We’re due a shakeup: Society’s response to challenges will never be the same

Caroline Cruz Picq, a 2018 Psychotherapy and Psychology alumna, has written about mental health during COVID-19.

Caroline Cruz Picq, Psychology and Psychotherapy, 2018
Caroline Cruz Picq, Psychotherapy and Psychology graduate

The coronavirus pandemic has brought mental and physical health to the fore for so many experiencing lockdown, quarantine, furlough and more. Hopefully, as shops, workplaces, and restaurants slowly begin to reopen, we can all take some time soon to catch our breath and ponder what changes have taken place.

An important impact of COVID-19 has been a change in perspective. The pandemic has caused a heightened awareness of the consequences of our actions on ourselves, our loved ones, our community and our planet. Before March, there were still a lot of risks to our physical and mental wellbeing, even if we didn’t acknowledge or fully realise them but, since lockdown, our perceptions of risk to ourselves and to society have changed substantially.   

Whilst the virus was a new threat to life, and remains a major challenge to global health, it also highlighted other problems that existed before the outbreak. Often, as a compromise of busy and professional life, we neglect our diet and do not pay enough attention to the food we eat or the types, or amount, of exercise we do. Our lifestyles, even before the pandemic, dictated whether we were strengthening or weakening our immune systems.  

So, what has changed? The virus and our individual and collective experiences have brought the issue of physical and mental health to the forefront of our minds. Our jobs and schools, social life, family, news consumption, and mobile content has been wholly orientated around reacting and responding to the virus since early spring. 

The virus has become all-consuming, and a result has been a change in our perspectives. Only time, however, will reveal whether these are lasting and positive or fleeting and insubstantial changes. Of course, issues directly related to the virus, such as washing our hands or wearing a mask are now relatively obvious and ubiquitous. We must, however, also consider:  

•    How will we live our lives from now on? 
•    How will we respect and care for our bodies? 
•    What food and activity choices will we make? 
•    How will we take care of our emotional and mental health? 

Our expanded perception allows us to make choices more consciously, and maybe find new long-term ways to improve our diet, mental and physical wellbeing, and lifestyle.

COVID-19 has forced us to stop pretending threats don’t exist. Virulent zoonotic viruses do not respect borders, politics, race or gender. The threat is real to everyone; but from this, we can take an opportunity to collectively improve habits and, from this, possibly realise that collective action on global challenges is the only way we can make our societies less vulnerable.

Changing perspectives is the first step. A change in perception means we’re ready for new reactions, leading in turn to new behaviours. Now is the time to reinvent ourselves, to reinvent our work, to reinvent our societies. Now is the time to change our paradigm.