Is the world as we know it over?
Since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, governments around the world have taken unprecedented measures to stop the spread of coronavirus. The rapid changes we've seen have had an impact on almost every aspect of our lives. Not being able to meet family and friends for months, doing our shopping online, working from home with Zoom conferences, wearing masks, cancelling our holidays abroad: we've had to get used to doing things very differently. During this worrying and uncertain time, it sometimes seems that things will never return to how they were.
But there have been many pandemics in history, and the human race is resilient and inventive. We have survived wars and natural disasters. While it's true that disruptive events such as the Coronavirus pandemic lead to changes in the way society works, it's also true that most things stay much the same. And not all changes are for the worse.
How can a pandemic bring about positive change?
When the deadly Spanish flu swept around the globe in 1918, people said that the world would never be the same again. The First World War was coming to an end, and with so many people on the move, it was easy for the virus to take hold. Doctors at the time had few effective treatments against the new disease, and worldwide, there were 50 million deaths.
While the Spanish flu was a tragedy for countless families and individuals, within just a few years everyone seemed to have forgotten this pandemic. However, it led to some positive and long-lasting outcomes for society. Governments realised that rather than treating individual cases, they must treat an epidemic at the level of the whole population, and therefore they developed more effective ways to deliver healthcare.
With a better knowledge of how viruses spread and vastly improved medical treatments, doctors and scientists today are in a much stronger position to fight this pandemic than they were in 1918. Teams of researchers around the world are racing to produce vaccines, and as we learn more about caring for COVID-19 sufferers, far fewer patients are dying from the disease.
Maybe it's a good thing that the world is changing
How long will the pandemic last? No one knows. It could be over in months, or we could be living with it for years. We're experiencing a watershed moment in history and, indeed, things might never go back to how they were. But this isn't all bad news. The "new normal" provides opportunities for a greener, more family-friendly way of life and a more united country.
- The language we use has changed: we acknowledge the valuable contribution of "low-skilled" workers such as carers and those working in factories and supermarkets by referring to them as "key workers". Week after week, the nation united in clapping the heroic doctors and nurses of the NHS.
- The government has spent billions of pounds on the furlough scheme, allowing businesses that have locked down to keep their employees on the payroll rather than making them redundant. Maybe this is the start of a new relationship between the state and individuals.
- Consultations with your doctor now take place online whenever possible, a change that looks set to stay. Face to face consultations aren't always necessary for many routine and administrative appointments, and this change will free up time for hard-pressed GPs to concentrate on the patients who need them most.
Look for the silver linings
Luckily, it's easy to stay connected with friends and family. Even when you can't meet up and give them a hug, keep in touch with video chats and messages. Make a date for a family quiz night or get together with friends on Zoom for a post-work drink. An old fashioned telephone call is sometimes the best option. While many older people are very competent with technology, some find Zoom calls too distracting to concentrate on what's being talked about.
While it's not ideal for everyone, it seems that working from home for at least part of the week will become the norm. As fewer people commute, carbon emissions should decrease. With travel time cut to a minimum, workers will have more leisure time to spend with their families or on a sport or hobby.
People are taking care of themselves better. More of us than ever are getting out and about in the fresh air as we enjoy our daily exercise. With gyms closed, many are exercising at home. You can run or cycle almost anywhere, and if you need motivation, there's a plethora of exercise videos online.
Care for your mental health and focus on positive emotions
While it's natural to be anxious about the pandemic, this is something we can't control as individuals. Worrying about COVID-19 can be exhausting and takes an emotional toll, especially for anyone who already suffers from anxiety. One of the most effective ways of coping with anxiety is to be mindful of the things that are important to you. Make the most of each day and take time to appreciate the small things in life: morning coffee in the garden, a walk in the woods, baking a cake with the kids.
If you find yourself constantly worrying that things will never go back to how they were, you may become trapped in a cycle of extreme nostalgia. Bach Flowers can help with panic attacks, stress and insomnia. Honeysuckle flower essence is a particularly effective treatment for those who feel the best days of their lives have gone, helping them to move forward and focus on the present.
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