Has the COVID-19 pandemic taken a toll on your overall health or made you anxious? If it did, you're not alone on this.
Aristotle once said, “Man is by nature a social animal.” Hence, it’s only natural that we desire to constantly connect and interact with others whether it’s through chatting with our friends over lunch, a hows-the-weather conversation with a stranger, or simply ordering coffee from a cafe. The lack of social interaction, or in other words, social isolation, can affect both our physical and mental health. With the pandemic and lockdown in place, it’s no wonder that we see an increase of a stressed and anxious population. So, if the pandemic has affected you or someone you know in any way, below are some explanations for it.
Well, you and I have a different source of stress. It could be the big load of assignments that you’ve been assigned to or perhaps you’re struggling to stay healthy mentally and physically being stuck at home. Fear is what causes anxiety. The pandemic is a burden for many of us because we don’t have control over the virus. This makes us feel anxious when we head out for necessities because we are exposed to it. The recent continuous lockdown also makes us feel uncertain of the future and therefore could lead to constant stress.
Other than that, some of us are unable to travel back to our homes. For students who live in the dormitory, lockdown prevents us from being able to return home to our families. It can be difficult to remain in the same space for a long amount of time without our loved ones as most of the time, home is where our family is.
Isolation is also one of the things that some of us face during the pandemic. This is especially for people who live alone as they may struggle with not being able to interact physically with another person for a long period of time.
According to Ms Pang Chia Yee, a Social Psychology lecturer for the Foundation in Arts at Taylor’s College, since we’re social creatures, we need to interact to survive. This is why solitary prisoners who are closed in space for weeks, is enough to torture them mentally. The lack of communication makes us feel lonely and can cause negative thoughts to arise. Things can also escalate badly when we resort to negative coping mechanisms such as drug usage, self-harm, and avoiding human interaction. At times, we just want a pat on the shoulder or a simple hug but it’s not possible now with the ongoing pandemic.
Hence, it’s always important to check in with your loved ones to show that you care.
The pandemic has taken away many lives including people around us. And for many, they never got the chance to say goodbye. When we enter the lockdown, we’re forced to be physically distant from our family, friends, and close relatives. The only way to communicate safely is through the Internet.
However, when we receive sudden death news of someone we know, we tend to not know how to react. We’re unable to pay our respect the right way by attending their funeral. Based on our collectivist culture, we feel guilty if we don’t respect someone who passed away.
Ms Pang believes that everyone grieves differently. When she lost her friend to suicide the past year, Ms Pang and her friends gathered on Zoom together to celebrate his life. They sat down and talked about their memories with him and moved on. Although some people accept and move on, some don’t too. Her advice towards the question is to find your way to grief, then move on with your life as you should.
Be kind to yourself. Your feelings such as anger, confusion, sadness, or loneliness are valid. You are human after all. If you like to sit alone in the evening, do that. If you like to listen to music at the end of the day, do it. The whole point is to feel like a human being. If you’re suffering from anxiety or depression, build a support system. A support system that consists of listeners, non-judgmental, and caring people. A system that holds onto each other in times of need.
First, approach them the right way. Be consistent but not pushy. The difference between being consistent and pushy is that being consistent is being there for them whereas being pushy is asking too many questions at once. Do let them know that you’re willing to listen to them no matter if it's late at night or a busy day. This allows them to be reassured by your words and open up slowly. Phrases like “I’m always here for you when you need”, “Know that I care for you”, “Let me know if you’re okay.” makes them know that you’re willing to be there for them whether rain or shine.
It’s normal to be affected mentally during a pandemic. Anxiety, stress, depression, and post-traumatic stress are emotions that need to be overcome for our well-being. Speak to someone when you feel suffocated, and if a therapist isn’t helpful, don’t give up on yourself. Understand that there are always people out there that care for you and are willing to listen to you.
Should you feel alone or need someone to talk to, you can always reach out for help to mental health professionals, Taylor’s Centre For Counseling Services or organisations such as Befrienders.
Vanessa Chan is currently pursuing a Foundation in Arts at Taylor's College. She is also interested in poetry, fiction, and tea.
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