We are in the middle of a major global public health crisis and life changing event. As I write this, 217,000 people have been infected and 8900 people have died globally from Coronavirus (COVID-19). With the virus spreading rapidly across the globe, countries one after another are declaring emergencies, ordering lockdowns, social distancing and self-quarantine, urging people to stay home and work from home. Schools, colleges and universities all over the world are closed. It's a very scary and uncertain situation. Stress levels are at an all-time high and people are panicking like the world is going to end and there is no vaccine yet and no treatment or a cure. All we can do is pray and hope for the best and prepare for the worst.
In the midst of this chaos, here’s what you can do as an adult and a morally and socially responsible global citizen:
Fear, anxiety and panic are natural responses to a stressful situation like the one we're currently facing, so it's totally normal and okay to feel what you're feeling. But when our behavior is motivated by fear, anxiety or panic, it is almost always irrational because our judgement is clouded by these extreme emotions and we're not thinking straight. Simply reading news articles or watching news on TV is enough to make you feel like you're showing symptoms of the virus yourself even though you're totally fine and healthy, just stressed out.
In times like this, we need to think straight and make rational decisions like what and how much to stock, whether to visit a doctor or not if you have cough or any other symptom of COVID-19, etc.
If you're showing symptoms, an irrational response, for example, would be to panic and head straight out of the door and go to a hospital to get checked for COVID19.
A rational response would be to inform yourself about COVID-19 and use the NHS portal or another website to help you decide if you should visit the doctor.
I've had mild cough for a week and was afraid that I might have contracted COVID-19, so I checked out the NHS website and learned that unless I have high fever OR I am coughing repeatedly, I don't need to go to the doctor and should stay home and monitor my symptoms and go to the doctor only if my symptoms get worse. I am neither coughing repeatedly, nor do I have any fever at all, so there was no point in acting out on my fear and paranoia.
This happens to me a lot because I am usually engaged in heavy reading right before I go to sleep every night. Next morning, I wake up feeling like I was reading all night, because that’s what I had been doing, in my dream. Recently, while I was analyzing research data for my final thesis, I would dream of running statistical tests or writing my thesis in my dream. These dreams are vague and fragmented, not vivid, because when I wake up, I cannot describe the dream but I have a very strong feeling about what it was about.
The Coronavirus-induced panic buying has caused mayhem across cultures So much that supermarkets are now restricting the amount of food and other stuff that a person can buy. People are hoarding not just food but everything they can, supermarket shelves are empty and toilet paper has become a sought-after commodity. This is a classic example of irrational behavior (P.S: it’s interesting how people are stockpiling toilet paper, because toilet paper is not necessary for survival; food is, and water is a much better, more hygienic and more efficient substitute for toilet paper).
What the hoarders don’t understand is that this is a public health crisis, not a zombie apocalypse. Don't take all those zombie apocalypse movies so seriously and do not engage in unnecessary hoarding, because by doing so, you are depriving other people who may be more vulnerable than you, and the chances are, the crisis will be over soon and all the stuff you hoarded will all go to waste.
Be sensible and have some empathy. Stock up on enough food and supplies to last a month or two (not 6 months or a year) and leave the rest for others who may be more vulnerable.
And, in the worst case scenario, even if the world IS about to end and we're all going to die, you won't be needing any of the stuff you buy in your panic-stricken shopping sprees.
This is one of the most important precautionary measures and not a punishment. It's for our own good and for the greater good as well because if you have already been exposed to COVID-19, social distancing and staying home (while taking all other necessary precautions) would contain the virus, prevent you from spreading it to other people and slow down the spread of the virus (called flattening the curve).
Stay home and work from home if possible. Reduce social contact, avoid large gatherings and do not have friends or family visit you at home. But you can go out e.g. for a walk or long drive as long as you avoid crowds.
Other than that, don't shake hands, don't hug people, keep a distance of 1.5 meters from other people and minimize physical contact especially with older people and those who have conditions like heart disease, diabetes, etc.
Also, Government has announced early vacations for school going children, but, please, understand that this is not the time to have picnics and parties. Schools have been closed so children can stay home and stay safe. By taking your kids out for picnics and parties, you're exposing them to danger and compromising their safety and health. Please don't do this.
Wash your hands frequently for 20-30 seconds with soap and water, especially before and after eating. And no, you don’t need to use hand sanitizers if you're at home because you can use soap and water. Hand sanitizers are supposed to be used when you go out and touch any surface that might have been touched by other people like door knobs, escalator railings, elevator doors, etc.
Avoid touching eyes, nose and mouth and cover your mouth when you cough or sneeze with a tissue and dispose it properly after use.
Clean and disinfect surfaces like kitchen counters, dining table, floors and other surfaces that are touched frequently.
Sanitize things that are used frequently, like your mobile phone, wallet, keys, and door knobs.
Another natural consequence of Coronavirus-induced panic is that people are watching or reading news 24/7 for updates. When I check out news websites for latest updates about COVID-19, I am convinced we are in the midst of a zombie apocalypse, we're all going to die and the world is about to end.
If we are taking all required precautions, staying home and not meeting people, what good are these updates for?
Are these updates going to magically make us immune to the virus or help reduce our anxiety, fear and uncertainty?
If anything, it's only going to increase our anxiety, fear and uncertainty. So there’s no point in watching or reading news updates and adding to our misery. Check for updates only once at the end of the day and spare yourself some peace of mind. Trust me, you won't regret it.
What's ironic about this viral outbreak situation is that people who are shit scared and panicking are also the ones who are constantly posting updates on social media about every confirmed case of COVID-19 or death in their area, sharing unverified and possibly fake news or rumors circulating the social media and unintentionally making the situation worse by creating more panic and fear.
Everybody has access to internet and can inform themselves about the updates if
they want to. You don’t have to assume the role of an irresponsible, fear mongering journalist.
And what good could possibly come out of sharing videos showing people panic buying and hoarding food and other stuff? It will only add fuel to the fire.
Be a morally and socially responsible citizen, not a panic-spreading and
People are trying to make sense of the situation and there is so much speculation going on as to what lead to this global pandemic of COVID-19.
Some people who believe in conspiracy theories are speculating that COVID-19 is a bioweapon that the USA has created and unleashed to destroy China.
Now, I don't know and I don’t want to know whether or not COVID-19 is a bioweapon because knowing this information will not prevent me or anyone else from getting the virus now that the virus is out and spreading exponentially. That’s why there’s no point in wasting our energies in speculating and believing in conspiracy theories regarding the origin of the virus, when we should really be focusing on social distancing and practicing good hygiene to be safe.
We all know by now that self-isolation, whether voluntary or forced, is very….. isolating and incredibly boring and can take a toll on our mental health. So, how to take care of our mental health in such stressful circumstances?
There are so many things you can do to destress, beat boredom and keep
yourself busy while you’re stuck at home, like exercising, decluttering your house, spending quality time with family, looking at old photos and cherishing old memories, catching up with friends and family on video chat, watching movies or series, watching stand-up comedy (this one is a real stress buster), reading books, enrolling in online courses, listening to podcasts, watching documentaries on YouTube, learning a new language, playing board games, painting and writing.
Last, but not the least, keep safe, stay strong and hang in there...this too shall pass!