Normality in unusual times.
What is normal, any more? 4 months has passed by with at least some form of lockdown measure (increased again this week where I live). Amidst zoom calls, masks and endless amounts of hand sanitiser, a new normal seems to be settling into everyday life here in the UK.
I find myself drawing breath watching TV shows from pre-lockdown, where people are shaking hands, hugging, wandering through crowds. Such banal, normal behaviour has become shocking, outside of the new normal. Things we never even thought about. Little bits of contact between humans that are no longer acceptable. What will be the long-term effect of this?
I wonder how we’re all doing, really. I know for myself, as someone who has experienced depression, that there have been times when I’ve really not been ok over the last few months. I feel more settled now, but there are still things that I’m trying not to pay attention to. The longing to just go to a friend’s house for a coffee. To wander through a museum. To watch a gig. I’m a big introvert, but it is going beyond introversion. I feel that it’s a part of being a human – an inherently social species, whatever level of sociability applies.
It has been suggested that governments use a trauma-informed response to the pandemic, taking into account the trauma experienced by a nationwide population as a whole. I’ve put some references below for some interesting papers on this – I’ve found it fascinating reading through the recommendations of researchers. The factors involved in recovery after the pandemic is over are varied, and as you’d expect, huge. Death, uncertainty, and inequality all play a part, and even if we haven’t been personally affected by COVID-19, the overall impact of living in such an uncertain time can’t be forgotten. Living in a world where an invisible danger exists beyond our control is draining.
I’ve tried to maintain a sense of normality in unusual times, but recently have found more of a sense of peace in accepting that life right now just isn’t normal. Instead of fighting to retain as much as possible from pre-covid times, letting go and embracing this strange new world for now seems to have given me more space in my head. Lockdown is coming and going over the UK, and is likely to do so for the foreseeable future. I feel that sometime soon, I will have to grieve for that time beforehand, of touch, and closeness, and freedom. But is my mind in that place yet? Am I ready to do so? For now, the answer is no. I distract myself jumping from one thing to another, just as Clare suggested in the comments of a post a few days ago.
Looking through studies published recently, the theme of resilience keeps cropping up. How do we build resilience in a national population? Recommendations for governments and leaders to focus on mental health are widespread. The collective stress is a ticking time bomb, and we need to ensure we can deal with the fallout when it hits. I can help myself by building my own little resilient world, and putting coping mechanisms in place as much as possible. Researchers state that stress is a normal response to something like the current pandemic. I think talking about how we’re doing, normalising conversation, is an important part of banding together as a population as we start to recover from this pandemic.
So. How are you doing?
Griffin, G. (2020). Defining trauma and a trauma-informed COVID-19 response. Psychological Trauma, 12(S1), S279-S280. doi:10.1037/tra0000828
Osofsky, J. D., Osofsky, H. J., & Mamon, L. Y. (2020). Psychological and social impact of COVID-19. Psychological Trauma, 12(5), 468-469. doi:10.1037/tra0000656
Provenzi, L., & Tronick, E. (2020). The power of disconnection during the COVID-19 emergency: From isolation to reparation. Psychological Trauma, 12(S1), S252-S254. doi:10.1037/tra0000619
Vinkers, C. H., van Amelsvoort, T., Bisson, J. I., Branchi, I., Cryan, J. F., Domschke, K., van der Wee, Nic J.A. (2020). Stress resilience during the coronavirus pandemic. European Neuropsychopharmacology, 35, 12-16. doi:10.1016/j.euroneuro.2020.05.003