Covid-19 has emerged as a global pandemic. It has spread across the globe. The virus with its unique nature and ability to infect humans poses a great challenge. It is a novel viral disease to mankind.
Medical fraternity is much concerned due to the unavailability of suitable medicines, interventional systems and established diagnostic regime. It might take little more time for the availability of effective medicines for managing the COVID-19.
Today time is different. Life style is different. World is seeing a sudden change in every walk of life. The environment and its living entities are gradually changing.
Like any other country India and Indians are facing challenging time to cope with the COVID-19. The virus, corona virus, the causative agent of the disease teaches many things. This small tiny invisible entity has challenged our traditional systems, social systems, our way of life, our thinking, our behaviour and our attitude to daily life.
Who is right or who is wrong is not the answer for the COVID-19. In coming days, we need to think and rethink to tune our life style in different ways. We will be bound to accept many unpractised systems in our daily life.
Both home life and public life is going to be different for everyone. The beginning is somewhat clear but the path and end appear little obscure at this time. It will take some more time for a satisfactory sigh.
What we can do to cope with our day to day life in coming days till we find convincing and acceptable therapeutic interventions for this disease. The life style and behaviour must change and what are these changes we may envisage.
The most important aspect here is the psychological change and mental acceptance to these life changes by everyone. Some of the unavoidable factors and adoption to this new lifestyle are required to be thought, accepted and practiced every day at least for coming days as viewed here.
I prefer calling it ‘people distancing‘ instead of “social distancing”. Probably “physical distancing” may be more appropriate word than “social distancing”.
The word “Social distance” is well used but it gives a wider thought. Life is being distanced physically. Accept the distance to be safe. This is a self-motivated behaviour which each of us has to learn and practice, either at shops, at public or at office. It appears difficult at the beginning. Whatever be the word, from kids to the elders, this distancing could be a one of the possible steps to prevent the spread of the virus from person to person.
In public one may encounter the innocent approach of a person to you or me by breaking the so called 1.5 m or 6 feet distance. With our existing system of friendship, social acceptability and comrade relation, one tends to come closer to talk and wish. But each one of us needs to be self-determined to practice and equally advice others to maintain at least 1.5 or 2 meter distance between people.
To openly suggest one’s dear friend or especially to an unknown person at a public place to maintain a distance becomes embracing though. These words behind the unseen smile under the mask make it little disheartening. The hidden expression of feelings and affection make everyone little awkward. Hence, we now realize the medicinal value of smile. With the use of gentle and kind words like“please” and “kindly” one can communicate and advise people to maintain distancing. Sometimes a welcoming gesture would be more soothing.
Recently when I met one my friends at place he showed Namaste to me and suggested to keep a distance as he wanted to talk to me . When each of us practices this “distanced interaction”, others too could also observe and learn. Our psychological acceptance to this change would be a new lifestyle.
Next is the mask. The “mask philosophy” is more prominent and gaining more momentum. Many of us never found people with masks in public. Faced masks tend evoke different thoughts, doubt and propel us to perceive a different psychological feelings. The use of mask in public by common man appears to be unique and strange. The“masked face” always appeared to be little scary and unacceptable in public life. One may not feel so much discomfort in seeing people with mask in hospitals set up or such places where human services are being done. In that matter, generally a clinician at the clinic may not wear mask and gloves for talking to and observing the patient.
As believed by many, wearing mask and observing a patient gives a less empathy and human touch. It disconnects the mental connection between paining heart and healing heart. Hence, masked face would create a different attitude and feelings in our life. There is no alternative option now. To protect one and others, it becomes vital to wear the required type of mask in day to day life till health care system would be able to curtail this disease.
Face is the first part in the body which gives communication between human beings. The smile and face speak a lot of words and feelings. The smile soothes and provides consoling and comfort to one another. Smile is antidote to anger. Smile conveys greetings. Smile acknowledges gratitude and welcome.
Now, one communicates to one another under the mask with or without smile. So, the expression of anger or displeasure with smile is hidden under the mask. This situation may bring some psychological impact among different sections of people – interaction between children and adults, between police and public, between doctors and patients etc. Coping with the mask becomes a practice in life.
As time passes, we tend to learn that even behind the mask the life remains. Behind the mask smile remains. Behind the mask anger remains. Here, as mentioned above the best ways to overcome the unexpected life style and issues behind the mask are to use kind and polite words, kind gestures and body actions etc so that other person or children may not get confused, challenged or humiliated.
