The Psychological Impact of Covid-19
In the words of Haroon Rashid “We fell asleep in one world and woke up in another. Suddenly Disney is out of magic, Paris is no longer romantic, New York doesn`t stand up anymore. The Chinese Wall is no longer a fortress, and Mecca is empty. Hugs and kisses suddenly become weapons, and not visiting parents and friends becomes an act of love. Suddenly you realise that power, beauty, and money are worthless, and you can`t get the oxygen you are fighting for. The world continues its life, and it is beautiful. It only puts humans in cages. I think it’s sending us a message: “You are not necessary. The air, earth, water, and sky without you are fine. When you come back, remember that you are my guests. Not my masters.”
So aptly put by Haroon Rashid- The COVID-19 pandemic rocked us and the world in many unprecedented ways. Lockdowns became a household name and it tapped deep into our psyche. We had to adopt to new ways of doing things we long held for granted and overnight had to follow this mantra- wash your hands thoroughly, mask up and keep a physical distance of one meter. It`s coming to two years now and the fatigue has set in. We got our “time-out”, and we needed a reset to take stock of what was essential in our lives BUT the end seems to be far away and there is no light at the end of the tunnel. Yes- the world is teaching us a lesson – we are not its masters- Nature is.
So, what changed or to put it simply how have we changed and here are some observations from my very own perspective. Firstly, the way we greet people in social settings has changed. How often have we heard - Don’t shake hands, don’t high-five, and don’t hug? The usual casual “Muah Muah” and hugs and kisses has completely disappeared when we see our relatives and friends. Culturally, hugging plays an important role as an affectionate greeting and has become common in Malaysia and in many countries. We are aware that a simple hug isn`t COVID- safe in this pandemic situation but then being principally social creatures, the touch deprivation has taken our confidence away when greeting people. Uncertain of how to react, it`s little surprise many of us are finding this new way of living with COVID hard to accept. Ultimately, all experts agree: the best practice is to avoid physical contact with people not in your own household and what an irony- we probably needed a hug more in 2020 or even in 2021 than ever before. If you absolutely must hug someone, there are some things you should keep in mind to minimise the risk of transmission.
- Wear a mask. Preferably iElder.asia`s famous Dr Mama`s Protect Me Facemask. This Antimicrobial Face Mask can kill 99.9% of viruses and bacteria once it encounters this mask. All this is possible with silver-ion technology from Europe. I`m a big fan of this mask.
- Direct your face away from the other person in the opposite direction.
- Hold your breath if you can. That way you can avoid transmitting or inhaling infectious respiratory droplets during the hug
- Follow the mantra - wash or sanitise your hands before and after the hug.
My second observation is during exercising outdoors which has been allowed during lockdowns and it has been highly recommended as staying active and fit for people of all ages and abilities is also vital to lower the risk of infections. Although there are certain limitations of exercise during lockdowns, outdoor workouts can be safely conducted while keeping social distancing at least 2 meters away from each other. However, the pandemic has made us wary of each other even during exercising. For instance, I walk outdoors with a face shield to protect me and keep doing a zigzag walk when I see people walking towards me. I call it the zigzag walk as I keep crossing the street to the right and left when I see the walkers coming towards me. It`s vice versa too as I see them do the same. We never did this before, and the paranoia has set in where we are suspicious of everyone and what they bring.
Exercising outdoors gave us the much-needed break where we could go out and hopefully wave a Hi to friends or even have a brief chat. This was odd - I happened to meet my best friend whilst walking one day and our brief conversation was done with both of us standing 4 metres apart. Both of us afraid to stand close and have a conversation although we had our double doses of vaccinations and had our face shields on. Agreed social distancing must be strictly complied with since droplets contaminated with viruses from infected people might spread further due to speed and wind velocity. The pandemic has certainly robbed us of our freedom. The impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic have rapidly and abruptly caused massive changes to people’s daily lives.
Thirdly is the innate fear that has come over most people in this Covid pandemic challenge. Take for example of visiting the homes of loved ones and close friends when allowed under the SOPs. Apartments have a blanket rule of not allowing any visitors to come in as they follow very stringent SOP`s. Those in landed homes are not comfortable of receiving you for a visit even if you are “deemed safe”. Their famous words are – “let’s wait till the numbers go down to an acceptable limit”! and… we are still waiting. Understandably, we should be concerned of the elderly and children in their homes and transmitting the virus to them and vice versa. We get concerned of touching the surfaces and start wearing gloves and sanitize everything along the way. We get concerned of having close conversations and even wear masks at home when we have family over in rare moments. The order of the day, then: Wash those hands, per usual. Check on your elderly neighbours, as we should anyway. Be prepared, but don’t panic. But even that message kindles paranoia. I want to be positive, and my thoughts are different: hope for the best, prepare for the worst. This coronavirus outbreak has turned many of us into nervous germophobes, seeking to protect ourselves from infection by washing our hands methodically and frequently, avoiding unnecessary contact with so called high-touch surfaces and methodically sanitizing packages, our homes, and our bodies.
Another question then arises. Do I do the shopping myself or order online? Am I being ridiculously paranoid or sensibly cautious? The constant media coverage, for which we are alternately grateful and resentful, begins to feel like an invitation to hysteria. Those over 60 have been told to stock up in case they’re forced to stay home for a long period, and to avoid crowds. But stocking up means what, exactly? And how much is enough? The emphasis on cleaning and disinfecting in the wake of COVID -19 is gearing us towards maintaining better hygiene, but the constant fear of being infected has also added to our stress levels. More so in the case of those who have already been obsessed with cleanliness. Like for example as mentioned above, when we receive parcels etc, we are sanitizing the parcels in the hope of killing any germs the sender may have transmitted.
Ultimately, with these never-ending lockdowns, it is more likely that we would tend to overthink, with limited options available to distract ourselves. There is constant conversation about coronavirus everywhere and so it`s not a great mental state to be in especially with the compelling need to be up to date with every (mis)information about the pandemic on social media, WhatsApp, or other platforms. Let us follow the recommended guidelines for prevention but make sure you do not go beyond that. Do not be too hard on yourself. There is a lot of uncertainty, and you need to accept that. Most importantly, be kind to yourself.