Adapting to new reality.

Summary of the Webinar on April 09, 2020 by Dr. Christopher Palmer, MD,

(Summary adapted for Indian context)

1. No one likes a pandemic

2. Reality: It has occurred and we have to survive.

3. Universally, everyone experiences identical wide range of unhappy emotions like anxiety and helplessness, anger and insecurity.

4. Solutions to combat these have to be individualized. One size does not fit all.

5. Public health and community leaders focus on distancing, washing, preventing spread and saving others.

6. Few if any focus on mental health and finances. Emotions are generally ignored.

7. Common Tendency to disagree and be judgemental of others.

8. Broadly there are two kinds of people among us.

A. Busy: eg.

1. Frontline health workers

2. Police and security

3. Water supply and sanitation staff

4. Every link of supply chain (Policy and priority planners, Executives, manufacturers, production staff, farmers, transporters, traders and those with feet on the ground)

5. Media personnel

6. Back up staff

7. Governmental and Bank officers

➢ Their dilemma:

▪ Exhaustion.

▪ Overwhelmed, over work, endlessly busy 24 x 7

▪ Constantly facing challenges.

▪ Working from home: Occupational stress and added obligations like looking after children, their lessons and e-school routines, domestic chores…..

▪ Loss of structured work and home routine, habitual diversions from stress  and security of peer groups to ventilate stress.

▪ Those at serial no 1 &2 are at the forefront of death and targets of anger  

▪ Guilt of not able to support their family members

▪ Making (thankless) sacrifice for strangers

B. Bored:  Those that do not have a structured day or cannot figure out what to do. .

➢ Their dilemma

o Recurrent anxiety, fear of contacting the virus particularly when moving out of the house.

o Loneliness and helplessness. Loss of opportunity to talk things over with trusted colleagues and friends/ family.

o Absence of sports, traditional pleasures and entertainment

o Loss of work routine, pervasive personal, financial and social insecurity.

o Threat of losing jobs, income, savings.

o Fear of changing social order and its newer pressures

o Anger for having to make sacrifice for anonymous people.

o Metaphor: Feeling cooped up at home is like solitary confinement is painful

o Absence of sports, traditional pleasures and entertainment

o Terrifying feeling of shame and guilt for not doing enough for the family.

C. Dynamics / Assessment / Evaluation

a. Emotions are not about being right or wrong. Only positive or negative.

b. Shaming self or others for bad feelings, thoughts or disruptive behaviour does not help.

c. Validating negative emotions does not mean support for bad thoughts or behaviour

D. Risks and resolution

• Alcohol or substance abuse.

• Suicide, domestic violence

• Exacerbation of pre-existing life threatening illness like malignancy and autoimmune disorders, emergence of life threatening illness like CVA, raised BP, DM

• Emergence of insomnia, anxiety, depression and

• Learned Helplessness:

o Loss of motivation to control life events,

o Passively accepting threat to survival

E. Tips to overcome reclusiveness and learned helplessness

a. Survival of the fittest: Fitness = Ability to adapt to new environment   (Re; Darwin)

b. Critical skills:

1. To be a helpless looser or be a dynamic worrier.

2. Being a warrior = Accept challenges and obstacles

3. Design and define fresh targets in life, career and relationships

F. To set targets and meaning to life, career and relationships: Ask yourself

i. Who all depend on me? What can I do to help them?

ii. Who do I depend on: How to acknowledge and thank them. Talk to them on phone instead of WhatsApp or text message or email

iii. How do I help others / relationships?: Charity, share happy memories. Pull out old photographs. Make new albums. Communicate with people who shared or caused those happy moments.

iiii. How do I provide emotional and material support to my loved ones and relations / neighbours

v. How do I help myself: What are my passions, what is it that I like to do.

G. How do I help myself:

a. Passively to calm emotions:

i. Cold compress on face when tensed.

ii. Spirituality

iii. Gratitude: Volunteer to help others. Join an NGO. Help those in the frontline

iiii. Mindfulness.

v. Alternate plans to fill the vacuum of loss of routine:

1. Speak to relatives and friends. Share happiness

2. Make your bed, laundry, domestic chores

3. Avoid preoccupation with TV news, ration your computer and medial time.

H. Summary:

a. Adapt to the new reality. COVID cannot be wished away.

b. People who adapt, survive

c. Escape in alcohol or thoughts of suicide do not help feeling good.

d. Create a new budget.

e. Acquire new skills

f. Networking for ideas and suggestions.

g. Pamper your passion

h. Set a routine of activities that help feeling good

i. If anxiety and arousal are uncontrolled, seek professional help.


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