15th March 2020
The importance of connecting to others during coronavirus, COVID-19 outbreak
I decided to write this blog due to the situation that we are currently in with COVID 19 otherwise known as coronavirus and the uncertainly that is around us all at this time.
In the developed world we are used to being in control of certain things in our lives and, whatever our views about the political party currently in power, we always believe that they will be in control of whatever situation unfolds. We are used to seeing other countries struggling to cope with illness, disease, financial issues, and we are the ones watching on our TV’s and sending money, whilst getting on with our day to day lives. This has altered in recent weeks; we are seeing leaders around us reacting daily to situations as they are unfolding. The government cannot give an end date for this; they cannot say exactly how things will play out, as they do not know. At times like this, when we feel like we have no control over what is happening to us and around us, we try to control as much of our lives as possible and this is evidenced by the panic buying we have witnessed in the past few weeks across the country. Some people need to feel in control of something even if it is to the detriment of others.
Unfortunately what is currently happening means that the most vulnerable in society suffer. The people who cannot afford to bulk buy or drive to several supermarkets to find a product, simply have to go without.
Many of us are also being forced to slow down. For some people this will mean they have more time for the negative thoughts in their heads.
Here are three things I feel we need to be remembering and doing in order to be the best humans that we can be.
This is a time to connect with others. We live in a fast paced world and many of us are guilty of being too busy to message people and to answer messages, we don’t call people like we used to but connecting to each other has never been as important as it is now, when people are being told to work from home, or to isolate themselves due to being unwell. Some people are being told to remain in one room of their house and although this is the most effective way of preventing physical illness, for certain people this will negatively impact their emotional health.
As a counsellor, through necessity it may be that I will have to move more of my work into the telephone and online world through clients fears of going out, but by offering telephone or online work I will maintain my connection with them at a time when maintaining connection, in whatever way we can, is vital.
As human beings we crave connection to others. As babies we have to connect with our parents in order to be fed and survive and as adults we still need either physical or emotional connection, whether this is by intimate relationships, friendships, or with family members. Being connected to others validates us as people. A minority of people say they do not need human connection, they tend to be people who are connected to a God or a spiritual force, or who feel totally connected to nature, but they still have the feeling of connection, they purely feel validated in a different way.
Whenever people are anxious or depressed they isolate themselves from others, they feel disconnected and we need to be careful that we do not isolate ourselves during the coming months. If you are someone who struggles with your own company, you may find this period of time very intense, you might struggle to admit this and therefore feel that you cannot reach out to friends and family and try to connect.
You might know someone who may be struggling emotionally or who you know deliberately keeps busy in order not to listen to what is going on in their mind, think about how you can connect with that person. If it is a family member, get together with other family members to see how you can collectively keep in touch with them. If you feel that someone may be isolated but you are unsure about how to connect with them or are unsure if you even want this responsibility you can involve others. You can form Whatsapp groups, Messenger groups, Facebook groups. If you are already in a group chat on social media then make sure it remains active and that everyone is included. If someone is struggling emotionally or extremely anxious they might not reply to messages, especially personal messages, but they will know that you are including them.
In the coming weeks it looks like people aged over 70 will be told to remain indoors and potentially away from other family members. I know people over 70 who are still employed, and many still play an active role within the family, helping with childcare, with grandchildren, and for them, although this will protect them physically from illness it will mean losing the role they hold in the family, they will move from being an active member to someone who may feel that overnight they have lost their role, and are now viewed as vulnerable, someone to be supported, some of them will find this difficult to deal with. They will be losing the link with their day to day life.
For others who are elderly, infirm and who only go out once a week to shop, or visit the hairdresser, or to day centres or clubs, this may be their only human contact for the week and although they will be kept safe physically, they risk becoming even more isolated emotionally than they already are.
This is a time where we see the best and worst in people. We are seeing the ‘every man for himself’ mentality but we are also seeing a Community spirit mentality. I have seen community Facebook groups rallying together to help the older and more vulnerable people who cannot leave home, by collecting shopping for them, and by ensuring that they are OK. I have seen people putting leaflets through peoples doors offering to help them if needed. Some of us are at higher risk of becoming seriously ill if we contract the virus so not everyone is able to do this but let’s just start being aware of who is around us, what is happening in our local area. See what others are doing, and ask yourself how you can support your community, even in a small way.
Finally we are remembering those that we care about because as soon as people realised the seriousness of the virus they immediately called loved ones, ensured that vulnerable family members were cared for and rallied round friends and neighbours and started reconnecting with family members they may have lost touch with. This is bringing out the best in us but we have to remember that there are some people who have no family around them. Some people rely on professional services that will be cut in the coming weeks to safeguard staff. Some will have friends and family in countries that they currently have no way of getting to at this time. A lot of people around us will be feeling isolated and those who struggle with anxiety may be feeling overwhelmed. These are the people who we need to be aware of, to connect with as a Community, to let them know that we care about everyone around us, not just ourselves.
We are being given the opportunity to be kind to each other, to care for each other, and to feel united with those around us. Let’s not waste it.
The human heart has the capacity to care for many people.