Hope you are all making it through round/year 3 of the Pandemic? Our lives are drastically changed. This finds us all searching for our new normal. Masks, mandates, and meliorate. Meliorate means providing relief. Humans as a tribe have never faced this type of worldwide challenge for some time.
Feeling grateful may be a new experience for some, the trend has been for the world to step out of their self-contained cocoons and realize as humanity we are all connected. The issues with supply chain, weather, and keeping people healthy and working have made us see how we are all connected. So weird I saw some high-level x-rays of how Covid 19 spreads through the lungs into all the veins. It made me think about how all of us in the world are deeply connected. Supply shortages early on, the distribution issues brought light to our global economy. I have heard incredible stories of neighbors and strangers, banding together with sheer gratitude. I have also seen instances that some folks feel a sense of entitlement and cannot fathom why the pandemic must affect their world.
“During moments of crisis such as the COVID-19 pandemic, a grateful perspective is critical to sustaining our positive attitude—to energize, to heal, and to bring hope. Positive psychology research demonstrates that positive emotions, including gratitude, are symbiotic with health and wellness, such that positive emotions promote happiness and flourishing, creating an upward spiral (Fredrickson, 2009, Seligman, 2011). In contrast, negative emotions are an important reminder of dangers or unfulfilled needs (Gruber et al., 2011). Being grateful is a free mindfulness practice to help us cope with anxiety and uncertainty by focusing on what we value, what is in our control, and what we can give back (Emmons, 2013).” https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7304946/
Many different reactions have surfaced during the pandemic. Here is a great outline of what the world has been feeling.
Using evidence from a systematic study of major disasters in the past 50 years, epidemiologist Sandro Galea has developed a framework that identifies five stages of reaction to a disaster:
|1.||Self-Preservation: The first reaction to a disaster is fear and initial anxiety. People are afraid. They seek information. They do what is necessary to figure out how to save themselves.|
|2.||Group Preservation: With the right information provided, there is a tremendous effort—usually guided by what we call pro-social behavior—to help others.|
|3.||Blame Setting: This involves internalizing and many psychological consequences fall in place during this stage. With disasters, we talk a lot about emotional responses, about change in normal activities. This leads into efforts to try to figure out who is to blame and to do something about it by addressing the vulnerabilities and strengths that we have that resulted in that hazard becoming a disaster.|
|4.||Justice Seeking: This involves externalizing. It’s part of seeking redress and leads to taking action against the perceived perpetrators of the disaster.|
|5.||Renormalizing: Individuals and groups adapt to the threat.|
Since I work in retail and have in the best been in service in the food industry as well as work in hospitals, I try my best to be kind, tip well and say thanks and other gestures of kindness to those who serve us. That is not always the case.
“America’s ultra-tense political climate, together with the accumulated personal and economic traumas of the pandemic, have helped spur this animosity, which was already intense and common in the United States. But it’s hardly the only reason that much of the country has decided to take out its pandemic frustrations on the customer-service desk. For generations, American shoppers have been trained to be nightmares. The pandemic has shown just how desperately the consumer class clings to the feeling of being served.” https://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2021/08/pandemic-american-shoppers-nightmare/619650/
Connection has evolved in our world. Zoom has gone from a in-office thing to a channel to connect us to those we love. This has been an unexpected success in most realms. We have seen travel restrictions reshape our world. More families have come together or moved back in with each other. Some have grown farther apart. Many are still working from home. Most are grateful for this shift in life balance: It has inspired some to remodel, others to change careers and some to open new businesses. All in all, the world is a new place. With all the social distance going on here are some great suggestions of how to create connection, decrease loneliness and create more positive attitudes. I want to see more gratefulness in the world!
Tips for preventing the detrimental effect of loneliness and social isolation
There are established ways to maintain feelings of being connected to others despite having to maintain social distancing. By organizing our activities every single day, we can become more resistant to the onset of feelings of loneliness. For older adults, some tips are as follows.
- Spend more time with your family. Utilize opportunities offered by the pandemic. Before the pandemic, some family members may have been distracted by work and school commitments, but now they may have more time at home and a higher degree of freedom to connect with older loved ones. In the era of social distancing, quality interactions using physical distancing of at least two meters along with the use of personal protective equipment such as masks enable contact with family members. This is vitally helpful to defend against loneliness.
