COVID-19, quarantine and positive psychology - OPINION

  01 September 2020    Read: 1573
  COVID-19, quarantine and positive psychology -   OPINION

By Thseen Nazir,

Assistant professor at Department of Counseling and Guidance, Ibn Haldun University

We Homo sapiens, self-named and self-styled, have evolved and spread across the earth after millions of years of struggle and transformation. According to the evolution theorists, what we are today is a result of changes and adaptations, and such transformations were important for our survival on this planet.

Geologists usually say that “all it takes is time and pressure.” This means that whenever we have these two important aspects of time and pressure, it fosters changes in us. Unfortunately, some are permanent and some are temporary.

The pressure of survival with time has pushed us beyond our limits, and we have crossed millions of miles beyond our limits. Technological advancement during the 20th century has shrunk planet earth and dissolved our physical distance as never before.

With the internet age, social media and the social networking revolution, the meaning of communication, information broadcasting, and socialization were redefined and changed our thinking, emotions and behaviors once and for all. With such robust development, the lifestyle and the pace of life prompted huge changes in the modern world.

Communication technology sought to bring humans together and bring more understanding and clarity in our interactions. Reshaping and redesigning our socialization by technological gadgets such as smartphones were supposed to bring relief and peace within every human being.

Abundant resources, infrastructural development and advanced educational institutions were supposed to make us understand where we came from and where we are heading. Modern medicine and medical researchers were supposed to bring health and save lives.

Every technological device was supposed to bring ease and comfort in our lives. Working on artificial intelligence (AI) and planning to set up colonies on other planets is one of our dreams, and many of us struggle day and night to accomplish this dream.

The extinction of animals and devastating and damaging Earth permanently were none of the concerns for most of us. Living with the pace of the modern world is the norm, and those who cannot follow this pace are out of the race according to the law of the survival of the fittest.

Coronavirus times

Suddenly there came a big halt to all of this, which came in the shape of this COVID-19 pandemic. It shook us in a way that we had never even imagined in our wildest dreams. We all heard about it first a few months back when it was not spread in our native countries, and we felt that it was not going to happen to us. But it did happen, and it is changing our lives once for all.

Once it struck our native countries and then our cities and towns, we started worrying and isolating ourselves. With the isolation we tried to be normal and shifted our offices to our homes, life came to a standstill, and we all are trying our best keep up with our work and personal responsibilities.

During the initial days of lockdown, we were bombarded with information doubtful of its veracity. We stockpiled food and toilet paper and shared every single piece of information that we came across on our Facebook, WhatsApp, or Instagram accounts.

We did our best to make sure that our near and dear ones were safe. We did all that was in our hands and even started wearing masks and washing our hands every minute. During every second of quarantine, some of us were living in constant anxiety, fear, depression, etc., and some of us were even making money by expanding our businesses, while others just spread fear by forwarding posts on social media.

The truth is that our evolution never taught us or prepared us for how to behave during the quarantine. Our methods of coping show how diverse we humans are.

It is a basic understanding of humans in psychology that we all are not the same and react differently in different situations. Therefore, I am not surprised if I see anyone fighting for a package of toilet paper or risking lives by going out to buy a pack of cigarettes.

Lessons from experience

If we see the current situation on a positive note, we are learning a lot of lessons and have a lot of opportunities during this time.

The first opportunity is related to global warming and the damage we all are doing to this planet. We all heard how much pollution levels decreased in just one month during lockdowns.

That means if we wish we could save Earth together. The second opportunity from this quarantine is to realize how dependent we are on each other: Our survival is guaranteed only if we understand this mutual dependence, from a billionaire's dependence on the baker who bakes bread for him in the morning to the dependence of a professor who is in the class only as long as his students are there. The third opportunity, which is one of the most important, is time.

We all used to complain that we did not have enough time to spend with our families. Now everything is home-based for most of us, and we can spend as much time as we want with them. This quarantine also gave us the opportunity to understand ourselves.

We are having opportunities to introspect, feel, understand and listen to our inner voice. I feel we as individuals are not concerned about our present, but we all are running a future race. We are worried about the future and the economic, political and social consequences, but we are unaware of our present self.

We do not understand what impact this present situation will have on our current and future mental health. We do not know how our psychological personalities will be shaped because of this quarantine. The current situation can take a huge toll on our mental health if we do not listen to our inner voices and pay heed to our mental health.

As it is famously said charity begins at home. Now is the time to begin it. We need to be compassionate to our family members and ourselves right now. This teaches us that our "self" is the core of our happiness and peace in the world.

We need to make the right choices right now and come out "clean" once we put the virus behind us. This is too of a big lesson to ignore and not learn from it. It teaches us no matter who we are our basic needs are food, water, shelter and safety.

There are many people around us for whom it is a struggle to gather basic necessities while we flaunt our expensive stuff on Instagram. This is a time for all of us to learn a beautiful lesson, that we are all equal, no matter what the race, color of our skins, intelligence, assets we gathered or inheritance. Maybe we can start with ourselves by practicing these mindfulness mantras: “May I be patient with myself when I make mistakes. May I forgive myself for the mistakes I made knowingly or unknowingly. May I be healthy and safe. May everyone be safe and healthy now and in the future. May I forgive everyone who has done me wrong knowingly or unknowingly. May everyone live a happy and compassionate life."

By saying these mantras sitting or lying down in a relaxed manner, we send the message to our brain, and then the brain accepts the information and in turn, sends happy hormones to our entire body, and we feel better. By forgiving others and ourselves we are getting ready to be our best.

The original article was published on Daily Sabah

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