I had the honor today to be one of the speakers of the international webinar:
"Impacts of the Covid.19 pandemic on the global Society: Interdisciplinary Perspectives" initiated by the M.A. Parikh Fine Arts and Arts College , Palnapur (India). In the web you find the institure here: http://mapfinearts.org/
My topic was "Mental health and psychological resilience during the Covid-19 pandemic"
The 15th of March in Hamburg a lockdown was decided, shops, bars, self-employed, etc. had to close down.
A week later the chancellor gave a speech on tv and the lockdown was reality in whole Germany. The German society was paralized- in an economic way as much as psycologically.
It appeared the German Angst. What is it?
German Angst is a diffuse fear, a needless anxiety or worry. Sometimes it appears without any evident reason, in other cases it is a reaction on an incidence like the separated country after World War II with the fear of a new war.
There is the theory that it is in our genes as an effect of the World Wars and the following hardship. The fear and the famine found their way into the genetic information.
In the winter of 1944/45, in the Netherlands, more than 20,000 people starved to death. Babies born during this famine winter were very small, about 2500 grams. However, women born under these conditions later gave birth to remarkably small children themselves - although there was no shortage of food.
In addition, these children fell ill with diabetes and cardiovascular disease with above-average frequency.
The Dutch researchers assume that the starvation winter led to a change in the methylation pattern on the DNA of the affected people.
The body has virtually switched the metabolism over to a low flame in order to improve the chances of survival.
Will the covid 19 pandemic be marked in our genes? Maybe.
In Germany, we have as well the feeling of guilt due to the regime of the Nazis.
Fear and guilt produced probably this neurotic reaction German Angst. No other citizens in the world have so many insurances, trying to releave the consequences of a potential peril.
Possibly the experience we are living now can trigger this diffuse fear all over the world.
Now we have a pandemic which cannot be seen but is there. The poor - and even worse the homeless - cannot be protected in a sufficient manner from covid-19, but everyone can catch the virus anywhere. To develop an anxiety disorder is more probable in this setting than if there was one traumatic moment like e.g. 9/11.
Several real dangers exist, as there are:
• the job loss of the employed,
• the worries of small and medium companies because of the missing sales,
• self-employed who were forced to close their offices,
• the lack of social assistence for poor families or families with several problems like violence, child abuse and not enough money for food.
• People avoid situations like seeing a doctor because of the fear to get infected with covid-19
And there is the loneliness of persons…
A problem everybody has is the social distancing.
If told to stay in the house, even doing remote work, people quickly feel isolated and lonely. Humans are social beings who need contacts and social interactions. We live on the feedback of others.
Maybe you have heard of Frederick 2's language experiments. If not, he lived from 1194 to 1250 so it was not on the news.
In his experiment, Frederick II wanted to find out what language children develop when they grow up without speech and affection. Little is known about the exact course of the experiment.
However, the result was that all the children died. He wrote: "They could not live without the clapping of hands and the cheerful cutting of faces and the tender words of their nurses."
What can we do, to keep mentally sound in this situation?
First of all, keep in touch with others. If we cannot meet in person, we can use the telephone or the computer.
Even elderly people started to use software to keep in touch with the family.
Where it is allowed, go out to the parks or quiet places in nature. In Japan „forest bathing“ is a therapy and we all feel how we relax and reduce stress in the nature. Scientists all over the world are confirming positive effects.
Sport is very helpful, even if we are not allowed to leave the house. There are many courses offered on the internet even for free where we can excercise or dance at home. We were made for movement, the people of the stone age used to run, jog and walk about 40 kilometres or 25 miles a day. Genetically, we are still very close! Furthermore, endorphins are released. So we can all dope ourselves with some nice moves.
Another important point is to follow our interests. Usually we never have time to do the things we like to do. To keep mentally sound, it is very important to have time for things different from our obligations like job and houshold chores. We always should take time to do activities in which we get into a flow and forget time and space. We switch off and prevent a possible burnout. I think we all know these moments when we forget everything and feel relaxed afterwards. It is like a little holiday.
If we didn‘t find time before, now it is a chance to pursue hobbies and develop new ones.
Others want to make good use of time. Why not study some course you are interested in or which helps you in your job? Or maybe you always wanted to learn some skill or language? This is the moment, no excuse. There you have the time.
Voluntary work has a proven positive impact on mental health. Helping others improves one's own mood. During the pandemic, for example, you can go shopping for people who are chronically ill or elderly or offer phone calls to lonely people.
How long will this social distancing last? We do not know it and that takes us to an uncertainness which is hard to bear. There is a trick how to deal with this.
Develop a daily routine.
For many persons it is not easy to structure their time. Days go by and nothing has been achieved wich leads to frustration. My recommendation:
Make a timetable and stick to it.
A job structures a lot of hours. Still, get up the same time, even if you do not have to work.
A timetable could look like this if you do not have to work
7 am: get up
7.30 am go out to run or do gymnastics
8.30 am shower and breakfast
9.30 am check your mails
10 am study
12 prepare lunch
1.30 pm clean the house
3.30 pm take a walk, supermarket, etc.
6 pm prepare dinner
7 pm phone friends
8 pm hobby
10 pm meditation, yoga, read, something quiet to relax
11 pm go to bed
The daily routine helps to structure the day. This prevents to lose yourself in a spiral of negative thinking which can lead to a depressive episode.
Plan your phone calls, keep in touch so you can check on the mood of others and talk to share experiences. The interaction with others is vital, as we heard above. It helps as well to talk about worries and get a piece of advice. Furthermore, others usually detect changes in mood earlier than the affected person herself or himself. A good friend or a family member might even feel when it is time to look for professional help.
Positive thoughts to find the good things in a bad situation might lead to a change in life. Maybe the job is not interesting. In this case, the pandemic can be the chance to think about new objectives.
Employees working remote from home and maybe with children they have to look after, have high levels of stress. If they already have latent psychological problems, they feel the pressure and develop depressions, anxiety disorders and in some cases obsessive-compulsive disorders. For this reason it can be helpful to follow the above recommendations to protect the mental health.
Children feel that their parents are stressed, no matter if it is for the lack of work or the work from home, lack of money or food.
Perhaps the appartment is small. The family sticks together 24 hours without any privacy.
In a reduced space with an excess of stress, people tend to be aggressive. If someone is already aggressive, easily it can turn into violence, especially if there is an abuse of alcohol or other drugs as well. During lockdown, there was an increase of sales of beer and wine of more than 35% in Germany.
Even in small places it is possible to find space. The family can make a plan where to find a hideaway at home or which times the family decides to do quiet activities, activities together or which rooms are assigned to whom at what time. Again, this is structure and some rules make life easier.
Now, at the end, a little outlook.
During the time of the lockdown many persons started to question the way of life of consuming and traveling always more.
Yeast and flour were sold out during the lockdown. Suddenly every German seemed to bake at home. They started to redecorate their appartments, houses and gardens. People were sharing on social media platforms crafts, recipes, gardening, how to avoid waste, how to clean without chemicals, etc. This illustrates that people reconsider alternative ways of life.
They started to think and discuss about the movement “Fridays for Future“ of the young who want to protect nature and stop the climate change.
Never the air has been so clean like during lockdown. For a sustainable life there have to be made changes.
In the newspapers there was a discussion whether the virus is a wake up call for mankind. As well, this situation can be a chance.