Everyone hears the phrase "Don't panic" a dozen times a day, but it doesn't help. You try not to read the news, but eventually, it reaches you from social media. Psychologist Kateryna Holzberg explains why we panic, what helps us cope with stress, and how to turn quarantine into valuable time with loved ones. This was written by the educational portal Osvitoria.
You can look at the animal world - all animals warn their relatives with certain signals of danger. If, for example, a monkey shouts to the flock that an eagle is approaching, the instinct to behave in such a situation is very strong: all monkeys raise their heads. If it is a signal that a tiger is coming, monkeys climb trees. Amazingly, they do the same even when the alarm call is imitated in a zoo. Even plants know how to tell each other that a bee is coming, so they need to open their petals.
In other words, panic is a way to survive: when we feel threatened, this survival mechanism is activated. People create an atmosphere of nervousness around a problem because it makes it easier for us to survive together. We send a signal to each other: I'm nervous - how are you? We want to feel that everyone is nervous and worried, and we find unity in this. Why are there so many experts on social media now? They are not experts, but people who have read something somewhere and want to share it know that others feel the same way as they do.
Some people take the topic of the epidemic lightly. This is the flip side of panic. When a person writes or says that they don't care about the virus or quarantine, it is the same mechanism of finding like-minded people: they want to know who else doesn't care either.
In a survival strategy, a person always strives to join the majority, but such an incredible amount of contradictory information on the web leads to confusion. That's why people have long sought wise advice from elders. Today, we also look for authorities - doctors or specialists - to rely on their opinions. Our second desire is to know what will happen next, we want to make predictions and act on them.
I remember an old parable about a boy and rain: one village had been suffering from drought for a long time, and the pastor told the villagers to come to church and pray for rain. The people came to church, and the pastor rebuked them: "Among all of you, only one boy came to pray for rain - he brought an umbrella. Figuratively speaking, we are all like those people now. Our umbrella today is a safety measure that we have to follow: hope for the best, but act as if we expect the worst. So panic in such circumstances is quite understandable - it's a way to encourage people around us: I'm nervous, let's mobilize too.
In any community of people, some think and act quickly, and those who filter information and weed it out. It's like the rules of brainstorming: participants first come up with a bunch of ideas, and then there is a group that criticizes and rejects certain ideas. Such people are very much needed now: with their intelligence and temperament, they prevent the rest of us from making hasty conclusions and unnecessary actions. Therefore, it is important not to lose critical thinking and switch on the rationalise mode in order not to lose common sense altogether.
We should appreciate people with a sense of humor. Humor and laughter reduce stress. Stress is harmful precisely because it increases the level of cortisol in the body, which suppresses our immune system. Jokes and memes online reduce tension and stress and allow us to cope with difficult situations. Therefore, a positive attitude during quarantine is very important.
It may seem overwhelming to have so much information online. Imagine if the internet and social media had existed at the time of the Chornobyl disaster, history would have been different. Of course, it is impossible to compare these phenomena, but it is worth taking advantage of open data: reading foreign sources, and professional publications, and checking facts.
Some people perceive quarantine as a prison sentence - they expect it to end someday and put their lives on hold. Some people can live in the present - here and now. A mentally healthy person is still inclined to plan their life - to make plans for the future, to make predictions. Therefore, everyone has to choose their way to live through the quarantine: some people will prepare themselves for future active life and will go in for sports, read, and develop, while others will find it easier to just "sleep through" this period, so to speak, and others will choose to wait it out. Any option has the right to exist if it works for you and helps you maintain your inner balance.
This is a chance for us to be with our families, to enjoy long conversations with our children - we always lack time for this in the frantic pace of life. To feel the joy of being together and talking. We may suddenly realize that we have been living together for a long time and have not noticed hundreds of differences in views - they were simply invisible because we went to the office to work. But this is a good reason to work on it.
Call your parents more often, both by phone and via video: we used to forget to do it at the usual time. This is a time for long conversations with your parents: ask them about their thoughts, and tell them about yours. You shouldn't ask them not to turn on the news - it's unrealistic. It is better to discuss the news together - to do some basic fact-checking of the messages for them, and to analyze the events together. And don't forget to tell them that we love them.