Covid: Coping with long term changes

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Infectious diseases & the 21st century

The coronavirus made sure 2020 will be remembered as the year of major upheaval and change. Lockdowns are being reintroduced in some countries, extended in others. Whether we want to know it or not – our lives have changed forever.

Felissa R Lashley wrote a paper on Emerging infectious diseases at the beginning of the 21st century. She stated:  ”The emergence and re-emergence of infectious diseases involve many interrelated factors. Global interconnectedness continues to increase with international travel and trade; economic, political, and cultural interactions; and human-to-human and animal-to-human interactions. These interactions include the accidental and deliberate sharing of microbial agents and antimicrobial resistance and allow the emergence of new and unrecognized microbial disease agents. As the 21st century begins, already, new agents have been identified, and new outbreaks have occurred. Solutions to limiting the spread of emerging infectious diseases will require cooperative efforts among many disciplines and entities worldwide.” ¹

The 21st century might be the century of the virus. One thing corona taught us is that people can carry an invisible threat. Protecting ourselves has become our number one concern every day. Changes that have probably come to stay are the regular washing of hands, wearing masks when we are sick, thinking twice before we hug someone or shaking someone’s hands. We shall opt for meetings via the internet rather than in boardrooms, attend funerals via Zoom instead of filling a church and prefer working from home above going to a busy office block. We’ll tend to avoid crowded shopping centres and public transport. We won’t have family gatherings for the foreseeable future – out of fear that someone might be ill and contagious.


What is the effect of so many changes on us?

We experience significant anxiety and stress because of loss:

  • Loss of our normal routines – for example, a school year, going to work, just going shopping.
  • Loss of physical connection with people – because they might make us ill.
  • Loss of hope that things might return to normal (can I ever leave my house again without a mask?)
  • Loss of freedom to move wherever we want (holidays, weekends away, visiting elderly parents)
  • Loss of believing in a government to protect us ( as covid cases soar and political leaders continue to make senseless decisions)
  • Loss of jobs /businesses
  • Loss of life ( when people we know or family members die of covid)
  • Loss of control ( i can’t choose anymore – the government chooses for me)
  • Loss of time ( when you work 7 days per week because you work from home, or because we have no idea of what the future now holds)

We are creatures of habit and routines give us the feeling of being in control. With major changes in ways, our reaction is often one of  ”fight, flight or freeze”, because our brain experience change as danger.


How to cope with our new reality?

If you look at the losses above, develop a strategy to deal with each one you struggle with.

For example:

Establish a new daily routine for yourself  –

  • Get up and get dressed, as if you are going to work or school.
  • Plan your next day and activities as you used to do before lockdown.
  • Prepare and eat healthy meals at specific times during the day.
  • Prepare a space in your house for you to work or study.
  • Get enough exercise and sleep.

Keep up your connection with family and friends.

  • Ensure you connect with family or friends regularly via phone or video calls, especially with older adults who are often very alone and isolated.
  • Talk about things that matter – not just the weather. It helps to share the good and evil in our lives. A simple question like ”What was good about your day” and then ”What was bad about your day” can encourage someone to share more about themselves.
  • It is okay to tell someone what you miss, what is hard for you during this time. It is better to be open and talk about issues than to pretend they don’t exist.

Accept the fact that things will stay as they are for now.

  • Don’t fight the changes. Fighting change only causes more frustration and anxiety. Think of covid being here as part of our lives permanently, instead of waiting and wishing for an end date. There is no end date. Accepting reality can prevent many disappointments.
  • Instead of a weekend away or holiday, plan activities for your family members that you can do in your home – like a pizza evening, a movie night, a games night. One thing lockdown brought back is family time. Use it to bond.
  • Try and find meaning by keeping a daily journal on how you lived through covid and lockdown. You can add drawings and write about stories that you hear from other people. Perhaps one day in the future, your grandkids will share your stories about the pandemic with their children.

Give yourself time to grieve when you experience loss.

  • Many of us will lose loved ones due to covid. Some will die alone without us at their bedsides. You might not be able to attend the funeral. Make a point of keeping contact with family members during this time. If we carry one another during difficult times, we can make it through.
  • Do something unique at your home to remember the person who passed away (a private ceremony, a tree planting,  a meal where everyone shares what they remember about this person).

Be innovative and create new opportunities for yourself. 

  • Do an online course or start a new hobby.
  • Teach your kids to cook.
  • Read books and have book discussions with other family members.
  • Think about what you can do to make the lives of other people better during this time. There are so many people in need of help.

Be thank full every day for what you have – even if it only your health. 

  • We often forget how blessed we are. Write 5 things down every day that you are thankful for.
  • Ask all family members to do that and share it during mealtime.
  • It is normal to feel uneasy or gloomy some days. We, after all, only human and uncertainty, unsettles most of us. Remember, God is still in control. He’s got your back.

Resources:

¹ https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/16629503/

https://www.ky3.com/content/news/5-ways-to-cope-with-lifestyle-changes-due-to-Coronavirus-568926291.html

https://www.accenture.com/za-en/about/company/coronavirus-human-experience

https://depression.org.nz/the-causes/major-changes/

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