As countries begin easing out lockdown, we are entering a world of new normal. If you think your life is going to be just like it used to be before the COVID-19 pandemic hit the country, you are probably mistaken. The researchers are trying hard to develop a safe and effective coronavirus vaccine as quickly as possible. But meanwhile, we need to be extra careful and be mentally, emotionally, and physically prepared to manage life amid coronavirus scare. This definitely entails drastic changes in our daily routines and habits, and at the same it requires some constant and continued efforts on our part as well. Here are a few things that we have to keep in mind as we now enter the post-lockdown phase. But before that let’s first remind ourselves that the purpose of lockdown, among other things, was to raise public-awareness about how grave the COVID-19 situation is. Therefore, even after the lockdown gets over, we cannot let our guard down just yet because the virus is still around.
Frequent reminders: As the lockdown ends, we are going back to our jobs and businesses. So we are now bound to spend more time outside our house, working, commuting, etc. As the activities become regular and part of our daily routine, complacency may set in leading to carelessness in following the health guidelines in all seriousness. We may no longer wash our hands as frequently as before or may overlook wearing mask or observing personal distancing while talking to our co-worker. This could increase our chances of exposure to the virus. Therefore, what we need is constant reminders. Placing sticky notes on your computer at work-place for reminding you of staying safe by wearing face-mask, gloves, or using sanitizer, can be of great help in this regard. Make sure that these reminders are conspicuous enough to grab your attention.
The office-management should place such reminders at various places in the office, such as on every table of the office canteen, inside and outside common restroom, at the entry and at each employee’s desk. You can also set wallpaper on your phone and computer to remind you of following the preventive measures set by the health department.
Herd-Behavior: Once you go out to work after lockdown, you are at risk of falling prey to a behavioural pitfall called herd-behavior, which could be more dangerous if you are surrounded by people who are a bit easy-going. Herd behaviour is a phenomenon where an individual’s thoughts and behaviors get aligned to what majority of the group thinks or behaves. Being aware of this phenomenon will help you stick to your beliefs and actions and maintain healthy behavior. Challenging herd behavior will require recognition of the phenomenon and being ready to stand out.
A new normal: Post-lockdown, you are going to enter a world of new normal where you have to greet your colleagues and seniors at work-place from a distance and without a handshake; you have to stop touching your face to avoid infection; and you have to limit socializing with your family and friends. All of these are easier said than done because these are habits that we have acquired over a long period of time and making a change in them requires a constant effort. However, until there is any cure for corona, we have no other way but to accustom ourselves to this new normal. During this phase, we might also have to add an activity or two, to our daily routine, such as taking a second bath as we come back home from office, before joining our family members. Remember all this will take time to become part of our daily repertoire, so a few slip-ups are bound to happen, which could add embarrassment to the self or bring quick judgement from others. Don’t let it affect you and cause anxiety. Remember! a habit takes on an average two months to form. So don’t let a few goof-ups derail you or demoralize you.
Don’t get offended: We also need to be more accepting of our friends and relatives who turn down our offer of a quick meet-up in order to maintain social distance. Don’t criticize them for being overly cautious. Remember! when your friend or a family member chooses to maintain distance from you, it is not just for his or her own safety, rather it shows the concern for your safety as much. So, next time when your office colleague wishes to sit on a table at some distance from yours for lunch, don’t get offended; rather appreciate and respect his wish to maintain social distancing. Don’t let this temporary phase affect your permanent and long-term relationships with your colleagues, friends, and family members.
Beware of the Health-Belief Model of Perceived Susceptibility: You also need to be aware of the health-belief model that prevents people from following a healthy lifestyle or giving up a risky health behavior (smoking, drinking, etc) even though a competing evidence is present, as they believe that they somehow are not at risk or it cannot happen to them. The same goes for coronavirus situation too. Therefore, don’t let this belief set in that you probably will not get COVID-19. You will have to constantly challenge this belief and remind yourself of this belief model.
Follow the Health-Belief Model of Perceived Severity: There is another health-belief model of perceived severity which suggests that individuals who perceive a given health problem as serious are more likely to engage in behaviors that prevent health problems from taking place. Accordingly, if you keep considering coronavirus a serious health condition, you will probably engage in behaviors that prevent it from occurring.
Don’t panic, take responsibility instead: Now that the lockdown is gradually being lifted in various parts of the world, the responsibility of fighting this pandemic lies with you. At present, you are the controller of the behavioral choices you make and it is up to you whether you choose to follow the government advisories or not. This is the time to show your real self. Take this responsibility with full determination and don’t panic. Believe that you have every control over the situation as long as you follow the guidelines. Having a sense of control will prevent undue worry, stress, and anxiety. Remember! post-lockdown, the control lies with you.
Don’t neglect: As we fight this deadly pandemic, we might be neglecting some other health conditions that warrant our equal attention. Psychological impact of COVID 19 alone requires a great deal of attention and need to be addressed as soon as possible. Anxiety, panic attacks, depression, risk of self-harm, and even post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) are some of the common outcomes of any natural disaster, COVID-19 being no exception. Some of you might have postponed your regular visit to your physician at the cost of your physical well-being. Whatever may be the case, it is imperative that you seek professional help to deal with your psychological or physical issues in order to ensure that your mental and physical health doesn’t suffer amid this COVID -19 crisis.