Monday, August 10, 2020

When all hope is lost- Coping with Anxiety amid COVID-19

It is well. The world needs hope; the world needs to hear hope; we all need to feel hope. The experience of being under both lockdown and quarantine hasn’t been easy at all. Feelings of frustrations and anxiety were thrown all over the air. We suffocated, shouted at each, and blamed each other until there was no one left to blame for anything. Twenty for hours in a day felt like a month. None of us has ever been in such a terrible state. We felt hopeless. There seemed to be no solution to what we endured. With no access to therapeutic interventions under such conditions, one had to remind themselves of their inner ability and inner strength in order to optimize function and slow progression of anxiety. Despite the dire situation out there, psychological consequences such as anxious feelings need to be addressed regardless.

 When news started to spread to our area that there was an outbreak in Wuhan, Hubei Province, I remember we had to cancel our Christmas Day dinner program which we planned to have with fellow Batswana. Rumors spread around that it was just a serious type of flu, so we brushed it off not a bit worried. Life continued as usual for almost half a month when eventually we heard of massive deaths, people being hospitalized due to a deadly virus and almost everyone now restricted to wearing face masks. We totally distanced ourselves from this outbreak. All we knew was there was a flu-type outbreak in Wuhan. However, the lockdown gave us a serious pinch. We were frantic. Now we were sensitized and made aware of some coronavirus. I vividly recall how one late evening a Chinese friend of mine called and rushed to give me a handful of N95 masks and two bottles of disinfectant. During our encounter, he emphasized social distancing, he stretched out his hand and handed me the package. We couldn’t stop reading online news and quoting information we learnt form online media as we chat with each other on online social platforms. We experienced the worst of panic mode during both the lockdown and 14 days quarantine period regardless of the fact that we didn’t show any signs. We were all convinced we have it.Being placed under quarantine could pose devastating strategies. I intensely recall the quarantine experience. It was the worst nightmare of lockdown. It meant double the dose.

We felt isolated from the rest of the community. No communication and interaction with friends. The entire was quarantined while others had the privilege to make movements. We felt emotionally drained, helpless and desperate. We joked and experienced dry throat for a moment. Every gland felt as if it’s swollen. One of us felt a burning sensation in the lungs and a string of sighing followed by a squeaky sound in the ears. Reality hit that we’re in an awful situation. We had some illusions of suffering and dying of COVID-19. The whole entire building was placed under quarantine, tested for fever conservatively for the entire 14 days of quarantine period. Whatever we needed to buy had to be purchased online. Pickup deliveries were done by a single person for each apartment making sure we adhere to strict rules of wearing masks and social distancing. The fact that we were placed under quarantine and with immediate effect, without warning and preparedness produced panic, fear and worry. We began to closely monitor each other. A simple cough raised a spark. We became suspicious of everything and everyone especially food deliveries. We were overwhelmed with feelings of sadness and frustration. This is a true scenario of how powerful the mind is capable of doing in our lives during this challenging time. Some people can even start experiencing the same encounter we had. It’s possible to even start developing psychological signs of COVID-19 or any other related physical ailments due to excessive thinking about any deadly infectious diseases. Despite this, refuse to give place to fear, worry, anxiety, and doubt. During your lockdown refuse to grumble and be instrumental in lifting up spirits, help your family and friends. A whole lot of mental health problems are perpetuated by being alone too, which means self-isolation can be detrimental for many especially those prone to stress. Believe it or not, we all need a sense of connectedness.

Family and friends play a role of our support system. There are tons of things to do while in isolation to help distract our minds from going astray. For us we used to send each other text messages, we prayed together, we even wrote each other letters despite living under the same roof. It has been an amazing feeling to read those love letters. It was a healing therapy. The other thing that also contributed to maintaining healthy minds was being proactive. We took turns cleaning the house, and both took Chinese language lessons online to help improve our communication proficiency levels. We would then laugh at each other as we practice orally. It was both fun and made us to bond especially that we needed distracting. Psycho-therapeutic intervention was necessary and we did the best we could for one another, in terms of reducing symptoms related to anxiety and panic. Being anxious about acquiring COVID-19 infection is palpable, and almost everyone now is deeply worried about their own risks. Suddenly, that visit to the medical doctor is not an easy task. Many fear of being infected with a deadly and seemingly cunning virus which its description fits its character. The current world total lockdown has left humanity under great fear.

