By Indiana Lee
There’s no doubt that the coronavirus has changed life as we know it. Everything from work behaviors to social gatherings and even grocery shopping have dramatically adapted to what has been dubbed the “new normal.”
Many of these adjustments were never possible in the past and are only feasible thanks to the technology that has been developed as recently as the first two decades of the 21st century. Nevertheless, even with near-infinite technological potential at our collective fingertips, the natural side effects of things like epidemics and shelter-in-place orders can still take its toll on those who live through them.
Below is an analysis of how pandemics can influence mental health, physical behavior, and the overall wellbeing of those affected by them — as well as some suggestions for how to adapt to the new normal going forward.
A Historic Look at Pandemic Behavior
This isn’t the first time that a pandemic — let alone quarantines — has influenced human behavior. For instance, the Athenian plague that tore through the ancient Greek city-state of the same name in the 5th century B.C. is famous for spurring a renewal of superstitious behavior as well as a shunning of civic and religious duties. The Antonine Plague that took place several centuries later is well-known for pushing many of the Roman Empire’s citizens into the welcome arms of a new wave of spirituality and Eastern mystic religion.
The infamous Black Death from the Middle Ages is a particularly interesting case study. The pandemic, which took place in fits and starts throughout the 14th century A.D., economically ruined many landowners as it was unfolding. However, in its aftermath, the lack of laborers led to a natural rise in wages for both artisans and peasants that had survived.
People were forced to see how harsh the Bubonic Plague would be on mental health, there was an increase in distrust, hysteria, and anxiety. The psychological effects of the Black Death pushed many individuals towards a combination of mysticism and religion. It also fueled a morbid obsession with death and the afterlife.
Whether it’s through economic destruction, civic instability, a return to religion and faith, finding solace in a deep inner spirituality, or obsessing over the death that surrounds them, many individuals have been significantly affected in body and soul by pandemics in the past.
The Effects of COVID-19
Needless to say, pandemics are often harbingers of individual, political, economic, and cultural shifts, all of which can massively impact the well-being of those who are impacted by them.
When it comes to the coronavirus crisis, in particular, the effects of the virus, as well as lockdowns and social distancing, will continue to be measured far into the future. However, some information has already surfaced regarding how the pandemic affected the wellbeing of billions of individuals it has impacted across the globe. Rather than a focus on spirituality, the measurable effects of a pandemic in the modern age seem to largely revolve around more logical and scientific factors. For instance:
- Communication and trust have suffered: Both managing remote work and slowing the spread of disinformation have become serious concerns during the ongoing pandemic.
- Workspaces have become cluttered and disorganized: Remote work has led to stressful, anxiety-inducing work-from-home environments.
- Substance abuse has likely risen: In Canada one in five citizens revealed that their alcohol consumption has increased since remaining at home more, reflecting what is likely a rise in substance use (and possible abuse) specifically due to the pandemic.
- Existing conditions have been exacerbated: Those who already struggled with behavioral health conditions, such as anxiety, OCD, or depression, have had to manage additional stresses and strains from the coronavirus pandemic.
These are all significant conditions that affect the wellbeing of countless individuals. However, as more information surfaces, it will likely reveal that they are presumably just the tip of the iceberg.
Ways to Combat the Negative Effects of the COVID-19 Pandemic
It isn’t difficult to see both the current and potential negative effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. However, taking action to combat those trends can be more difficult for individuals. Fortunately, there are multiple ways you can help both yourself and your community mitigate the effects of the ongoing crisis.
Tend to Basic Self-Care
Before you begin to invest in helping your community, it’s important to remember the classic image of putting on your own facemask before you help someone else. You can care for yourself throughout the pandemic by:
- Getting plenty of sleep — typically 7 to 9 hours per night is recommended.
- Eating a well-balanced diet that is holistic and health-oriented.
- Getting plenty of exercise through jogging, biking, or even exercising at your desk.
- Using techniques like mindfulness or breathing exercises to manage stress and anxiety.
If you can care for your basic bodily and mental necessities throughout lockdown, you can ensure that you’re in the best physical and mental condition as you face the unique challenges of living through a pandemic.
Follow Hygiene and Sanitation Guidelines
Along with basic self-care, it’s important to follow all of the pandemic health and safety guidelines in your region. This includes:
- Washing your hands, using hand sanitizer, and wearing a face mask whenever appropriate.
- Maintaining social distance from others in public settings.
- Following local and regional travel guidelines.
By following hygiene and sanitation protocols, you can help to preserve the wellbeing of both yourself and those around you.
While the coronavirus pandemic is bad enough, the spread of misinformation is also a serious threat to many people’s lives.
With that said, the struggle to maintain information immunity — that is, to receive and process pandemic-related information correctly — should remain a top priority. Find quality resources and then regularly review them to see if new information has come out regarding the virus.
Look for Way to Help Your Community
There are many ways to help out during the pandemic. For instance, you can volunteer to translate for Translators Without Borders, help combat mental illness through the Crisis Text Line, or even put some time in at your local food bank.
Maintaining Wellbeing in a Pandemic
Pandemics have a long history of disrupting and affecting both individual and corporate wellbeing. That’s why it’s essential that the impact of the COVID-19 epidemic is identified and combatted as soon as possible.
Basic self-care, sanitation, staying informed and supporting the local community are all excellent ways that individuals can resist the negative trends that come with viral sicknesses and lockdowns.