- Maintain social connections with technology. Along with the telephone, technology has changed the way people interact with each other. Social media platforms such as Facebook, Skype, Twitter, LINE, and Instagram enable people to stay connected in a variety of ways. Many older adults, however, may not be as familiar with these new technologies, and this style of interaction may not effectively serve their emotional needs. We can help older family members and friends to overcome such technology barriers. Online video chat is easier to use and sufficiently conveys nonverbal cues so that people can feel more engaged. Even without new technology available, communication through phone services is beneficial too. Conversations with a regular schedule through online or phone services with family members and loved ones can be helpful for older adults.
Maintain basic needs and healthy activities
- Ensure basic needs are met. Family and caregivers should ensure food, medication, and mask accessibility for older adults, especially those who live alone.
- Structure every single day. To stay confined at home for much of every day is a psychological challenge for many people. When most outdoor activities are not available, it is not easy to maintain a regular daily schedule. However, we can encourage and support engagement with activities deemed pleasurable by the older person with benefits for physical, mental, and spiritual well-being. Regular scheduling is especially supportive for older people at risk of delirium, which is characterized by a disturbance of circadian rhythm. Television and YouTube channels adapted for older adults with proper physical and mental programs (e.g., exercise programs, mindfulness practice, and music programs) can also be very useful.
- Maintain physical and mental activities. Exercise has benefits for physical and psychological health (specifically for mood and cognition). There is evidence that regular engagement in mentally challenging and new activities may reduce the risk of dementia. Although we may not be able to exercise together as before, we should maintain physical activities at the individual level. Besides, these personal physical activities can be performed at a group level by setting a common goal, sharing our progress, or creating a friendly competition via social media.
- Pursue outdoor activities while following the guidance of social distancing. Brief outdoor activities are usually still possible and beneficial to health. One can feel much better because of sunlight exposure and the ability to see other people while still maintaining physical distancing.
Manage emotions and psychiatric symptoms
- Manage cognition, emotion, and mood. Loneliness is often associated with negative thoughts (cognitions). Moreover, anxiety and depression may cause social withdrawal which will exacerbate the loneliness and isolation associated with social distancing. Acquiring reliable information about the pandemic helps avoid unnecessary worry and negative rumination. Conscious breathing, meditation, and other relaxation techniques are helpful for the mind and body and can decrease one’s level of anxiety and depression. Emotional support for family members and friends is especially important during this harsh pandemic period, but one should not hesitate to seek help as well.
- Pay attention to psychiatric symptoms. The pandemic is quite stressful for every individual, and the significant stress can precipitate the occurrence or recurrence of mental disorders in some people, especially vulnerable older people. Depression, anxiety, and sleep disturbance are common, especially when one is under quarantine or self-isolation. Other symptoms include anger, irritability, and compulsive behaviors, such as repeated washing and cleaning. Furthermore, the experiences of social isolation and quarantine may bring back post-traumatic stress disorder symptoms for those previously exposed to other related events such as the severe acute respiratory syndrome and Middle East respiratory syndrome epidemics (Hawryluck et al., 2004). Online screening tools and rating scales can help us to understand the magnitude of the impact on our mental health. People with existing psychiatric disorders and their family members should pay special attention to their mental health and follow important tips to prevent worsening of symptoms. Medical assistance should always be sought, when necessary, particularly in response to the expression of suicidal ideation. Those taking prescribed psychiatric medications should make sure that their supply is adequate, despite the limitations imposed by social distancing and the difficulty in visiting the pharmacy. Government agencies, social service organizations, and healthcare providers should consider offering online psychological services (or at least phone services) to those psychogeriatric patients who need medical advice during the social isolation period.
- Take special care of older people with dementia and their family care givers The world and the way people live have significantly been disrupted in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Changes are always stressful and require people to adapt. However, people with dementia have compromised adaptive function, and the pandemic may aggravate negative emotions and invoke behavioral and psychological symptoms. Recognizing that people with dementia may find it difficult to understand and comply with social distancing, caregivers should try to give instructions on hand hygiene, social distancing, and other protective measures in a simple, straightforward, and understandable way. Regular daily schedules and activities should be arranged and individually tailored to the dementia patient’s interests. Family care givers might be under especially severe levels of stress and feel even more isolated and alone. More detailed information on the unique aspects of the pandemic’s effects on dementia caregiving is available on the Alzheimer’s Disease International website (Alzheimer’s Disease International)