Today we fear giving our loved ones that romantic kiss, we fear giving our grandparents a handshake. We fear hugging that buddy. This is all due to one little tiny, microscopic creature which proves to be absolutely impossible to trace easily. Everyone is constantly experiencing anxiety due to fear of contracting COVID-19, or having their loved ones infected.Seated in our apartment, we wondered a lot about those taking medication on regular basis; many Batswana have ‘abandoned’ work involuntarily and schools have switched to WhatsApp online teaching. With an average Motswana parent struggling with issues of mobile data or internet bundles. Many Batswana had to cancel business trips and meetings; texting and calls cannot replace the usual chat over a cup of tea or a glass of beer. Talking about entertainment, one of the most difficulties brought along with isolation is boredom. We all find ourselves constantly holding our cellphones or electronic gadgets because we’re awaiting that message: “Hi, love, miss u!” As the pandemic is accelerating, many face job loss, front liners succumb to working for prolonged hours without a break. While we are busy complaining and anxious about lockdown, those on the front line wish they too could be under lockdown with their loved ones.

They too desire to be cuddled and taking part in the “pillow-challenge” or “girlfriend-side-chick and wifey” challenge. It’s normal, human beings are social creatures. All of a sudden nobody craves for “Weekend special” but now seems like being constrained in one place for a very long time with the same people or even being stuck alone. All these have a tendency to trigger panic and a sense of helplessness and desperation. A helpless and desperate mind isn’t stable. Stress and anxiety can have a negative impact on multiple areas of our lives, including our relationship with those we are under lockdown. This is a crucial time that for a moment, we are highly conscious of our surroundings, food rationing, being careful of our diet, and constant noise made by our ever-present kids. Regardless, we need to be careful of how to respond to all these negative effects brought along in dealing with COVID-19. For instance, in some cases, some people may feel extra worried or overwhelmed, due experiencing past deep hurts as a result of some real life issues encountered before the lockdown. These anxious feelings could interfere with the present circumstances. Possibility is that some of our present symptoms stem from the past; it is essential not to let them govern how we necessarily feel in the here and now. It is likely that, the presence of occurring anxieties, in turn, associate with a wide range of dysfunction, including academic problems amongst students, and even later greater symptom severity.  It is crucial to know that anxiety is a causal risk factor for later depressive symptoms. At this moment, it is ideal to remind ourselves of crucial separation, severing the past from the present, as this might bring significant relief. Neither I nor you can afford to deal with both COVID-19 and lockdown with a burden on our shoulders. Free your mind.

Stress and anxiety elicited by the COVID-19 can be characterized by fear and worry; change in sleeping and eating patterns; difficulty in sleeping or concentrating; experiencing worsening of chronic health conditions; mental breakdown; increased use of alcohol and smoking, fatigue, irritability, poor concentration, palpitations, sweating. A primary key issue then calls for family members to play key roles in providing personal care, maintain a comforting environment, as well as providing both emotional and social support. Everyone plays a key role in times such as these. Under extreme circumstance of COVID-19 lockdown, many people may even struggle to have sufficient access to medical facilities. Many of the elderly people, including those people living with pre-existing medical conditions, having an additional burden like the COVID-19 is a bit frightening. These people need to hear constant assurance that they have external support which would cultivate internal strength of “I can overcome this challenge type of mentality.” By combining few strategies, many can develop the ability to settle their nerves in order to relax and lower their stress and anxious feelings.

However, we react to stress and anxiety differently depending on our biological make-up including our coping mechanisms. Some people find it possible to have high tolerance of discomfort and effectively manage their anxiety in a healthy manner. In most cases, people who underwent discomfort of some sort prior in life have a strong resilience. Individuals who have endured tremendous adversity and trauma are able to demonstrate inner strength forged from those circumstances. This is entirely consistent with human abilities. This is the main reason we send you our regards. We have been there, we endured, we conquered and remain victorious!

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