Covid19 raises an almost infinite number of questions which go beyond the immediate medical crisis. One of these questions is: how can we make sense of the impact it's having on our lives from a psychological persepctive?
A number of therapists and others with something to say about mental health are providing practical tips about how to stay sane, all of which have value. For example, have a routine, don’t watch the news 24/7, stay in touch with people on the phone or via video chat. On a deeper level however, Covid-19 might also make us ask some profound questions about how we live. At the moment, these questions are making the existential philosophy that I studied feel very relevant.
Over the last few weeks I’ve noticed that for some people, despite the uncertainty about what life is going to be like over the next few months, anxiety levels are actually decreasing. For others the inverse is true and they’re feeling more anxious. What accounts for the lessening in anxiety amongst the first group? I attribute this to two factors.
Number one, the current crisis is completely out of most of our hands and we can’t plan for or have much control over what happens over the next few months. This can, paradoxically, be quite liberating and free us to make the small choices we have here and now – for example do I want to work an extra hour or go for a walk?
Number two, a lot of anxiety seems to come from being concerned with how other people see us. Working from home and having ones social life online might lessen the feeling of being continually answerable to others.
When the lockdown ends, it would be great to remember that’s it’s possible to feel a degree of freedom even when our actual physical freedom is restricted, that it’s sometimes good to let go of trying to control the future, that it’s liberating to be less caught up with justifying ourselves to others.