Should You Try to 'Improve Yourself' in Quarantine? | Top Universities

Should You Try to 'Improve Yourself' in Quarantine?

By Chloe Lane

Updated February 17, 2022 Updated February 17, 2022

There’s one aspect of the coronavirus pandemic that’s affecting most of us, but nobody’s talking about: quarantine guilt.

Quarantine guilt comes just as you’re starting to feel slightly calmer. It creeps up on you when you wake up from your lie-in and lingers all day – when you’re checking Instagram, when you’re chatting to your friends – making you feel paranoid and ashamed. 

What is quarantine guilt? It’s the feeling that you should be doing something more to better yourself. That you should be keeping up with your friends who are bragging about their daily runs, their freshly cooked meals, their new language skills…

And then there are Tweets like this:

Do these people have a point? Is quarantine a time to work on your goals or a time to relax? Here’s what I think.

Dealing with all this excess time

Excess time

On one hand, if there’s something you want to achieve, like learning a language, it seems logical to use this time to work towards this ambition. 

With the time saved by not physically attending lectures, seminars and social events, you’re likely to be sat twiddling your thumbs some days with not a lot to do.

If this is you, take a look at our list of 25 productive things to do while social distancing.

Alternatively, if you want to use this time to relax, that’s fine too! Chill out, watch films, read books. Ultimately, we are remaining at home to stay safe – not to undertake an expansive self-improvement process.

Some people thrive under stress – others don’t. Both are fine.

If you’re someone who performs well under stressful circumstances, then good for you – that’s great. But most people don’t. 

It’s fine either way, so don’t feel pressure to compete with or compare yourself to people who seem to be doing really well during this time. 

Even the most productive, happy people will have bad days. Nobody is on top form 24/7. They’re just choosing not to show this side of themselves on social media.

Staying healthy and keeping your mental health in check is an achievement in itself

It’s completely normal to feel anxious about what’s happening in these abnormal times. However, this anxiety can affect some people more severely than others.

If you suffer from anxiety, the National Health Service (NHS) suggests trying to focus on what you can control, who you speak to and where and how often you get information about the coronavirus. The NHS gives tips on handling anxiety here.

It’s important to let yourself be sad when you feel it, as well as allowing yourself to appreciate the happier moments of your day.

Exercise is important – but don’t punish yourself  

We all know that there are plenty of benefits of exercise. Exercise can help with sleep by helping you to relieve some of the tension built up over the day. Exercise has also been proven to decrease stress, anxiety and depression. Of course, it also benefits your physical health, helping your cardiovascular system work more efficiently. 

However, motivating yourself to actually do some exercise can be a bit of a drag. The trick is not to view it as a chore, but to come up with some new and creative ways to get active: whether that’s having a dance, walking the dog, or cleaning the house. If it gets your heart rate up a bit, you’re on the right track.


Do whatever makes you feel happy and safe. No-one is going to judge you on what you have or haven’t achieved. It’s a global pandemic – you don’t have to be okay all of the time.

Remember: everyone is worried, everyone is scared – we’re all in this together.

Here are a few things I find relaxing when I’m having an off day:

  • Having a long bath with bubbles and a candle
  • Reading a book (anything by Nora Ephron is my personal go to)
  • Re-watching a TV show from my childhood/ teenage years (such as Gossip Girl, Victorious, Doctor Who or Gilmore Girls)
  • Calling my mum or my best friend
  • Sipping a frothy coffee while watching birds outside the window
  • Writing something. Anything. Bonus points if it’s rubbish.

What are you doing in quarantine? Let us know in the comments below.

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This article was originally published in April 2020 . It was last updated in February 2022

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