The psychology of a pandemic

The psychology of a pandemic

The coronavirus outbreak has changed, at least for the time being, the dynamics of our daily lives in an unprecedented way that happened almost overnight. As a society, we have started to experience the real impact of the health crisis that has come to dominate every area of our being.

We have been told to work from home and to avoid crowds, to stop going out to the usual places that feed our basic human need for socialising with other people. Some shops have already closed their doors, temporarily or for good, and we have been advised more or less to self-isolate regardless of whether we might feel the symptoms of COVID-19.

Tough times to live through: that’s how many people are already feeling about this 21st century pandemic that is happening across the world. For many of us, this is an incredibly stressful experience, and the irony is that, at times of stress, we tend to crave company and support rather than seeking self-isolation.

Naturally, it’s not just our physical health and businesses that the coronavirus outbreak is affecting. We can expect to see negative changes in both mental health and intimate relationships if we don’t take adequate precautions immediately and proactively. Right now, we all have a common denominator that triggers stress. The spread of coronavirus is a new and challenging event. The stress will certainly be more intensely felt in people who are already highly stressed for other reasons, depending on their life situation, but no one will be spared, so we can see an increase in anxiety—our body’s natural response to stress.

Fear and anxiety about a disease can be overwhelming and cause strong emotions, especially if you have an underlying mental health problem. So managing the anxiety is really important in times of crisis. Avoid becoming obsessed by thinking about the coronavirus, and make sure you and your family stick to the essential habits that affect your wellbeing every day, such as getting enough sleep, eating healthily, being physically active, and spending time with your loved ones (grab the self-isolation opportunity).

Another area this crisis could impact is our relationships. The coronavirus outbreak is a massive stress that can highlight the weaknesses in relationships, and many will be tested during this crisis. The risk of negatively affecting intimate relationships is higher in those that are not very strong to begin with. Some people may worry about what would happen if they were moved into self-quarantine and stuck with a partner with whom they share already unhealthy relationship. Will the self-isolation be an opportunity to solve the existing problems, or it will feel like a sentence that they have to endure?

After all, in the aftermath of coronavirus lockdown in China, there’s been a rise in divorce rates. However, there’s a high probability that marriages with a weaker immune system, so to speak, have suffered the toll of the lockdown and ended in divorce.

If you have been experiencing some serious problems in your relationship prior to the coronavirus outbreak, being confined in self-isolation at home could have one of two outcomes–it might escalate existing conflicts further, or it could be a good platform to start resolving your differences and save the relationship. Realistically, the imposition of self-isolation does allow for more time to pay closer attention to your partner: it’s just a question from which angle you’ll approach the situation. While one of you may choose to go into denial about your relationship issues, the other one may want to work on the problem, looking at the self-isolation as a great opportunity to bring you closer. Such mismatched expectations can, however, further dampen your interaction, risking exposure to constant stressful conflicts which take a huge psychological toll.

It’s not just about spending too much time together. More importantly, it’s about how you choose to spend the time. It’s your interaction that matters. If you have to stay at home together, you may try to keep away from each other as much as possible. Or you may learn to speak to each other in a respectful way, meeting in the middle and finding ways that you can implement to improve your relationship. As always, whenever we are faced with negativity, we also need to look for positivity. Start searching for your silver lining.

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