The psychological challenges of social distance

The psychological challenges social distance
When all of this coronavirus spread began to hit the communities in a very aggressive way, one of the most useful measures that were proposed was social distancing.
It originally meant that people should keep a security distance of 2 meters to avoid contagious, work from home when possible, stop non-essential commercial activities and preferably staying home. It has been noticed in several countries (i.e. China, Italy and Spain) that these measures have been successful in decreasing the speed of the virus’ spread. However, by adopting this strategy of isolation, some challenges have arisen. Below some of them will be commented from a Social Psychology perspective.

The first of them has been described by several authorities as to the usual problems that we can face when new and extreme measures have to be implemented. In the beginning, some strict definitions and specific controls were needed to alert the populations and to subsequently made them understand and assume these new ways of interaction. Everything changed once we had to go to the supermarket and leave a space of two meters between us and the next person, also when we meet ours friends in the streets and had to stop the natural impulse of shaking hands or kissing. It has been difficult, but time has been helping us and every day we become more familiarize with these.

We are now in a moment of adaptation of different habits, and as any new behaviour repetition and motivation are fundamental. The example and coherence of strong figures of the public life (i.e. political leaders) have been determinant in achieving this behavioural modulation. However, the contradictory information displayed many times, and some people that do not care at all have also made it possible to find individuals acting as if nothing was happening and not respecting these indications. It is also our individual responsibility to help others obey these rules.

Our lifestyle is changing not only in the outside but also in the way we spent our time. We were so used to be in a hurry, to fill out our agendas, that now we don’t know what to do with all that “free time”. This is causing that a lot of people are getting bore, are questioning their existence and also the increase of a lot of additions like pornography, gambling, eating and so on. Many institutions in several countries have already alert of the potential negative effects of distancing on mental health. There is no doubt that mental health will be affected, and that some pre-existing conditions like gender violence and all forms of aggression will be exacerbated. For that matter, numerous authorities are already working on contingency and management plans. The same will happen with mental health from a preventive point of view. Even though fear, anxiety and depression could be potentially increased due to this isolation, it is also a big opportunity to discover our true selves and reorganize our priorities. Most of the time, we just avoid this inner struggling for finding a true sense in living, and the change in our way of interaction and working will definitely become an opportunity to make some decisions. Besides asking ourselves about the way we would like to spend our time, it is important that we also deepen in our spiritual life.

Independently of the way we name it and adore it, God is the only reason for our existence, and any other thing that we place in the center of ourlives will be an obstacle for true awakening. So, meaningful experiences and the reorientation of our faith are challenges for our personal and social growth. If we do not change the actual ways in which things are going, there is little to we done.

The situation that we are leaving, and the subsequent measures applied, have repercussion in the way we think about society as a whole. Being aware that in the end, we are responsible of our decisions is not an easy task and it requires a high level of determination to be able to rethink what we want to do with our time on Earth and also question how have we build our socio-economic sphere. It is now time to rethink on our personal contribution to support this economic system with all of its contradictions, the impact on the environment and the maintenance of social inequalities. Manipulation, and the role of information and science.

Recently, the WHO has changed the name of the measure from “social distancing” to “psychical distance”. With this change, the idea is to make salience that for protection purposes, we need to protect everyone’s physical wellbeing and therefore keep the distance from one another, but at the same time, social support is necessary. In this specific point, I truly believe we have a huge challenge to face. Therefore, social distancing should not equal social isolation but exactly the opposite. Humans when we fill attack or in fear, we tend to react more selfishly, and this crisis needs that we become capable of not letting anyone behind. This touches us on a personal level, being aware of the potential needs of our families, friends but also neighbours and people that we might not even know.

As any difficult circumstance, this pandemic situation can lead humanity to a deep change in the way that things had been handle, and potentially it can be an opportunity of personal and social reorganization. The solution to the challenge will depend on each of us, it is not enough to leave it to the politicians and great leaders of the economic order. The change starts by being brave an humble enough to recognize our part in the solutions and not only in the criticism of others. We are one, the change starts now!

by Catalina Argüello

The psychological challenges of social distance was last modified: May 4th, 2020 by MIUC

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