I was contemplating life and thinking “what in the world am I doing?” but what kept me going was positive self-talk and self-assurance that this is only temporary and that it will be over soon. It’s a great way to bring you back to your main purpose and goals and remind you of your true mindset.
5. Make a schedule
Some days were long and some were short. Time flew while climbing but during downtime the wait was painful. With a schedule in place, I would plan the day around my meals (which was the most exciting part of the day). Even brushing my teeth was an activity!
While at home, a schedule to keep you on track is a great way to start off the day, the moment you tick off even the first two things on the list, you’ll feel much more in control of your time.
6. Music, dancing and laughing
Hearing an avalanche falling close by became entertaining with some background music. Dancing my way through the climb made it easier and shared oxygen bottles pranks became hilarious.
Having music in the background is always entertaining while at home, you never know when you pop your move. Read, watch or think of something funny because laughter is a real game changer.
Focus on counting your blessing and look at what you have instead of what you don’t have. Realize that there are people that are in far worse situations. When I had to go to lower altitude to recover from my bronchitis while on medication, I really struggled the first two days thinking about how everyone else is doing much better than I was, and kept complaining about my situation. When I went to the clinic for a check-up, I came across a guy with frostbitten fingers who had to call off his expedition. Needless to say, I felt extremely lucky and thanked the universe for all my blessings- big or small.
Always remember that you are not alone. We are all in this together, and it is important to be a great team player given that we are one team aiming for the same goal. For the first time in a century, the focus is on our health and the wellbeing of humans instead of wars and economies. It’s very unusual for the whole world to be in quarantine.
Maybe the universe is telling us something. Maybe Mother Earth needs a break. And maybe you just need to breathe.
Enjoy it while it lasts.
-Tima Deryan is the first Lebanese woman to climb mountain Everest