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Don’t let the virus invade your mind

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Without a vaccine, we can only hope to stop the new coronavirus by stopping or minimizing contact with others. It is called social distancing. For weeks on end, he works from home, doesn’t go to the gym, shopping malls, and restaurants. You suspend your life.

Researchers at Imperial College London have bad news. The virus will not end with a round of estrangement. It will apparently disappear, but when the restrictions are lifted, it will spread again among the few people who remain infected.

“Social distancing and school closings should be in place approximately two-thirds of the time, approximately two months later and one month off, until a vaccine is available,” reports the MIT Technology Review.

Imagine hundreds of millions of people forced to repeatedly isolate themselves. It could become a greater threat to public health, says Scientific American. Because loneliness is known to harm both physical and psychological health, you become prone to not only seasonal coughs and colds, but also depression and heart disease.
Social distancing should be in effect for longer periods, until a vaccine is available: MIT Technology Review (Reuters Photo)

Social distancing should be in effect for longer periods, until a vaccine is available: MIT Technology Review (Reuters Photo)

In an article in The Conversation, he says that being confined for long periods of time causes “cabin fever,” a feeling of dissatisfaction, restlessness, irritability, and boredom. In Wuhan, for example, reports of domestic violence doubled, alcohol consumption increased because people were idle, and families reported increased stress at home.

If social distancing becomes part of normal life, we will need to find ways to stay psychologically healthy. Psychotherapist Esther Perel says on her blog: “We must insist on maintaining our social and emotional support.”

A good starting point could be to avoid “unproductive anxiety,” says Lori Gottlieb, a psychotherapist and columnist for The Atlantic. While some anxiety from the virus is good, to make sure we wash our hands regularly and remain socially estranged, uncontrolled anxiety “can make our minds spin in all kinds of terrifying directions.” You could be sitting at home, watching When Harry met Sally, but imagining yourself or someone you love dying from the virus.

Instead of “futurizing” and “catastrophizing,” says Gottlieb, we should find joy in common things (playing board games, calling friends) when we’re confined, because “the ordinary connects us the moment we need connection most. ”

Staying connected via the Internet is the best option to socialize counseling experts (AFP Photo)

Staying connected via the Internet is the best option to socialize counseling experts (AFP Photo)

Perel says people are panicking as they are during the war and terror attacks because there is “a lack of resources, the information is ambiguous and the instructions are not clear.” To make matters worse, we are told to limit ourselves instead of going out and meeting people. “When the most socially responsible thing we can do is avoid other people, how can we maintain the social connection?”

Social media is our best bet. We need to “continue working, learning, socializing, loving and wishing through the screens,” says Perel. Scientific American recommends using video chat more frequently because it is “the best option for in-person interaction.”

In New York, 700 residents of the New Rochelle quarantined locality held an online city meeting. Maybe you can’t invite your child’s friends to his birthday, but they can join you through a live feed. You can have a digital dinner with friends, remote book club meetings, etc.

Gottlieb says we will need to be more tolerant while socializing online. Don’t smoke if someone makes a joke about the situation. It is his way of decompressing. As Perel says, no one can handle this pressure alone. It is a collective trauma that requires collective healing. We need to share accurate stories and information, and spread joy to “activate the collective healing capacities of our communities.”

Gottlieb has the best advice: “A virus can invade our bodies, but we can decide whether to allow it to invade our minds.”

Bye, “normal”. If social estrangement becomes a recurring compulsion (see story above), globetrotters, live matches, evenings with friends, everything we love will become a threat to human survival. “This is not a temporary interruption. It is the beginning of a completely different way of life,” writes MIT Technology Review editor Gideon Lichfield in his article, “We will not go back to normal.”

Some of the changes are easy to imagine. Bars, restaurants, gyms, cinemas, airlines, etc., will be greatly affected. Those who adapt will survive. Gyms can offer online training sessions and restaurants can be reduced to delivery kitchens. The “closed” economy – services like Amazon and Netflix that avoid the need to go out – will strengthen.

Bigger changes will happen in the way we are monitored. Special units will be established to stop disease outbreaks before they become pandemics and accelerate the production of medical equipment and drugs. Israel is fighting Covid-19 using cell phone location data to track people who have been in contact with known carriers of the virus. Expect risk identification measures to become even more sophisticated.

Lichfield says you may need to sign up for a tracking service to fly. It will alert airlines if you have been around known infected people or disease hot spots. Temperature scanners will be everywhere. Your employer may require you to wear a health monitor in the office, and nightclubs may insist on an immunity test – vaccination or a record of recovery from an infection.

These measures will harm the poorest and weakest people, who lack access to medical care and live in disease-prone areas. They could be out of work. “Immigrants, refugees, the undocumented and ex-convicts will face yet another obstacle to taking hold in society.” Did you say “normal is boring”?

For more information: MIT Technology Review

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