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Maintaining a positive mind in a crisis

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By Milward Tobias:

IS CURABLE—Covid-19

There is so much information given daily about how Covid-19 is causing devastation on human health and economy. The public psyche is in a state of uncertainty and those in authority just like anyone are in panic mode.

In such a situation, the probability of making inaccurate or less accurate decisions is high. However, that is not the focus of this write-up. This write-up aims at providing some information which seems to be missed in the frequent communication provided and shared on Covid-19.

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I must declare that I am not a healthcare expert. I read psychology in my first two years of undergraduate studies and I have had brief interaction with public health and epidemiology as part of my graduate studies but those subjects were not my concentration. So this write-up is based on limited knowledge of the subject matter. However, I still believe few people will find it helpful.

Managing a disease is both a matter of psychology and medical interventions. While our healthcare system may have all the weaknesses we can cite, we do have greater latitude on the psychological part of managing the disease because it only requires intangible resources – ethics in communication, balancing precaution and fear, advising each other properly, instilling hope etc.

The basic science of coronavirus

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From what is seen on television and read through different sources, the virus is not airborne so it is not like it is all over floating in the air. The transmission pathways are 1) direct contact either with a person or an object carrying the virus and 2) droplets. The preventive measure of wearing a mask and observing social distance or staying far apart from one another in ordinary English is to prevent droplets move from one person to the other when talking or breathing out. The preventive measure to wash hands with soap frequently is because the virus enters the victim through mouth, nose and eyes and all these parts are in the face. The hand is the body organ that interacts with the rest of the body and frequently interacts with the face where entry points for the virus are.

By washing hands with soap frequently, and because science has said washing hands  with soap has ability to kill the virus, the objective is to kill the virus in the hand before the hand interacts with the face where the virus’s entry points are. It is for same reason we are advised not to touch the face anyhow.

Managing what gets into the mind

In a crisis, the preoccupation of the leadership and this is leadership at every level including a household, is to sustain hope. The psychological materiality of sustaining hope is to have a positive mind which helps to maintain a resilient immune system.

Few principles should be observed: 1) discerning what information is for high-level decision making and what information is for public consumption; 2) What information should I post to my friend’s WhatsApp account, on Facebook or on my WhatsApp status?

It is important to observe restraint in sharing negative information especially when it is obvious that everyone will finally get it. This is information like new Covid-19 cases found; another Covid-19 death reported. By sharing them, we increase the frequency of negativity getting into people’s minds which amplifies fear and that has ability to cause depression and weaken immunity.

Empty yourself if travelling out of home

If travelling out of home, make sure you visit the toilet just to avoid looking for such facilities in a public place. By minimizing use of communal facilities, we can reduce the probability of touching an object that some other people have touched before whose travel and interactions we cannot trace.

Free the mind from other battles

In a crisis, unity and love are critical. At household level, if one is a father who beats his wife or a wife who shouts at her husband, this is the time to stop that. The mind should be freed from other forms of stress so that it has the necessary stamina to fight the pandemic. This is the time to exercise discipline in financial management. Do not unnecessarily expose yourself to financial distress when you have the ability to avoid it. No one is sure what will happen next. Avoid getting into unwarranted distress that weakens immunity. Review the shopping basket as your income sustainably allows you.

 

Focus on what gives hope amidst the crisis

The global statistics show the number of cases, number of deaths and number of those who have recovered. Unfortunately, what is emphasised more are cases and deaths. However, it is even more important to recognise that people are recovering too. Covid-19 is no death sentence. This is extremely useful because while emphasis is on prevention and correctly so, a person who tests positive needs to have some source of hope in order for the mind to keep fighting.

If Covid-19 is projected as death sentence, we may lose lives which otherwise would have recovered because we have painted a picture that once positive, chances of recovering are limited which is not correct.

Raise your faith

There have been storms before and God has protected His people. Let us believe God will protect us this time too. If it happens that I go now, let me believe it is for my good that the Lord has seen it fit I go now. That is for believers, of course. God could be sparing me from even more devastating crises to come. Such perspective may help us have a positive and open mind. In conclusion, let us take precaution very seriously and with hope. Let us remember that while we all must take precaution, age is a factor. Our senior citizens should do even more. They should be protected and remain safe.

Milward Tobias is Director at the Center for Research and Consultancy, a private and independent research and consulting firm focusing on economic policy

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