“Every morning before going to school, I would hear the usual chatter between the house helps and car cleaners, the hurried opening of automatic car door locks, and my neighbour repeatedly shouting on her pet dog for peeing on the floor,” says 15-year-old Rashika* (name changed), who anxiously awaits her class 10 board results, postponed far too long, due to the COVID-19 crisis.
Panting heavily under the afternoon sun, she runs to collect her Flipkart package from the society’s main gate.
”Now, as I wake up for my online class, all I hear is an occasional chirping of a bird,” she adds. She tries to wipe off the beads of sweat on her forehead with her hand, enveloped by safety gloves. Donning a scarf and face mask, she carefully places her package in a corner and sits on the bench.
Just like Rashika, several other residents of her society resonate the mundanenes and echo a longing. A longing of hope and cheer to breathe out of a lockdown in a non-COVID world.
A spherical lush green park fostering swings, slides, and steel benches, outlined by cemented lanes, has become the heart of Ayaachi Apartments, a co-operative housing society nestled in the Gurugram district of Haryana.
The once-a-bustling neighbourhood, always reverberating with deafening screams of kids playing across the society, is now unified by an eerie silence. The siren of a police van is the only noise that cuts through the silence of a pandemic-induced lockdown.
Who would have thought this time, last year, that we would be fighting, not just a pandemic, but earthquakes, locust attacks, cyclones, thunderstorms, job loss, economic crisis, all at once, in a matter of just a few months?
Just like the eerie silence induced by a lockdown, the constant longing for things to go back to normal can lead to anxiety-driven deafening noises in a human brain. These thoughts can fog our minds with worst-case scenarios, eventually leading to panic, obsessive-compulsive disorders, or even depression.
However, some conscious efforts of confidence-boosting with a sense of optimism, while taking one day at a time, can go a long way.
Stay close to loved ones
Research suggests that in times of crisis, human relationships or connections stemming from virtues of trust and unconditional support, help in boosting one’s confidence and morale. If you are stuck in a place away from loved ones, connect with them virtually as much as possible.
25-year-old Meera*, a digital marketing executive in Noida, eagerly wants to go back to her parents’ house in Kolkata but chose to stay back for some time, amid the rising number of COVID-19 cases.
”I had to make an altruistic decision for ensuring my safety and theirs too. But, I video call them twice a day and now it has become a ritual, for the past three months that helps me a lot,” she said.
Dr. Laurie Santos, Psychology Professor, Yale University in an interview with The World Economic Forum said, ”If we want to make it through this (pandemic) in the most resilient way possible, then relying on each other for support is really critical.”
Although, due to social distancing protocols in place, people may not always be able to physically hang out with the ones they want to be with, technology now is proving to be helpful.
”The act of hanging out with folks in real-time on platforms like Zoom or FaceTime can be a really powerful way to connect with people, as you are able to see their facial expressions, and hear the emotion in their voice,” she adds. This makes connection easier and is a much-needed alternative to meeting them in person.
Engage in fulfilling tasks
Besides working for the job that dictates your CV, engaging in activities that instill a sense of warmth and contentment, can help in many ways.
Simple ‘self-care’ tasks like painting, writing letters, reading a book, cooking, picking up on a long lost hobby, gives a sense of gratitude to be alive.
A Delhi-based psychologist, who counsells patients with mental health issues amid the pandemic says, ”This crisis has affected everyone at large, so there is a sense of collective belonging in the face of this adversity. One of my patients told me that there is an intangible bond amongst people that’s helping them in moving forward to get through this.”
‘While self-care helps some, others tend to heal in a group. Generally, in a crisis, happiness comes from random acts of kindness like helping those in need, feeding stray animals, community service, or simply ensuring a stable pay for your house help,” she adds.
Favour ‘appreciation drives’ and limit screen time
Social media platforms such as Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, and others, have become powerful mediums for people to connect with one another and has overtaken the manual way of writing letters to each other.
Even in such virtually crowded platforms, some samaritans are helping their loved ones get through this crisis, one day at a time – or one post at a time.
24-year-old Rohan Kumar*, an Instagram user has started an ‘appreciation drive’ through his profile, where he shares one appreciation post every day for anyone of his friends and tags them.
”Pushing each other is the only solution I see, in this situation. So, I have started sharing appreciation posts for them, where I write about them- their skills, talents, to remind them that they are worthy of success and joy,” he says.
When asked why he does this, he replies, ”Be it due to COVID or mental illness, I don’t want to lose anyone who is important to me”
But, how far can social media be an effective tool to remain positive in a pandemic?
”Spreading positive quotes and appreciating one another on social media is fine, but too much of it can create a false notion of the real world. This can be detrimental to a vulnerable mind. People should be careful to use it diligently and follow the right kind of content,” says Dr Rini Kaushal, a US-based psychologist.
”Limiting the screen time every day and engaging in constructive things, like watching documentaries, reading an e-book, leaving messages for friends/family, will lead to a conscious change in the way we use social media,” she adds.
Detoxifying social media platforms by unfollowing pages or content forums to filter the hatred which triggers negative thoughts is the need of the hour.
A constant sense of hope along with positive thinking is more or less, the driving factor, to survive this pandemic.
When a bustling neighbourhood, closes its wings – temporarily silencing the screams of kids, takes down its ‘welcome’ board and submits itself into a lockdown, there is a collective entitlement of hope in the fight. A hope to win. A hope that one day the ‘welcome’ board will be reinstated. A hope that one day, the screams of kids will reverberate again.
Or as Rashika foresees, the usual chatter between the house helps and car cleaners has returned, the parking lot is dominated by the cacophony of automatic car door locks, and that, the neighbour’s pet dog pees in the right place.
Till then, the occasional chirping of that one bird is not too bad.