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This article was originally submitted by Syeda Aruba
Is COVID-19 trying to create distance among humans? Or is it here to create a novel sense of connectedness. When the pandemic put down its roots in the majority world by mid-February, people were confused about the future.
Jobs were disappearing and childcare setups were closing down. Not to mention, this social distancing and other sudden changes in lifestyle were creating havoc on the mental health of people across the globe. It appeared like a calamity. Was it one?
Within the first fortnight of this new-normal, visionaries pinpointed the blessings that came with this virus-induced lifestyle. A decrease in pollution and increased respect for Mother Nature was one. Another was a deepened relationship with one’s inner self. Yet another was the new sense of belongingness to humankind. After all, the social interaction which previously was taken for granted suddenly became inaccessible.
Another positive result was an increased acceptance of mental health talk.
Mental health – the taboo – quickly turned into an acceptable phenomenon; only when it became a widely accepted label of traumatic distress appeared. People started using previously misunderstood, and often controversial, words of meditation and self-love. Not to mention the PM Imran Khan’s trivial-looking sermon of ghabrana nahi hai.
But that peaked awareness about mental health was soon overridden by the constant threat to economy and health. After all, how can a person worry about achieving better emotional health when they are constantly threatened by starvation (because of the economy), isolation (disease-based), and lack of opportunities? So, we did what we could. We filled the void created because of increased leisure time by indulging in self-created addictions. Binge-watching became a part of the new normal. Binge eating and aggression become others.
When the pandemic helped the world in minimizing environmental pollution, it could easily help us in mitigating the emotional pollution we all had created for ourselves.
We externalized our fears, frustrations, and greed for longevity. But we didn’t manage the emotions that had to be our priority. A few major aspects of our lives spiralled out of our control. So we let go of other areas where we still have control. In our quest to control the economic impact of this pandemic, we let go of its health impact. And no, I am not talking about lifting the lockdown.
I am talking about our lost focus on emotional immunity we could build during this time, the compassionate conversation that was prompted; because of this situation, and about building our ability to understand our emotions and dealing with them promptly. Furthermore, I am talking about domestic violence and hate crimes which are rising disproportionately only because the aggressors fail to deal with their emotions.
Why do you think these crimes are rising if not because of our efforts to project our insecurities on the external environment? I am talking about the excess focus on finding distractions rather than acknowledging the new-norm and finding ways to cope. We need to know that we are still in control. And that control only comes when we have complete control of our emotional health.
COVID-19 came to highlight our emotional health and immunity we need to develop in this area.
It is here so we can deal with our shit, it is here so we know that fear is another significant fear; besides the fear of this lethal virus. Furthermore, it wants us to know the connection between our mental and physical health. It is here is to prepare us for a half-recovered life post-pandemic. Mental health and emotional intelligence are the areas that need attention before we accept that COVID-19 is the new norm. Mental health is the area in which we all need strength before we understand that we can deal with this illness in our generation and the next ones.
We need to understand ourselves so we can develop our reasons for hope and survival. Dealing with emotions is vital because it is the only way we can find our way out of this pandemic- not through twists and turns of fate. No, the pandemic is not going to disappear just like that. We have to build our physical and mental immunity so we can better prepare for living the new normal lifestyle of social distance and hygiene.
And, yes, it is a blessing if we only allow it to divert our attention towards emotional health and social well-being. But it’s a curse if we internalize the external feelings of uncertainty and fear to get to our nerves.