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How to thrive in self-quarantine

April 2, 2020

With stay-at-home guidelines extending through April, ASU professor shares tips to stay sane

In one month, Arizona State University researcher Michael Bernstein went from a trip spanning the globe from Norway and Denmark to the Netherlands, Germany, and Japan to self-imposed quarantine in his one-bedroom apartment in downtown Phoenix.

It isn’t terrible — his apartment faces west, into an inner courtyard where the sunlight filters through a palm tree in the late afternoon sun — but still a far cry from spring in Tokyo, admiring cherry blossoms and snacking on yakitori.

As of this story's publication (April 2), he has three days left staring at the light streaming through that palm tree. He knew he was going in the hole back home when he was in Europe. Or, as he put it: “the definitive prospect of having to be in self-quarantine per ASU policy and civic duty when returning from the Netherlands.”

While staying with a friend in the Netherlands, Bernstein began reading about the pandemic, mitigation measures, the effects of quarantines and a range of other topics.

“I thought it would be helpful to condense and distill all of the information into something that also invited me to mentally prepare myself,” said Bernstein, an assistant research professor in School for the Future of Innovation in Society.

Bernstein contacted his colleague Andrew Maynard, a professor, scientist, risk expert and author who produces a series of videos covering everything from human health risks and risk perception, to the risks and benefits of emerging and future technologies. The series is called Risk Bites.

They put together a five-minute video titled “A Guide to Self Care While Social Distancing.”

ASU Now talked to Bernstein about life without human contact, what happens when you can’t tango, and the importance of humor.

Question: What really got on your nerves during self-quarantine? What gave the most relief? Anything you’d change or prepare differently if you had to do it again?

Answer: As I write this, I’m at the end of day 6 of self-quarantine (March 27), so the past tense is a bit incomplete to use for me yet, but I’ll share what I’ve felt so far.

The first day was the hardest, in large part because I went from an environment of living with my friend to being alone.

The second day, I suppose memories of my life in Phoenix three weeks before came up strongly, and I sorely missed human contact. As a tango dancer, I missed in particular the ability to dance in a room with people.

Immediately on the first day, however, I got tremendous relief from various friends. One, spontaneously and incredibly kindly, had offered to get groceries for me while I was still away. She dropped them off for me and added some extra treats like excellent homemade kombucha. Another, also spontaneously, shared two virtual events for me to explore as part of our new, physically distant reality — a livestreamed dance event, just to move, and a livestreamed Facebook concert. I was feeling a bit down, but pushing myself out of my comfort zone to try these new virtual media really helped spark joy and appreciation for how I could spend my time in self-quarantine.

To prepare differently, with hindsight, I’d say to keep a standing supply of Lysol wipes in the future. And apparently toilet paper — although I miraculously happened to already have enough when I returned home.

Q: I see a few of your suggestions pop up in similar advice here and there. Are there common things to do to stay sane?

A: I’m glad you see similar advice, as the content of the video is definitely a reflection of some of the early sources of advice shared! Yes, I think the main themes that I’ve been seeing have really revolved around: leaning into social connections — connecting with friends and family and colleagues; maintaining healthy eating, sleeping and activity habits, as well as mindful engagement with news; and adopting an appropriate mindset, adjusting expectations for the time ahead, appreciating the invitation to slow down, and being OK with uncertainty about what will happen next because we’re all in the same boat, so to speak.

Q: Finally: movie recommendations. "Papillon," "Count of Monte Cristo," "Castaway," "Contagion"?

A: Well, this is a good one to ask, and coincidentally, my friend and I were going back and forth on movies that bring joy in uncertain times. My initial list included some fun, light-hearted movies like the mocumentary "What We Do in the Shadows," or the brilliant Melissa McCarthy’s comedies like "The Heat" or "Spy"; Pixar’s "Inside Out"; Miyazaki’s "Spirited Away." But — well, why not — on the airplane home I watched "Frozen II" and think it definitely takes the cake for a time-appropriate movie recommendation. Not from a content perspective, but from a message perspective of how we have the opportunity to grow with and through uncertainty if we can embrace focus on doing the next right thing.

Top image: Illustration courtesy of the School for the Future of innovation in Society

Scott Seckel

Reporter , ASU News

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Setting the stage digitally

April 2, 2020

ASU Gammage helps families stay entertained, educated during times of social distancing

At a time of uncertainty, and at least a month more of social distancing, families are looking for ways to stay busy and entertained by revamping every day activities through digital platforms.

Like many programs at Arizona State University, ASU Gammage is focusing on online content to help families cope. While performances are on hiatus, ASU Gammage remains committed to its mission of Connecting Communities by launching free, digital tools for self-expression.

“The arts have the power to make the world seem a little brighter. They are a great way to escape. Even though our theater is dark, we know the theater is more than building, and we will continue our mission beyond our stage in a new digital way,” said Colleen Jennings-Roggensack, vice president for ASU Cultural Affairs and executive director of ASU Gammage. “This is just an intermission. When it comes to an end we will once again gather in our theater seats, but until then ... we will see you online.”

Virtual Masterclasses

These free 30-minute classes, streamed through Facebook Live, combine music, dance, theater and visual arts with academic subjects and are taught by artists from The Molly Blank Fund Teaching Artists Program, who have been trained in the Kennedy Center arts integration methodThe Kennedy Center defines arts integration as "an approach to teaching in which students construct and demonstrate understanding through an art form. Students engage in a creative process which connects an art form and another subject area and meets evolving objectives in both." . So far, ASU Gammage has hosted three classes. On Friday, April 3 at 7 p.m., teaching artist Taylor Moschetti is hosting a Masterclass for the grown-ups called "Stir Crazy Improv."

Up next: "Stepping Inside the Author’s Mind" on Wednesday, April 8 at 4 p.m. In this online course, also available through Facebook Live on ASU Gammage’s page, Natalie Trelstad will integrate monologues and literary Common Core standards to determine the author’s point of view.

These classes are made possible with funding from the Abbett Family Foundation.

Lunch Time Talks

ASU Gammage is also using Facebook Live to launch Lunch Time Talks, a mini-series which will give the viewer opportunities to ask questions of theater and art professionals, including Broadway stars such as Krystina Alabado ("Mean Girls," "Spring Awakening" and "American Idiot"), Casey Likes ("Almost Famous") and Sam Primack ("Dear Evan Hansen"). The first event is Monday, April 6 at 1 p.m. with Likes. For more information go here.

Virtual Expressions

Think open mic night, but on Zoom. The first event will be hosted by Tomas Stanton on Tuesday, April 7 at 7 p.m. — complete with Zoom DJ Samuel Peña and featured guests Sean Avery, Kaeron Ray and Alexis Monroe. Musicians, dancers, singers, poets and multidisciplinary artists are invited to share their talents online during a three minute demonstration.

To sign up as a participant go here.

To tune in to the event go here.


ASU Gammage is looking for other opportunities to entertain and educate families by working on partnerships with the Phoenix Public Library, the Gather Storytelling group, NONAME book club, the HIDA Lab and Daniel Bernard Roumain, School of Music professor and longtime ASU Gammage collaborator.

For the latest list of ASU Gammage Digital Connections go here.

Jimena Garrison

Media Relations Officer , Media Relations and Strategic Communications