April 19, 2020 by
I read the news and worry. So many people are tired of being told to stay home. Even TV pundits are speaking out, wondering if we need to stay isolated. People are shown in the streets–claiming their “constitutional rights.”
The analogy for me is the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan, that starts this week. Its a month-long test of faith and endurance, and it’s a shared experience.
The first week is hard as the body and mind adapt to the lack of food, drink, smoking (and for me, coffee) from before sunup to sundown. That was like our initial reactions to being “sheltered in place.” We wondered how we would do it. What would it be like with family and no one else for however long? Could we do it?
For the Ramadan fast, the next two weeks roll by with our bodies used to fasting. We adapt to the changes in our body clock, as we get up early for a pre-dawn meal and stay up later at night for food and conversations with friends and family. It was a bit like this with being shut in. We all figured out how to manage. We said to ourselves and our family: We can do this!” Ok! Maybe it won’t be too bad.” We manage and feel like we have adjusted.
Then, like the last week of Ramadan, the changes get to us! It’s a slog, no two ways about it. How do we manage? Can we last? We have no choice and hunker down.
It is similar for all of us dealing with our disrupted lives in the middle of this pandemic. For some, the loss of jobs, uncertainty and stress are intolerable. And with social isolation and distress family violence rises. More children are abused. More people commit suicide. More people are desperately hungry. AND, more people take to the streets.
This reaction is not surprising. And it is part of a broader mental health question. People are stressed to the max right now. According to the WHO, in normal times mental health issues are always with us and directly affect 1 in 4 of us. These are not normal times. We need to address the increase in anxiety, depression and violence (to name a few of the problems) directly, honestly and without stigma.
Some of the ways we can do this are incredibly simple:
Most importantly, tell someone you love them. In the end, that is what really matters.