Coronavirus. COVID-19. Global Pandemic.
What do the words mean to you? What emotions are stirred up when you read them? What is the small pit of dread which occurs in the base of your stomach when you hear these words?
Over the past few months, we’ve heard these words being spoken and communicated. The uncertainty surrounding them has caused a mass hysteria across the globe. Healthcare workers, supermarket workers, teachers and all key workers are being branded frontline hero’s in leading the fight against this new unknown virus. This immediate reaction as a globe to fight and protect against a threat is instinctual and innate within us, known as the fight or flight response. However, the issue which is being overlooked currently is the impact this crisis has on us emotionally, the comedown after this battle we are all in, which will hit the globe hard post-crisis.
It is very well documented the innate F+F response we have is our fundamental human instinct to protect ourselves from harm. Harm can be anything we perceive to be a threat to our person and livelihood. This threat could be a blue-bottle house fly, a travelling car, open water, a common-cold or a mountain lion etc etc. Most of the time we have some knowledge of our threats, so we understand how we should respond when we are exposed to them for example if I see a wasp I know it can sting me and cause me pain or a severe allergic reaction so my response is to run away or swat the wasp away or just scream. Now let’s understand this threat are a larger scale, one which we have minimal knowledge about and unsure of how the threat will present it self to us, because of this we don’t know how to protect ourselves or others around us. This is what we are feeling in relation to the current crisis the globe is facing.
On a daily basis individuals will suffer from anxiety, depression, PTSD, paranoia or OCD etc to name a few. These can often be triggered by potential threats the person perceives in their reality, for example being unable to control a situation or being unable to go outside and enjoy your freedom. This anxiety then combined with the above feeling of being in fight or flight continuously can lead to heightened and pro-longed anxiety which in the long term is going to negatively impact of the individual mental well-being.
In addition, to those who already suffer from mental health conditions, a concern is now this crisis will trigger high levels of emotions in people for many reasons. One reason being we are all continuously going to feel in a state of fight or flight, this adrenaline rush will last as long as the threat is present. But what happens after the threat goes away? An adrenaline dump, this is when you rapidly decline from a heightened state to a very low state as the adrenaline levels drop to a normal level. This can develop into depression or anxiety as the body and mind are unable to regulate as it normally would. This dip in our mood can be challenging to our mental wellbeing and how we then begin to perceive our new reality post-crisis. Another reason is the shock and over-whelming feeling which arises when you take a seat back and reflect on what has just happened. You begin to realise the enormity of the issue, the high number of deaths you’ve dealt with, feelings of helplessness as you witness an individual losing the battle against this unknown virus etc. I can only imagine the emotional turmoil this crisis will have on all frontline and key workers across the globe.
There were no warning signs, no prediction or knowledge that such a crisis would occur during our lifetime. But it happened, it crept up on us like a dark shadow which consumed the globe in one quick act. We may feel trapped, isolated and unable to breath as the virus takes hold of the globe. But as we have learnt from history that all pandemics have a life span like a tornado they come and go causing mass destruction. The question is always the same when the tornado hits: how long will it last? will anyone get hurt? how much destruction will it cause? Unfortunately, these same questions we now ask of the current crisis.
I find in amongst all the fear, worry, scaremongering, and facts, there are some positives that will come of this crisis. We can see the mortality rates will be high, nearly everybody on Earth will have been affected by this virus in some way. This shared experience we are currently living through will show the power of humanity and expose the weaknesses we have in this generation. It comes as shock that the first lesson learned was how selfish we can be in a crisis, when the perceived threat arose, we only look to defend ourselves and forget there are people around us that are unable to protect themselves like we can. The mass panic buying and clearing shelves of food and cleaning supplies, was the first weakness shown. It shows the majority of us are egocentric and very much independent of each other, which works against us when we need each other the most. However, despite this it also showed the altruistic and empathic side to humanity the side where we quite literally will put ourselves in harm’s way to protect others that can’t. This heroism and strength we have is indescribable and outweighs any weaknesses we hold. Furthermore this crisis is benefiting Mother Nature, as the globe is healing, the Ozone layer is finally showing signs of repairing, the air pollution globally is the lowest it’s been for decades, all around us in the midst of all this chaos there are signs of new life, growth and new beginnings. Let’s take this crisis, as a chance to reset and change the way we live our lives. This has shown us the fundamental art of face-to-face social interaction which was decreasing due to social media, is now the only thing we have and want. The little things we take for granted such as our freedom to walk the earth, to live life the way we want to live it have been taken away. But when it is returned to us let’s express gratitude.
Following this crisis no one knows how life will be post-crisis, what emotional burden it will it leave us with? This is a turning point in history and our lives. Let’s embrace the change and learn from this crisis, as a human race we move on together.
Lastly, for many staying inside on lockdown is difficult and can be emotional and almost seem like a challenge. So here are a few things to try which may help break the day up:
◦ Make a short list of things to do and tick them off as you accomplish them. They don’t have to big tasks or even long for example read one chapter of a book, listen to a new/old album, clean my closet, or watch a movie. The task doesn’t have to be extravagant or amazing it just has to be realistic.
◦ Take time away from social media or mainstream news. There is so much noise and information that is communicated to us every second and during times like this even in lockdown it’s vital we switch off from the world to help process what we have heard or read and to reconfigure. This will aid our emotional well-being as we are allowing ourselves to process everything and reset. This can be done through mindfulness or meditation or just by sitting still in a quiet room for a few minutes. Try it it will surprise you how relaxed you may feel after doing this.
◦ Reflection- during these unprecedented times keep a journal, voice notes or take time to think about what is happening, your feelings, thoughts and reactions. Understand how you have been impacted, what this means for you as a person, how will change after this over? Having this time is important for us to release and explore what is going on for us. As by not having an outlet to reflect this will build up inside you and can lead to anxiety attacks for example.
Finally please follow the government or official guidelines on social distancing, how to protect yourself and others from risk of spreading the virus and how you can help those in need in your community. By each of us doing our small part we will form a larger solution.
If you need medical help for any reason, do not go to places like a GP surgery, pharmacy or hospital.
If you have symptoms of coronavirus (a high temperature or a new, continuous cough), use the 111 coronavirus service.
If you need help or advice not related to coronavirus:
- for health information and advice, use the NHS website or your GP surgery website
- for urgent medical help, use the NHS 111 online service – only call 111 if you’re unable to get help online
- for life-threatening emergencies, call 999 for an ambulance
Samaritans (24hr service): Call 116 123 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Mind Infoline (provides information on where to get help in your local area): call 0300 123 3393, text 86463 or email email@example.com