Colours give colours to life and hence do the colours of the mask. Choice is yours. Green color cloth in hospitals gives a lot peaceful feelings. Behavioral change to live with mask may bring colours in communications and feelings among us in coming days.
When it comes to children, especially younger ones, one has to be much more kind and flexible to accept their curiosity, observation and safety. The younger one wants to seethe smiling and laughing face. They want to laugh and cry. They need kiss from parents at public or at home. “Masked” kiss is not a substitution. The propensity of the children to touch the mask on face and take items is very common. For them a masked face of parents and dear ones are different. Taking care of little ones with mask in place, distancing kids from others and hand cleaning of kids become another part of new tasks for the parents and caretakers. So, today the psychological changes which creep in the tender minds of younger ones seem to be altogether different.Both parents and caretakers must understand and accept these mental and psychological changes in life styles.
Elder population is little sensitive to the situation both biologically and psychologically. They need to be heard. They shall feel some one hearing them.The abrupt invisible emotional change in the faces under the mask gives a different perception among aged people. Every one shall understand this fact and adopt a suitable behavioural attitude and mental well being to cope with the present human interactions with kids and aged people.
Hand is handy and hence we have a tendency to touch or handle whatever comes to our eyes. Many times many do not know what our hand touched. Brain forgets brain when hand touches. Hand over takes the brain. Now this part of life style is something unique. Availability of water, soap, hand towel etc becomes necessary for people to practice hand washing frequently.
Traditionally Indian culture has given lot of weightage to human hands and feet. Indian’s Namaste is an example – the ten fingers and the palm for expression of gratitude and love – without touch. And, that too with a smile, plus without a mask. What a paradoxical situation!
The habit of touching is inbuilt in us. By seeing a friend or colleague, we come closer (breaking the so called distance barrier), hold at least one hand with both hands (without hand wash/sanitizer), with large beautiful smile of expression on the face with affection (without mask) have been practiced in our social lifestyle. Now we are being forced to break these systems. This breakage is bound to bring socio-psychological changes in people.
We need to touch items to pick up things at shops/malls, we need to touch switches in lift and doors, we need to hold and touch bus/vehicles while travelling, we need to touch items which arrive through postal or courier services, we need to touch materials and items at office space. We may also touch others pens, office papers/files for verifications and signatures, newspapers etc. All these items could be touched by many people with bare and unclean hands knowingly and unknowingly.
Hence, there exists a potential chance of contamination of corona virus on these surfaces/items. Hence, the advocacy is to wash hands with soap or sanitize the hand with hand sanitizer which contains 70% alcohol. As things inbuilt in our hardware of behaviour, after touching these items, unknowingly our fingers tend to touch our pens, purses, pockets, or face or even our own hair for adjusting. Need of the hour is to upgrade this hardware of hand practicing to maintain a “safe and clean hand”.
Some people may have difficulty in washing hands or using hand sanitizer frequently due to skin irritation or cosmetic reasons. Then the suggestion would be better to wear gloves and then frequent use of hand sanitizer while at public places or in shops etc. But use of gloves at public places shall also need to be practiced carefully.
Nobody is culprit or enemy when one contracts infection. People could be innocent. They don’t know they might have exposed to contagious environment or to an asymptomatic subject. As Dr Ambarish Satwikof Sir Ganga Ram Hospital, Delhi says:
“Treat every individual you meet as an asymptomatic Covid carrier. Treat every surface you touch as potentially contaminated. That is the meaning of community transmission”.
Hence, one has to mentally and psychologically accept these new life style practices to prevent and spread of infection.
3LS – Principles of Lifestyle Practice
We need to adhere to the three Covid-19 principles of lifestyle (3LS) practice:
- Physical Distancing
- Mask and
- Hand wash
While going to public places better to carry additional mask, pocket hand sanitizer and maintain an accepted physical distances from people in coming days to avoid the spread of virus. The psychological and social acceptance of this 3LS plus other mode of lifestyle practice and up-to-date information from the medical department and government agencies on COVID -19 will go a long way in helping the public to control and stop the spread of the infection.
The situation is compelling us to accept that items like mask, hand sanitizer, soap or water are an integral part in our day to day life. People’s behavioral and socio-psychological attitude can win over this global pandemic with the support of medical and health care systems.
The views expressed here are my own personal views based on the advocacy and guidelines suggested by various departments of government of India, world health organization (WHO) unless specified.