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How to stay relatively sane during a pandemic?

Last updated 6 months ago by UtrechtCentral.com

When the (intelligent) lock-down first started in the Netherlands back in March this year, everything immediately went online. Mobile phones devoured our social interactions. Education moved to Zoom. Collective activities had to either go online or be postponed. The world started to relocate from a physical space to a virtual one. That was shocking. YouTube got loaded with instructions to preserve physical and mental health. Health organizations, universities, and institutions started providing guidelines for mental healthcare. 

We all have probably read about how we need to wake up early in the morning, take a shower, make breakfast, and get ready before leaving home. I was told to create a routine, make a to-do list, paint, read books, run, and things like this a thousand times. Here, I don’t want to repeat these ideal ways of facing a strange world. I am sure we all know them very well.

With the increasing number of confirmed daily corona virus cases in the Netherlands, the Dutch government is announcing new measures. This means a new period of lock-down is creeping towards us. For how long? No one knows. So, we all are trapped in this unending apocalyptic situation. Yet worse, second and third may even follow and interfere with the tiny bits of social life we manage to build in between the previous lock-downs.

The situation is not the best, I agree. But before embracing insanity, I suggest reconsidering our survival backpacks. This is a customized list of items such as habits, perspectives, and hobbies that I am packing in mine to survive the second possible lockdown, thousands of kilometers away from my family and friends.

A couple during Covid19 lockdown
Photo by Cheng Feng on Unsplash

1. Focus on what you ‘can’ control

This is very important. We tend to overthink the situations that are out of our control, and the corona measures have taken our control away from so many aspects of our lives. I grab a piece of paper, make a sketch of myself in the center, and then draw various bubbles around my head. In the bubbles, I write down all of my concerns, plans, and responsibilities. Sounds intimidating, I agree. But once you start crossing over the ones that are out of your control now, and will remain there for a few months, you will feel relieved. Just eliminate uncontrollable concerns and don’t think about them until you can actually do something.

2. Allow yourself to be unproductive

Remind yourself that we are in the middle of a global pandemic. People are losing their loved ones and the financial situation is globally disastrous. If you are one of the lucky ones, you still have probably lost a job, a lot of hobbies, social interactions. This gives you all the right to feel blue sometimes. Don’t tyrannize yourself if you could not simply discipline yourself. Take some time to learn to love yourself and embrace all your shortcomings. Remember, everyone is struggling. You don’t need to be perfect.

3. Take a distance from yourself

This might sound a bit crazy but it has always helped me. Sometimes we are too busy with ourselves that we forget we all are similar. We don’t usually overestimate our friends’ problems. When we sympathize with them, we are calm, logical, and clear-minded. However, when we think about our own difficulties we feel paralyzed. This comes from the obsession most of us have with ourselves. Let’s just take ourselves out of the spotlight for a while. Let’s watch ourselves from the perspective of a third person, a friend, or even a stranger. The problems will seem less complicated and less fatal. Just try once.

4. Get a pet

Yes, get a pet, or babysit your friend’s pet if they offer. If not possible, just walk out to interact with birds, cats, and dogs you can see in the streets (if you can leave, of course). We are not allowed to hug each other, correct. This creates ‘skin hunger.’ Our skins are indeed hungry. However, luckily animals are still there. Taking care of an animal partially fills in the void created by a lack of physical contact with other humans. Especially if you are living alone, consider this option more seriously. 

Psychologists call our longing for human touch “skin hunger”


Photo by Phix Nguyen on Unsplash

5. Call a friend

I know this has been mentioned everywhere, but I want to repeat it: reach out for help. If you are not feeling good, call a family member, a friend, or a doctor. Just ask for help. Don’t try to solve everything on your own. Complain to your friends. If they are not supportive, find news ones. So many people are longing for new relationships now. Find them and build your circle of connections who care.

6. Remember, it will be over

It sounds unending, I know. But just think about all the other disasters that humans have been through in history. Think about world wars, fatal pandemics, and natural disasters. Remind yourself that so many people have experienced worse, but managed to survive. The pandemic might seem terrifying, but with the technology and science we have, it is doomed to failure. This attitude will help us to stay positive, to gain a perspective, and to avoid focusing too much on what is happening right now. Grabbing a history book is the best way of practicing this one. Enjoy your read, and take it easy on yourself.

Shabnam Shirzadi
Shabnam Shirzadi
Shabnam Shirzadi is a dramatic writer and researcher based in Amsterdam. She has currently graduated in Theatre Studies from the University of Amsterdam. As a writer, she had experienced with different forms of integrating fact and fiction in her previous works to create an alternate history in our imaginations. Currently, museums, castles, and remnants of old architecture and civilization inspire her. At the same time, she tries to find her way in mythology, fiction, and drama by reading and writing about them. For her, writing is the only vehicle through which she can travel in times and spaces.


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