The Stats Don’t Lie:
Today in Canada, the most valuable public health tool we have for fighting Covid-19 is social distancing. This is so important because the statistics demonstrate that every person infected with the virus is likely to infect 2.5 other people.
If each of these 2.5 other people infect 2.5 people, and if everyone in this group, in turn, spreads it to 2.5 other people, now we’re up to 62.5 people. If these 62.5 people each infect 2.5 people, we’re up to 156 people, and then it jumps to 390 people, and then we’re at 975 people and then we’re up to 2400 people, and then 6,100 people and then we’re at over 15,000 people, and then 38,000 people, and then it has infected 95,000 people. And that started with just one infected person.
These numbers conform to what’s been going on in China (over 80,000 cases) and in Italy (close to 60,000 cases), and it’s what’s likely to happen in the US as well, due to a delay in mobilizing the public health response.
Social Distancing is Necessary, but Difficult:
It’s crystal clear that social distancing is absolutely necessary. Still it doesn’t mean that it’s easy to do. Human beings are social creatures and we thrive through our social connections. What happens to us when we stay home and aren’t able to interact with all the people we’re used to spending time with?
Social distancing can affect different people in different ways. For those who live on their own it can be especially lonely to stay at home and not go out. It can be painful to have to stay six feet away from everyone at all times.
For people who live with friends or family it can be an opportunity for bonding or, because everyone is so stressed, it can be a time when conflicts arise. From the constant proximity to family members, old grievances could resurface and arguments could break out.
For parents stuck at home with restless children, it can be a real challenge trying to keep them in good spirits. Parents have to cope not only with their own anxiety but with that of their kids. These parents must prioritize their own mental well-being, if only to be able to be there for their kids.
Introverts and Extroverts Struggle with Social Distancing:
For extroverts who thrive on social connections, social distancing can be especially uncomfortable. These individuals recharge their emotional batteries through frequent contact with others. When they’re deprived of this contact, it can be downright painful. These individuals need to use social media and FaceTime, Skype or their phones to stay regularly connected with their circle of acquaintances.
For introverts who are more comfortable spending time alone, social distancing can be to some extent, more easily endured, but even introverts get lonely. Despite their tolerance for long stretches of alone-time, introverts also need close human contact and it can be just as hard for them to be cooped up for long stretches at home. These people need to reach out — virtually — to their friends and loved ones and ask for the emotional support and reassurance they need.
Some People are Introspective. Some Are Not:
Some people have a lot of trouble spending time alone. They’re uncomfortable looking at themselves, tuning into their emotions, or thinking about the choices they’ve made in their lives. For these individuals, social distancing can be particularly difficult. These individuals have to find the strength to face themselves and their emotions, or this lengthy period of social distancing will become unbearable to them.
Some people are more introspective. They’ve developed the habit of looking inward and contemplating their thoughts, their feelings and their lives. For them, social distancing is an opportunity to reflect and to grow. These people are no less unhappy about the lack of social contact but they’re making the best of the situation and using the quiet time to build their self-knowledge and self-acceptance.
Some enterprising individuals are using the alone-time finish all the projects that they’ve been meaning to get to and haven’t for so long. The novel that’s been languishing unfinished for years; the art project that’s still incomplete, the correspondence that they’ve been putting off — all of these can be attended to now, and they’ll bring with them a sense of much-needed purpose and fulfillment.
We Can All Tap in to Our Inner Resources:
These are incredibly difficult times, but in such moments we all have opportunities to tap in to our resilience and to grow as individuals. We can let the loneliness and uncertainty break us or we can dig deep and discover the inner resources we never thought we had.
We can use this time to deepen our bonds with the people at home, whether they’re our spouse, our children or our room-mates. We can connect remotely to our friends and loved ones and offer each-other love and support, and we can take this opportunity for reflection and make the best of it.
Choosing to ignore the public health pleas for social distancing is not an option. If we don’t want to end up like China, Italy or Iran we need to do everything we can, right now, to minimize the impact of Covid-19 on our medical system and our economy. It’s bad now, but without social distancing it could get infinitely worse.
Stay home, stay safe, and stay tuned for more updates from the Ruthless Compassion Institute.
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