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Coping With The Impact of a Prolonged Quarantine – Part 1

“The greatest weapon against stress is our ability to choose one thought over another.” – William James

The year 2020 will forever be known as the year of COVID-19. The coronavirus is disrupting the nations and the lives of billions; there is an understanding that the outcome will no doubt be a new normal for planet earth. Families are losing loved ones, and many have escaped death with the help of the heroic efforts of health care workers and first responders.

I have found it challenging to maintain a daily regimen to keep myself as mentally, emotionally, spiritually and physically fit as possible. Keeping my days as close as possible to some semblance of normalcy helps to offset some effects of the disruption.

Being creative and innovative in all respects enables me to keep my focus on reaching objectives and a degree of flexibility with things beyond my control. Kahlil Gibran says, “Our anxiety does not come from thinking about the future, but from wanting to control it.”

We all came in this together we will all get through it together.

To emerge from the impact of this pandemic and successfully navigate its constant challenges, we must face its reality and avoid wishful thinking. Taking care of ourselves begins with knowing what we are facing. Make no mistake about it, from testing positive or knowing those who have, to losing friends or relatives we have already been changed more than we know.

There have been studies of the psychological impact of being quarantined. Some effects felt by quarantine included confusion, boredom, nervousness, anger, anxiety, and over time some develop symptoms of post-traumatic stress.

Being quarantined for several weeks with family members come with both positive and negative effects. When families utilize their time together productively, they strengthen their relationships. If time together is not productive, it will put a considerable strain on their relationships.

When you add small children to the mix, a more disciplined routine can lessen the stress and avoid increased restlessness among the children and anxiety among the parents.

Some Effects Experienced During the SARS Outbreak

People quarantined because of being in close contact with those who potentially have SARS reported various negative responses during that quarantine period: Over 20% reported fear, 18% reported nervousness 18% reported sadness 10% reported guilt.(1)

What Does Prolonged Stress Do to the Body?

Being exposed to stress for a prolonged period can carry some long-term physical consequences. Stressful situations are known to elevate the heart rate. The American Psychological Association says, “The consistent and ongoing increase in heart rate, and the elevated levels of stress hormones and of blood pressure, can take a toll on the body. This long-term ongoing stress can increase the risk for hypertension, heart attack, or stroke.”(2)

Psychological Consequences of a Quarantine

There are psychological considerations to the prolonged stress of being quarantined. Vinita Mehta Ph.D., Ed.M. addressing the question of what can be done to offset the psychological consequences of a quarantine? observes,

• “Keep a quarantine as short as possible but “scientifically reasonable.” Studies showed that the longer the quarantine, the poorer the psychological outcomes tended to be. • Give people as much information as possible. Quarantined individuals feared being infected or infecting others. Thus, making sure that people quarantined have a firm understanding of the disease and the purpose of the quarantine is key. • Provide adequate supplies quickly and have back up plans for what to do if those in quarantine are running out of them. • Decrease boredom and improve communication. Clear guidelines on coping and stress management should be provided.  In addition, remaining connected to one’s social network — even remotely — helps guard against immediate anxiety and long-lasting distress. Furthermore, public health officials should be clear with those in quarantine about what to do if they have any symptoms.” (3)

Maintaining our Health Mentally, Emotionally, Spiritually and Physically

Together we are facing an unprecedented event in history. Taking care of ourselves in all four areas, mentally emotionally spiritually and physically, should be taken seriously. In part two of this article, I will address what we can do to emerge from COVID-19 with a reasonable degree of health in all four areas.

John Newton said, “We can easily manage if we will only take, each day, the burden appointed to it. But the load will be too heavy for us if we carry yesterday’s burden over again today, and then add the burden of tomorrow before we are required to bear it.”

Be safe and be well.

(1) Psychological impact of quarantine and how to reduce it (2)Read more about stress effects on the body (3)Read more aboutWhat can be done to offset the psychological consequences of a quarantine?

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