“I think you are over-reacting and allowing this to play into your anxiety…”
Well, I was left miserably eating my words…
When the world first learnt of corona virus at the beginning of 2020, I unashamedly joined the group of people who scoffed at this “flu virus” that was creating such upheaval amongst the nations of the world. We had finally ended a decade and 2019 had been one of the worst years for so many people.
I was so eager to turn my back on 2019 and its strife. The excitement of the new decade was tangible – it represented a new start for so many people. And so, when my already overly health-anxious client began to “run away” with the idea of a virus “shutting down” our world, I was left belittling his concerns.
How could the human race in 2020 be brought to its knees by a virus? Was medical science not advanced in its ability to fight disease? Were we not invincible? We were powerful and intelligent and definitely capable of conquering a micro-organism? It was only a mere flu…
Well, never shall I make a mockery of mother nature ever again. We have been tested and failed miserably. And perhaps, it is mother nature’s revenge because we have taken too much and pushed too far and now it’s time for auto-correction. A very necessary and normal process to stop and modify the human “rat race” and the “unsustainable” lives we have led; and begin to embrace awareness and mindfulness once again in our lives. Will this total shut down of the world really stop us from once again boarding the rollercoaster of self-implosion?
I hope it does.
It is a bitter sweet time as we reflect on our lives and how we having been living and perhaps we are finding joy in the slowing down, the time with loved ones, the re-introduction of lost parts of our lives, starting new things, sorting out the back-log of unfinished projects and feeling gratitude for what we still have and what we hope to have again.
But it has been very painful to watch grown men cry as they stand in long lines waiting for some help and what will be the ramifications of this trauma and how we will we ever repay the untold debt that has been incurred to merely keep us afloat during these tumultuous times? So many questions, so few answers. It has been the theme of corona virus – unprecedented in every way and it has literally catapulted us from the safety of our comfort zones and plummeted us into the depths of fear, anxiety, uncertainty, insanity, isolation, loneliness and despair.
Our emotional brain surpasses our rational mind, as we hoard toilet paper, stock our fridges and pantries with food, repeatedly wash our hands despite being alone, wear our masks and gloves and sanitise many times a day and stay indoors. Not only does it serve to contain the spreading of a virus, but it more importantly, in some way, it gives us the feeling of having control. And it’s the control that “treats” our anxiety.
Unlike many previous world-events, Corona virus has defied all boundaries and had no respect for borders, money, power, prestige, race or religion. It has been a global pandemic. And the entire world has been brought to a screeching halt by a micro-organism. We have been out-played by a microscopic something that has been immune to all our known means of human control.
And once again we are reminded of the fragility of life and that we are mere mortals. We are re-evaluating what constitutes “meaningful” and “valuable” – our health, as without it, we have nothing and the world is nothing more than a place we “borrow” for the course of our lives. But this event has managed to do what hasn’t been possible until now – it has restored gratitude and empathy, family values, humility, respect for our planet and human connection.
As a child adolescent psychiatrist, I am quietly pleased to see our youth faced with real adversity, as it has been an opportunity to regain perspective and gratitude and to focus on instilling their much-needed improved resilience. Our children are having to stretch their imaginations, to tolerate frustration, learn to entertain themselves and sooth their need for constant external sources of stimulation.
The change to our lives and the “new normal” could be considered a grief process. It would be normal to find oneself struggling to accept this new reality and to be saddened, if not depressed, by the losses that have accompanied the arrival of corona virus. And although we can acknowledge and welcome the many good aspects that have accompanied the change and how its positively impacted our self-development and growth, at the same time, we are filled with agonising emotion. It is unfortunate that it is only through real suffering that change happens. Proof again that our path to resilience is an arduous one and growth happens through adversity.
Being flexible is an invaluable trait at times of adversity, as it facilitates having a good, healthy coping ability. It is at times such as these that people who are rigid in their ways are inclined to really struggle. They are resistant to change and they clutch hold of their “old and known” ways and invariably, they shatter – like glass. Rigid control mechanisms are used to hide our insecurity and manage our anxiety and discomfort. But to be free and flexible, you need to let go of trying to control the world, but learn to control your responses.
Corona virus has affected mental health and physical health with equal vigour. Its onslaught and the sequelae have resulted in depression, anxiety and trauma. It seems very likely that following the acute phase of this trauma, we will see an escalation in the prevalence of mental health symptoms and disorders such as PTSD, OCD, health anxiety, social anxiety, depression, anger, violence, relationship breakdown and substance abuse.
Currently, the impact of isolation is evident as it’s the antithesis of what us social beings need. And perhaps this event will result in ongoing social isolative behaviours? Up until now we have complained about the disconnect caused by technology, and now it might be our only way to connect? And how will our children emerge from this trauma? What has been the ripple effect of seeing their parents in states of panic or depression? How will they view illness and disease and the ability to trust and feel safe?
What will be the remnants of this trauma? Will we again comfortably sit in busy restaurants and movie theatres? Will social distancing, hand washing and sanitising, staying at home when sick or wearing a mask be forever woven into the fabric of our society? Will online meetings, working from home, less use of cars, fewer group activities and telehealth become fixtures of our future? Will we always carry the scars of corona virus, like our ancestors who were forever traumatised by the World Wars, the Holocaust and the Great depression? Only time will tell how this story will unfold…
I don’t know.
Managing children at this time can be very difficult, but there are many ideas out there on how to keep your children entertained and busy. However, how do you manage the emotional upheaval of this time and how do you manage your feelings and frustrations, especially related to your children?
Take some time to listen to my modules on parenting (https://mentalhealthonline.teachable.com/p/parent-skills-training-1) and how it directly impacts the brain development, self-esteem, emotional intelligence, mental health and behaviours of your child. Use this time to make further positive changes to the way in which you have been parenting and see the rewards and benefits for you, your child and the family.