Sunday, 5 December, 2021

Changing Mindset In Time Of COVID-19


Dr. Shyam P Lohani


It is a rare occasion that our thinking has been inundated with the threat of disease for so long in recent times. Too much of our attention is directed to the risk of illness. For about seven months, almost every newspaper has stories on the coronavirus pandemic, and radios and televisions have updates on the number of infected and latest death tolls. Social media platforms are overwhelmed with ever-increasing statistics, sometimes practical advice but also myths and falsification about the pandemic.
We are in a dilemma in the midst of a worldwide pandemic, with many of the social and educational activities still under a prohibition to operate. Some of us are in areas that have already been affected by coronavirus while others are speculating for what may come. The hotspot of coronavirus pandemic is shifting from one place to another. At this time, we are helplessly watching the headlines and wondering, “What is going to happen next? The uncertainties surrounding the coronavirus contagion have caused tremendous pressure on our psyche and also on our physical health.

The future course of the coronavirus pandemic is not known to us and we also do not know how deeply we will be affected or how bad the situation might turn. However, it is imperative to stay tuned about the situation of our community so that we can take preventive measures in order to slow the spread of the virus. There are numerous things beyond our control; including how infectious this virus turns, when this pandemic ends, when the effective vaccine comes, and how much damage is going to happen.
The continuous and frightening statistics have led to heightened anxiety which may cause direct consequences to our mental health. The persistent sense of danger can have many more subtle impacts on our psyche and make us more arrogant to other people and society. The changing facts have led us to become more orthodox and often less tolerant of diversity which was in practice in modern times. The pandemic has also caused a paradigm shift to our social and psychological perspectives on people, society and the country.
Since the beginning of modern medicine, infectious disease has remained one of the major challenges to human health. Our immune system has played a tremendous role in tracking and destroying the invading pathogens. However, the task of defeating invading pathogens makes us feel tired and less physically active to perform daily works. This dreaded pandemic has been affecting our immune system both in terms of our personality and psychology.
Fear is the central emotional response during a pandemic. Humans possess a set of defensive systems for combating ecological threats. Threats that result negative emotions can be contagious, and fear, on other hand, can make threats appear more impending. COVID-19 is neither the first nor the last health emergency we will face. There is estimation that we will face a pandemic at least every five years. For the upcoming pandemic, we will be better prepared but we never are able to say another will be less severe.
The pandemic has disrupted our normal life and many unfortunate lives have succumbed to it. Science has the answer for a pandemic like COVID-19 never happens again. The high mortality was seen among aged individuals and those with pre-existing medical conditions such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes, asthma, chronic respiratory disease, and cancer. So the protection of those vulnerable people should be our goal in the future.
It is inspiring and appreciable that the global health community has been focusing their efforts on searching for a vaccine, therapeutics, and diagnostics. This critical endeavour is expected to soon yield results that show the exit pathway from this pandemic. This contagion has taught us to fight upcoming epidemic or pandemic but there should be no excuse in the future than to identify and respond to the threat before it becomes another pandemic. If it does, it will be necessary deal with it in a far better way that does not destroy the health system and economic status of the people. Coronavirus has not only affected the physical health of those infected but it also has an impact on mental health of those people who were recovered from this disease.

At the beginning of the pandemic, many of us thought it would last only for a few weeks, and imagining so was natural. Now it is better to abandon the imagination of quick exit from this pandemic and start a realistic approach to learn to live in a new normal. It makes sense to imagine that we will keep the virus behind us, but the use of masks, maintaining social distancing, sanitizing hands, quarantine, and clustered lockdown are not leaving us anytime soon.
The continuous increase in the number of infected people in our country and another general lockdown will be more severe psychologically than the first one. People tolerated the initial lockdown despite extreme financial difficulties and the next lockdown will definitely be no easier for having been through it before. Let us hope that the pandemic will soon be over, we can start recreational life, and our family and friends welcome us into their homes.

(A Professor, Lohani is the founder and academic director of Nobel College.