Kiss Me Through The Phone – COVID-19
In unprecedented times, extraordinary measures are being taken by government to prevent the spread of COVID-19, which are presenting novel problems to human beings and how we have interacted as a society up until now.
The phrase social distancing has trended in the last couple of months around the world, and with South Africa’s imminent lockdown ahead, the thought of being stuck at home, alone, or perhaps with family members you don’t usually spend all that much time with by choice, can be daunting for many.
Human beings are social creatures, we crave proximity to one another, and look to each other for support during stressful times. Oxytocin, the hormone that gets secreted from our pituitary gland and is responsible for relationships and bonding, is released when we hug or cuddle another person (or animal!).
Even when you’re totally healthy, a lack of social interaction can hurt physical and mental wellbeing. Studies have found correlations between loneliness and diabetes, autoimmune disorders and cardiovascular diseases. When you’re alone, if you’re already prone to depression or anxiety, you may be hit even harder by the social distancing measures being put into place I the current coronavirus culture.
The good news is that while the world hasn’t yet seen a pandemic that is so far-reaching, we do have research that was compiled during the SARS epidemic of 2003 as well as 9/11.
WHO IS MOST AT RISK?
Some groups have been found to be more at risk at feeling this emotional impact than others.
- 16-24 years old
- A history of psychiatric illness
- Have one child (as opposed t having none or more than one)
- Healthcare workers
Dr Adam Kaplin, a neuroscientist at John Hopkins university, says that this crisis may trigger past trauma’s for anyone who has experienced distressing life events in the past.
COMMON EMOTIONAL RESPONSES TO CORONAVIRUS
- FEAR AND ANXIETY – it’s completely normal to feel anxious or fearful about contracting the virus.it is contagious, and can prove serious for about 5% of the population. It’s also normal to feel anxious about getting food and supplies. Seeing empty grocery store shelves and long lines is certainly not the norm and can spark anxiety in even the most rational people.
- DEPRESSION AND BOREDOM – our normal daily routines have completely fallen away, and with lockdown coming into effect, almost everyone will be staying home. This can trigger boredom or depression for many who thrive on the hustle and bustle of going to work every day.
- ANGER AND FRUSTRATION – this pair of feelings is rooted in having to relinquish control of so many things at once. It may be directed at certain people, or at the situation at large. Nonetheless, the feeling of powerlessness over a situation has the ability to spark frustration and anger in all of us.
WHAT YOU CAN DO TO COMBAT THESE FEELINGS
- Acknowledge that this is stressful. Denial is a curiously adaptive skill, and this can mean pushing down feelings of anxiety or anger around the situation. Often, we develop unhealthy coping mechanisms to numb these feelings, but in the long run, admitting that this is our current reality is the best way to deal with the situation.
- Benefit finding is a technique that involves looking for the so-called silver linings and being grateful for them. For example, working from home may mean you have more autonomy over how you divide your time, and being on lockdown may give you the chance to reorganize that room you’ve been outing off for months
- Change your expectations of yourself. It is completely normal to be less productive during stressful times such as these. You may not be eating as healthy, or exercising as much as you used to, but it isn’t an easy time for anyone. Our culture has a toxic habit of not giving people time to recover and react. Be kind to yourself.
- Manage your news intake. While keeping up to date with current case numbers is important, it is all too easy to get sucked into every press conference available. Being informed doesn’t mean you’re a newsroom producer. Set a few times a day to check the updates and concern yourself with other, more healthier outlets the rest of the time.
While social distancing has meant that we can’t go out to eat with our friends or socialize in the ways we are used to, we are lucky to live in a time where the digital world enables connection on many levels. Facetime, google hangouts and Zoom have allowed people to connect and still see their friends.
A simple phone call or text can also help keep you connected, and simple things like petting a dog, having a hot bath or engaging in some self-care, preparing a delicious meal mindfully can all boost our oxytocin when we can’t reach out to our friend for a hug.