Whether you are a student, a homemaker or a working professional, everyone has had their lives disrupted due to the outbreak of the Covid-19. The impact that the two months of lockdown have had on an individual’s mental health cannot be holistically determined. Some find themselves in situations more adverse than others. Thus to establish some sort of parity, it is safe to assume that EVERYONE has had to face difficulties in respect to their individual benchmarks.
Its been over two months with the world trying to contain the pandemic and I am pretty sure most of you have had some sort of exposure to media pertaining to the lines of how one should workout at home or how one should actively be part of a skill-building course or how one should be doing something productive during the lockdown.
In my opinion, all these are valid arguments for those who have ensured their basic necessities-food, water and shelter (the lowermost slice of ‘Maslow’s Hierarchy Of Needs’). If you find yourself in a situation where you can indulge in activities other than the most primal ones of your existence, only then should you allow yourself to be exposed to such content that is being floated around. If not, I would recommend you to limit your exposure to such content as not only is it misleading, it allows your brain to form ‘false reference points’ to base its decisions from.
For example, it would be an absurd comparison if I considered a professional athlete and how the lockdown has affected the both of us and how we are reacting to the same. Since I have been exposed to content online which shows the athlete in a great physique (if not better than before), subconsciously, I would start generating thoughts as to how ‘unproductive’ I have been with my time. If this is my thought process, I would definitely be motivated to maintain a check on my diet and to indulge in more workouts, but IS THAT MY TOP PRIORITY AS OF NOW? Or do I need to be worrying about my grades, or my family or something else?
This is just one example of how exposure to ‘unfiltered’ content can drive you into a negative state of mind, depriving you of the happiness that you would have otherwise been subjected to, if your brain had not received the visual trigger. What I am trying to say is that it is really important for each individual to PRIORITIZE WHAT THE GOAL OF EACH LOCKDOWN should be. Not only would that give the individual a sense of direction, but would also give the sense of ‘productivity’ or ‘well-being’ that many claim to lack during this difficult time.
An example of how an individual (say a teenager) could prioritize the goals of the lockdown could be:
- LOCKDOWN 1.0: Let’s try and develop a sustainable schedule which allows me to cater to the absolute essentials- completing homework, learning to cook by yourself, allocating time for household chores, connecting with friends, etc. What this does is that it gives the individual a realistic view of the things that need to be indulged in rather than feeling overwhelmed what everyone around them is doing (which is usually an ‘incorrect reference point’)
And with that I hope that the government of the country you reside in successfully manages to flatten the curve and proceedings re-open back to normal. But unfortunately, the country that my hypothetical teenager resides in deems it best to enforce another lockdown.
At this point, the individual will be disappointed, but he atleast has a schedule to fall back on and since it’s been over 15 days of them adapting to the new schedule, it has made the individual efficient, thus leading to some spare time which can now be utilized to be ‘productive’. It is at this point that the individual should think about being ‘more productive’ if they are still subject to what I referred as the ‘unfiltered content’.
- LOCKDOWN 2.0: With the onset of hedonic adaptation, the individual can now start thinking about whether he wants to indulge in some workouts (a great way of staying active and an instant mood uplift) or pursue that all important course that ‘reference points’ around him are doing. Again, I cannot emphasize how important it is to find yourself reference points that are meaningful, which is why it is great to think in terms of absolutes as suggested by Dr. Laurie Santos, a cognitive scientist at the University of Yale.
Below is a link that I have provided in which she explains the importance of ‘happiness’ in leading a meaningful life.
Choosing the right ‘Reference Points’
It all sounds good in theory, but how do we go about choosing these, is a question that might be bothering most of you during the read. A great way to tackle this situation is by thinking in terms of absolute rather than relative, which is not as easy as it sounds. Most of our biases and assumptions are based on the social connections around us, be it our friends, family members or colleagues at work. To demonstrate the following bias, psychologists have performed experiments that trigger this human instinct, as you are about to test on yourselves.
Test Yourself: Human Biases
Consider yourself a part of the experiment and note down which case you would prefer to choose and why. This is a hypothetical situation.
Your next-door neighbour bought a brand new car which is sitting in their garage and is visible to you. Do you think that this external event can affect you in any way in comparison to when they had not bought the car?
Case 1: No, this event would not have any effect on my monthly expenditure and I will not be more likely to buy myself a new car.
Case 2: Yes, this event will be playing on my mind and will lead to increase my monthly expenditures, making myself more likely to buy a new car.
And you chose Case 1 , didn’t you? Although this seems pretty obvious to readers, data shows that individuals are more likely to indulge in additional expenditures (or possibly end up buying a new car themselves) when subject to such conditions.
Thus, the conditions that you subject yourself to play a major factor in how you feel. Although it is important to be informed of the happenings in your area, over-exposure to news related articles and similar content will lead to making you more anxious, ultimately affection your sleep cycles and your general well-being.
Consume how much you actually need, not how much you think you need!
Summing It Up:
Individuals who are working from home are finding it difficult to maintain a work-life balance, others who do not have the responsibility of being the bread earners of their families are finding it difficult to cope with the ‘boredom’. Not being able to catch up with their friends is a problem being faced by teenagers and its safe to say that every member of the family is stressed due to the lack of privacy or ‘personal time’. Everyone is facing a disrupt from their normal lives in some way or the other and it is not my place to comment on it quantitatively.
However, by maintaining a positive attitude and realizing how important it is to address the psychological needs of yourself, this period of lockdown can be one which is not so taxing on your mental health.