6 minute read
12 Feb 2021
The psychology of lockdown
The Covid-19 lockdowns have affected many peoples lives, not just socially and economically, but mentally too.
It has been almost a year of Covid-19 lockdown with varying degrees of restrictions, regulations en-masse and a wave of socio-economic change that has seen many of us sink or swim and otherwise, simply treading water and hoping that it would all go away sooner rather than later. There is going to be a new normal, but, with sustained uncertainty and goalposts moving almost daily, says clinical psychologist Jeanine Lamusse, it is almost impossible to say what it is going to look like. “It has been an incredibly difficult time for people,” says Lamusse, “and I have seen so many...
It has been almost a year of Covid-19 lockdown with varying degrees of restrictions, regulations en-masse and a wave of socio-economic change that has seen many of us sink or swim and otherwise, simply treading water and hoping that it would all go away sooner rather than later. There is going to be a new normal, but, with sustained uncertainty and goalposts moving almost daily, says clinical psychologist Jeanine Lamusse, it is almost impossible to say what it is going to look like.
“It has been an incredibly difficult time for people,” says Lamusse, “and I have seen so many go through tremendous difficulty and loss.” This may be personal loss through the passing of family or friends, sudden unemployment or simply the stress of isolation. On the flipside though, she says, there have been many South Africans who have made lemonade from the lemons that the pandemic served up. “It never ceases to inspire me; how a lot of folk that I have met, through my practice, have found the courage to confront what was needed and learnt how to adjust their lives accordingly. It’s not just all negative.” Lamusse adds that there is a third level, so to speak, of response to the pandemic, where people rather than resist the limbo they find themselves in, choose to find their power in how they respond to each moment as it arises – live in the here-and-now, without holding their breath for better days.
Many people also developed debilitating habits during
says Tanya Kunze, a world-renowned neuroscience coach and author of the Power of Positivity. “Not many people know that it actually takes on average 66 days to create a habit and not the 21 days usually bandied about. It also takes about 66 days to break a habit” adding that it has become a common theme in her practice since July last year. But “if you can make a habit you can break a habit, so if you are one of the many who have found themselves in the same position, there light at the end of the tunnel.”
Lamusse adds saying that “children and teenagers in particular have struggled through Lockdown,” and describes feelings of ongoing frustration and a lack of external social input. “It is really important for younger children to enjoy influence from other adults, it shapes who they become and is critical with the process of socialization in key formative years.” Lamusse also tallies up the impact on teenagers, whose journey to adulthood requires the development of self-identity through the social exploration of “self”, “other” and “we”. “Lockdown frustrated much of this process due to isolation and the lack of real human engagement.”
The suddenness of the pandemic and its drawn out, sustained shape coupled with factors like continued isolation has created another risk. There is, too, a very real possibility of many people developing
(post-traumatic stress disorder). “The fear and the uncertainty can register as trauma in the body” and, add to that, perhaps the loss of a job, death of loved ones and stressed relationships. “We also have a culture in South Africa of ‘sucking it up’. When really, we all have natural limitations, and we can only take so much.”
Even with the rapid propagation of the use of technology during the Lockdown period, says Lamusse, humans remain social beings. “Hugs are probably the most sought-after human engagement outside of conversation and normal social interaction,” she says. “I recall reading that we need an average of twelve hugs a day.” This, she adds is entirely possible as the body releases hormones like oxytocin and other ‘happy chemicals.’ “We need that physical contact so that we can generate enough emotional resources not just to cope, but that we have enough energy to step forward and create, live with purpose.” Touch is quite essential to our emotional wellbeing, she notes.
Kunze went on to say that a predominant theme for many professionals who have been working from home or doing turn-taking at the office are finding procrastination has reared its head and look for ways to get back to a pre-Covid19 work ethic. She says this is easily remedied within a few steps: “One of the most common reasons for procrastination is the lack of a deadline. Motivation is also a key factor in procrastination and working on shifting your thinking from negativity to positivity. This can actually shift ‘where in the brain one thinks’ and thus mitigate a lack of perceptual vision, where the individual is unable to see what is right in front of them, not due to visual defects, but rather stress related physiological responses.”
Technology has also made online education a possibility but, beyond a temporary solution, Lamusse says it is detrimental to holistic development. “It’s the addition of even more screen-time and it is not engaging enough.” Teenagers particularly rebel against
g. “Children learn in a multimodal manner. They learn through movement; 3D creativity, perception, and engagement; and consolidate information better with social reciprocity. Similarly, many adults crave the in-person, face to face engagements that allow for more synergy, creativity and team collaboration.”
Technology also has another downside. “It’s not that healthy for your nervous system as it can be overstimulating and trigger your flight or flight stress response. It also creates frustration and lack of emotional attunement when there is a poor connection. Technology can also activate addiction pathways in the brain and thereby bring on more social avoidance and erratic moods,” says Lamusse.
Kunze shares a truth that she believes in: “I encourage writing in a gratitude journal first thing in the morning and last thing at night, focusing on positive experiences, aspects of self that the individual is proud of and looking favourably on times when they felt content in the past, dwelling on happiness in the now moment and focusing on hope for the future.”
Taking a step back and looking at the whole Lockdown period as a narrative, Lamusse says part of the uncertainty we are all feeling, are the gaps in the story, concomitant to a desire for information. As a society and as communities there is also a definite need for compassion and empathy. “Leaders lead more effectively when they present a full picture of all the information that is available; they present their own humanity; show compassion; and share the emotions we are all experiencing. President Ramaphosa’s recent address, where emotion and even the hint of a tear was evident, is what citizens need from their leaders and,” she adds, “from one another.”
About The Author
Hein Kaiser is a seasoned journalist, broadcaster, producer, and marketing communication professional and has worked in a variety of markets, sectors, and countries. He presently hosts the 360 Brunch over weekends on Mix 93.8FM, writes for the Citizen and consults to various companies on a strategic level.
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