Coronavirus diary 25/3/20 – gratitude


I’ll be blogging my way through the Coronavirus period, with a focus on the psychological impacts and how to keep yourself and the people you care about safe and mentally healthy.

Look after yourself peeps..

Dr Gareth Furber

Ok, so Australia is increasingly getting locked down. Limits on public gatherings get more stringent by the day.

It can be pretty hard to keep up with these changes, whilst at the same time not spending hours each day reading coronavirus news.

For me, the Department of Health website remains the best source of information. I also spend a little bit of time on the ABC News Coronavirus website, but not too long. I find if I read too much (i.e. more than what I need to know to be safe and protect others), then I get anxious.

I watched the news stories last night of people lining up at Centrelink. So many people losing work and their jobs because of the shut downs. So many businesses under stress.

This is unlike anything I’ve seen before.

At some point, the advice of psychologists or mental health professionals on how to deal with the current situation start to fall a little flat.

If you’re holed up at home, but still have a job, savings, access to what you need, then advice on how to deal with social distancing and self-isolation makes a lot of sense. Those people can put some simple things in place (like I have) to make the experience a little easier to deal with – good sleep routine, regular exercise, nutrition, increased social connection via telephone and computer, having a clear mission, meditation.

But what do you say to someone who has lost their job, has no savings, has no family safety net but still has bills to pay, mouths to feed? Telling that person to meditate is likely to get you punched in the face. Not because meditation is itself a bad idea, but because the advice doesn’t meet the person where they are at, in a crisis.

Crises require crisis services. Services like those documented by sites like Affordable SA – Places like Centrelink for financial support. Lifeline for emotional support. Foodbank for food. Vinnies for multiple aspects.

Those services will be getting slammed in the next few weeks and months as the economic impacts of the coronavirus ripple through the system.

So, you might therefore be asking why this post was themed ‘gratitude’? Is that implying I am asking those who have lost so much to be grateful?

Nope, not at all.

Grateful is not how I want other people to feel.

Gratitude is a foundational psychological position (mindset) from which I want to construct my response to the current situation.

I am grateful to the university for staying open, for all the staff and students of the university who have been amazing in shifting how they teach and study. I am grateful to the health professionals who are trying to contain the outbreak and the scientists working to find a cure/vaccine. Grateful to the politicians, who are trying (in very difficult circumstances) to put things in place to protect as many people as they can. I am grateful for the crisis and welfare services who will work tirelessly over the next few months to help those in need. I am grateful for my family and friends who I know have my back if I get into trouble.

Gratitude is a mindset that cultivates a sense of reciprocity. If all those people and services are working their arses off to help me (and everyone), then I have to ask myself, what am I doing in return? What can I give back?

I don’t know yet the full extent of how I hope to give back, but I have starting points.

  • I know that I will take advantage of the chance to still be working to work hard to build something useful for students and staff here at Flinders.
  • I know that I will select and support a small range of charities in the coming months.
  • I know that I will try to support the food places in my local suburb through regular patronage (take-away of course).

From there, I will come up with other ways to support those who are supporting me.

Fear and anxiety are normal responses to the current situation, but they aren’t emotional states that typically produce proactive responses. They encourage withdrawal, escape, hiding. Gratitude is a balancing force that can help drive us to act in the interests of the wider community, not just our own.

Suggested reading:

I like this article on 6 questions to ask yourself in quarantine

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