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Hopes of good days make social isolation a fun

Hopes of good days make social isolation a fun
Highlights

The 21-day lockdown has kicked in with an exhortation to “stay home” and maintain “social distance” as the new mantras to contain the spread of corona virus.

The 21-day lockdown has kicked in with an exhortation to "stay home" and maintain "social distance" as the new mantras to contain the spread of corona virus.

Thus, an iron curtain has descended across the threshold of every house and apartment as the war rages on in the ICUs of select hospitals in the State. Not only are most people cut off from one another, but there is also very little they can do to help on the frontlines.

Perhaps, this is a rare moment in the history of the nation when millions of people are delinked at once from their friends, family, neighbors, daily routines, and leisure activities.

Literally, the citizens of the country are now in an experiment mode on themselves. However long our lockdown lasts, we need to start asking some urgent questions about how much can the human psyche bear and cope with.

Glued to television sets and browsing through WhatsApp messages people are voraciously gobbling up every available piece of news about efforts to contain the spread of the virus and descending into sudden and difficult-to-control bouts of panic, dread, and despair. Barely a few days into the lockdown mode, the strategic reserves of resilience, patience, and hope are already being strained.

A case in point is, "a resident of LB Nagar area has gone into a delirium and suffers from hallucinations that there are Naxals at his doorstep ready to kill him. His neighbor and colony advisor, G Surya Prakash, is on the lookout for some help from a psychiatrist.

For the gregarious and workaholics, the mindset under lockdown state is "I am stuck at home," "I will run out of items, I cannot buy anything now," everything is shutting down," "I am panicking," "there is too much of insecurity and I feel anxious and unsafe." Manifestations of such thoughts are irritation, incoherent thinking and talk, confusion, anxiety, sleeplessness etc.

Commenting on the lockdown's psychological effects, Prof C Beena, Retired Professor in Psychology, Osmania University, and Ashoka Fellow (for Social Innovation) states that "people suffer from depressive anxiety, confusion as there is uncertainty and ambiguity about what the future holds for them."

The problem is further compounded because people have not learnt to be resilient to bear the ambiguity and ease their stress levels. In such circumstances, people are pushed into a trauma and seek instant solutions as they lack the inherent ability to be cope with increasing stress levels.

Prof Beena cites another reason- the society being in the grip of ATM culture- instant money, instant food, food at the doorstep on call etc. People want everything in a jiffy and solutions to be instant.

In such a monumental crisis, there is "no instant solution," she says and advocates that society should use this crisis as an opportunity and acquire more knowledge about the self, be more mature by analyzing the uncertainty and develop core resilient skills.

Further, there is a large body of evidence across the world which suggests that the factors which now govern all of our lives lead to negative outcomes for mental and physical health.

Research in the USA on prisoners kept in solitary confinement reveals that prisoners quickly experience a wide range of as well as psychological effects like panic attacks, severe depression, and thoughts of self-harm and suicide as well as weight loss, digestive disorders, and insomnia,.

According to a 2009 study on loneliness and social disconnectedness by Erin Cornwell and Linda Waite, despite the possibility of maintaining mobile connectivity, Wifi, video chat with friends and family, the tangible social universes have instantly been miniature.

Health researcher Oliver Hämmig, who worked on socially isolated people in Switzerland, found that "social isolation is not only detrimental to general, mental, and cardiovascular health but also to musculoskeletal health.

Another 2015 study found that social isolation, loneliness, and even living alone are all associated with substantially increased all-cause mortality.

The indisputable health costs of isolation should make us ponder on how long social distancing can be maintained. These measures are necessary today and we have no choice but to share and shoulder the burden of corona warriors- doctors, nurses, and hospital staff, those involved in the supply chain and ones providing us essential services.

Japan and Korea have succeeded in containment. It is imperative to learn from their experiences and ramp up testing and monitoring capacity — not just to prevent exponential spread of the virus, but to offer at least a glimmer of hope to citizens that this thing has an end.

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