It has been shocking to see how much impact COVID-19 has had on the world in just several months. At this moment, it feels like the world is on pause and many people are having a hard time believing how much our world has changed - quarantine, unemployment, #flattenthecurve, social distancing, masks and hand sanitizer has become our new reality.
This is not another doom and gloom post but rather a call to attention of how COVID-19 is affecting mental health, what the most basic needs of humanity is, and a reminder of what people should be doing right now to help fight back against the stress and struggles of the COVID-19 Pandemic.
As a quick aside, it is important to note here that all humans are social, emotional animals. Evolutionary biology, Darwinian science and Psychology explains how humans gained the ability to not just adapt but thrive in some of the harshest environments in the world like Oymyakon, Siberia- the coldest inhabited place on earth which sits 217 miles below the Arctic Circle or Dallol in Ethiopia who's average annual temperature is 95 degree F, or our ability to build cities from steel, iron and concrete, or connecting the entire world with something called the internet.
We know how robust, innovative and adaptive humans are but before COVID-19 we only applied the term "social isolation" to someone who was estranged, alienated or an outcast. Now it is something that we are all practicing everyday.
One of the biggest unforeseen consequences of COVID-19 is how our new hygienic guidelines and social distancing protocol is affecting our mental health (and by no means am I critiquing these guidelines). This time is truly unprecedented and we have never seen the world endure emotional, physical and financial stress while being social isolated.
As we all know, humans are complex and the emotional reward centers of the brain have evolved from not just satisfying our most basic physiological needs but the most complex psychological needs. This theory is best outlined by American Psychologist, Abraham Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs. Maslow mapped our most basic psychological needs like food, water, warmth and rest and our most complex psychological needs like the feeling of accomplishment, creativity and achieving one's full potential.
Here is an example of Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs:
He believed that all humans start life at the base of the pyramid with the intention of satisfying their most basic needs. Once the most basic needs were met you then moved to the next level of needs like safety, then belonging, then esteem and on the rare occasion, self-actualization. In other words, as you travel up the pyramid you reach new levels of meaning and fulfillment.
The concern is that if we don't prioritize the wellness of people now during these uncertain times that the repercussions of neglected mental health could be worse than the virus itself. Take the time now to map your current circumstances onto Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs. If you complete this exercise you will quickly see that what what we NEED is much different that what we WANT or DESIRE. You don't NEED a sports car, fancy shoes, or 10,000 sq foot house. What you NEED are the most basic and primal things to humanity- food, water, shelter, friends, family and sense of accomplishment.
Use Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs as a spot light to highlight what matters and what doesn't in your life. If you do, you will quickly see that weathering this storm is possible. You will also see that most of the things you have been stressing about don't actually matter. And if you lost your job, your savings, or investments use Maslow's pyramid to recreate yourself so you can start climbing toward your potential and fulfillment. Now is a great time to rethink how you spend your time. And in closing have hope for humanity. This is not the first time that the world has faced enduring times. Humans are resilient and adaptable. Do your part by following the CDC's guidelines and by prioritizing your mental health, your community and your most basic needs.
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