COPING WITH THE LOCKDOWN: PSYCHOLOGICAL AND SOCIAL STRATEGIES

Herbert Zirima (PhD)Coronavirus disease (COVID-19), a disease that originates from the novel SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus emerged in the city of Wuhan, China, in December 2019. COVID-19 has since turned into a large scale epidemic and spread to more than 150 other countries. The outbreak was declared a Public Health Emergency of International Concern on 30 January 2020 and a global pandemic by the World Health Organization (WHO) on the 11th of March 2020. In response to the outbreak of COVID 19 cases in Zimbabwe, the government declared a twenty one day lockdown beginning the 30th of March. The lockdown meant among other things, that movement will be very much limited, in short, the message is that people should stay indoors as much as is possible. Staying indoors is regarded as one of the ways of preventing the spread of COVID 19.The idea of restricting people to staying indoors presents an unusual situation in which people are denied freedom whilst at home. The media sometimes presents a situation in which all that matters at the moment is COVID 19 and nothing else. People all of sudden do not know what to do, how to spend the whole day indoors facing the same people, not just for a day, a week but for twenty one days. Here are some suggestions on how you can cope with the lockdown. My suggestions on coping with this lockdown will emphasise the message of shifting the focus. That is, shifting the focus from COVID 19 to something more productive about your life.

First, you need to be positive. Understand that the whole purpose of the lockdown is to reduce the spread of the virus. As long as you stay indoors, you are playing a significant part in reducing the spread of the virus. Maintaining the positive outlook, you need to realize that COVID 19 is not that gloomy, it is not as if the world is about to end. Whilst all these preventive measures are being taken, people who contract the virus will still survive. COVID 19 has a mortality rate of less than 5%, which means less than 5% of people who contract the virus will die from the virus. For parents, being positive is actually not an option, its necessary. Children imitate how their parents respond to events and to crises including this COVID 19 crisis. The way you handle crises situations will form the basis of how your children will handle future crises in their lives. As much as possible, stay calm, stay composed. Shift the focus from the negativity to optimism.Make the most out of the lockdown period. Take this period to be a time to be as productive as possible. There are a lot of things that you probably did not have time for at your home; there are skills that you never got time to develop. There are those things that you can develop on yourself whilst at home. This lockdown period presents a wonderful opportunity for you work on developing those things. Shift the focus from COVID 19 to personal development.For students, there is no need to overemphasize the need for continuous study during this period. Some universities, colleges and schools have opened channels for e-learning, which is commendable and is the best way to go in this digital era. It is important to make use of e-learning facilities where they are available. However, in cases where e-learning is not available, students can still engage in self study. Focus on your studies, not COVID 19.Avoid continually watching news on COVID 19, they will tell you what you most likely probably already know. The same applies to continually searching for information on the disease. This will not help you except to focus your whole life on COVID 19 as if it is the only thing that matters in your life, no. COVID 19 is just a pandemic that has affected the world but probably not yourself or your family yet. So, whilst it is important to follow all the recommendations that we were given to protect ourselves from the pandemic, it should not occupy all aspects of our lives.This COVID 19 lockdown presents a wonderful opportunity for people to focus on building strong relationships with their families. Take this as an opportunity to have a one on one interaction with each of your family members. Parents, take time to talk to your children on a one to one basis, take time to understand them, get to know their needs, the challenges that they are facing growing up in this volatile world. Take this opportunity to also keep in touch with family members who may not be physically present. Guidelines on preventing the spread of COVID 19 encourage physical distancing between people not breaking social ties. Breaking social ties will only lead to isolation and isolation will lead to a host of psychological ailments such as depression and anxiety. Keep in touch with your family, friends and workmates through the telephone and social media as much as is possible. Shift the focus from COVID 19 to your family.It is also important to realize the power of exercise and music. It is important during this lockdown period just as it is during any time of life to keep a healthy body and a health mind by exercising and listening to music. Exercise, just like music have mood boosting and mind calming powers, in addition to reducing levels of depression, anxiety and stress. Exercise has the additional benefit of helping you to sleep better. This period may prove to be quite stressful to others largely due to the temporary change of lifestyle and as such those two components – exercise and music – will prove quite useful during this lockdown.Lastly, having read this article you may end up better equipped to deal with the lockdown but not everyone around you will. It is therefore important to be patient with all those around you. Understand that they may be stressed due to the temporary change of lifestyle. Be slow to anger, understand people around you better, give them time to cope, soon, everyone else will come along and be alright.
(Herbert Zirima is a registered educational psychologist, a full member of the Zimbabwe Psychological Association, a senior lecturer and chairperson in the department of psychology at Great Zimbabwe University).https://masvingomirror.com

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