Keeping our sanity despite COVID-19 pandemic

Temitope  is an enterprising young lady with lots of creative ideas. She recently started producing local perfume chain using the scents from Maiduguri. She has also started producing car and home fresheners and the market response has been good.

She had just secured a loan of 20 million naira to improve her scale of production and distribution network to allow for better market penetration.

Then COVID-19 occurred and China shut down and she could not receive her chemicals. To compound matters, forecasts indicate that this may last for a few months. She became downcast, irritable and is on the verge of despair.

NIGERIAN TRIBUNE

Abba Hassan is a final year student at the University of Abuja who had plans to apply for a Canadian Scholarship immediately after graduation for a Masters programme. This is the last year of the funded scholarship; and applications close in September.

He was initially worried by the ASUU strike but with the COVID-19 outbreak and school closure now, he is beginning to seriously fret that he may no longer graduate on time, to be eligible for the application.

Chinonye left for the office in good spirits. She had read all the World Health Organisation (WHO) releases and would take all the necessary precautions. This will pass, she told herself. But on arriving at the office, she met two colleagues arguing furiously. One was insisting that the number of infected persons was being suppressed.

He stated authoritatively that a doctor had confirmed that tens of thousands, if not millions, were already infected. ‘This thing will finish all of us in Africa’. He concluded with a flourish.

Chinonye went to her desk and she realised that she could no longer focus. Her heart was pounding furiously and she had become very anxious and worried again. What if it is true? Will I die at this my young age? She felt helpless and on the verge of tears.

Discussion

In his book titled, ‘The Psychology of Pandemics’, Steven Taylor emphasises that fear can be contagious, such that we end up dealing with two pandemics: The actual infection (In this case, COVID-19); as well as a ‘Fear Pandemic’.

So, you may be rational and calm in your home, then you turn on the news, go on social media or interact with some people (as in the case of Chinonye above) and you become frightened and  ‘infected’ with the fear being peddled online and by others.

This is a heightened period of stress which is made even more difficult by the dark clouds of uncertainty and fear of not being in control of our lives. This leads to anxiety, worry and desperation. It is worsened by conspiracy theories, fake news, alarmist messages being circulated to stoke fears and cause panic, etc.

Unfortunately, prolonged stress and anxiety is harmful to our immune system – which is the major protection we have against the infection. It also predisposes those who are vulnerable, to developing mental disorders. While those with pre-existing anxiety and other emotional disorders may experience a worsening of their symptoms, some others may turn to drug abuse to calm their nerves.

What should we be doing to retain our sanity?

  • Calm down and take control of your anxiety. Recognise that it is perfectly normal to be anxious. But some circumstances are outside our control and we have to deal with the uncertainty of the situation in a calm and rational manner.
  • Restrict your sources of information to official and reliable sources such as WHO and the NCDC. Eliminate social media and cable news network if it is worsening your anxiety.
  • Avoid fear mongering and its peddlers. Deal only with facts.
  • Focus on proactive steps that are within your control. Plan what to do with your time and how best to sustain your work and business despite the challenging times.
  • Responsibly comply with all official recommendations, such as improved hygiene, hand washing, social distance, self-isolation if there has been exposure etc.
  • Stay in touch with loved ones even if in self-isolation. And spend quality time with family members to bond with them. Social distance does not mean social isolation. Check up on loved ones and friends using technology.
  • Regular exercise such as going for a walk or indoor exercises are helpful to break monotony, distract from anxiety and stress and they help us sleep better.
  • Eat a healthy diet and drink lots of water and fluids.
  • Study and learn new things, read books, watch movies and generally engage in pleasurable activities that will lift your mood. Stay positive. This will pass.
  • Take stock of your life and realise that there is no such thing as I can’t do without so and so item or activity. When push comes to shove, we can get by on bare essentials…..and still be happy.
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