The implications of the COVID-19 lockdown and how to cope

Dear Editor,

The public health goal is to prevent the exponential explosion of COVID-19 by the curfew, social distancing and the “lockdown” of many businesses.

However, a paper published on March 25, 2020 by the Chan School of Public Health at Harvard, states that, “It’s unlikely one single, long stretch of social distancing is going to solve COVID-19 for the U.S. before a vaccine arrives. Instead, it may be necessary to keep having periodic intervals of quarantine until the U.S. healthcare system is fortified…

“There’s a tension in fighting COVID-19: so-called herd immunity needs to be built up, which requires that the disease be allowed to spread to some extent, for without exposure, that immunity will never be built. But the disease must not spread so much that it overwhelms the U.S.’s medical resources.”

In a small island nation like The Bahamas, it is critical that we find a balance between the lockdown and reopening of the business community.

If the lockdown is prolonged, it may produce economic collapse and high unemployment, which will also cause a lot of pain among the poor and marginalized because they will not be able to survive beyond a certain period.

This will increase social fragmentation with burgeoning crime rates.

If the economy collapses, the gangs will have a field day and may overwhelm the nation.

We need wisdom as we seek God’s guidance for our leaders to make decisions for the survival of The Bahamas.

Antidote to hopelessness

The difficulty in a small country is, in epidemiology, you must balance the shutdown of the country and save that number of people from death; you’re still going to get a four percent mortality added to your existing mortality happening in the country as opposed to losing your whole economy.

If Nassau shuts down for more than a month, the economy is broken.

You’re going to have to ask yourself what’s worse.

What’s worrying me right now is I hear a lot about what we are doing for this period, but I am wondering if people are working on the balance of the shutdown versus the open up because if you shut down for four percent mortality and you end up with 25 percent or 50 percent unemployment, you are going to destroy a country.

These are difficult times as we are on lockdown not knowing what the future holds.

Our situation in The Bahamas is accentuated because we are still trying to recover from the killer Hurricane Dorian which decimated Grand Bahama and Abaco last September, affecting nearly 30,000 people.

This vulnerability is difficult for us. Remember that vulnerability is neither victory nor defeat nor weakness, but the uncertainty we face each day drives us toward fear and hopelessness.

Human beings made in the image of God are hardwired for love, but because life is wounded, we are all vulnerable and easily succumb to fear when we face difficult and trying circumstances.

We can’t change vulnerability, but during times like this, with the COVID-19 epidemic, our vulnerability easily moves toward fear.

Fear leads to anxiety and anxiety gives rise to panic.

The sad thing about panic is that it involves a lowering of our IQ and as a result, we dumb down.

Therefore, panic always leads to paralysis, leading us further into hopelessness and despair.

Numerous persons have called me, both privately and at the office, asking how to deal with this fear and anxiety, but also with the sense of hopelessness they feel in light of them not receiving paychecks and about them protecting themselves and their family.

Therefore, at this time we must have a mechanism to help us make the perceptual shift from fear and hopelessness to love and hope. I find this method called “S.T.O.P” very helpful and practice it in my own life.

S – STOP. If you are too busy to stop, you are too busy.

T – Take deep breaths to wash out the old carbon dioxide which stimulates panic and refresh the brain with oxygen, producing calm. Breathe in deeply and hold to the count of four. One… two… three… four… Then exhale slowly. This way, you are breathing in love and exhaling fear. Do this eight times and you will find your body slowly relaxing. It is hard for fear to control a relaxed body. The mind is like a wild horse but it is tamed by a relaxed body.

O – Observe your life. Think about those you love and write down five things for which you are grateful. As you write, you will find yourself feeling not only calm, but more open to being hopeful and loving.

P – Proceed. Proceed by thinking and doing something to show love to someone. For example, make a phone call, clean a room, sweep a floor, go for a walk and be thankful for the blessings that you do have. If you are not ready to proceed, repeat S.T.O.P until you can proceed calmly.

In this way, if we practice S.T.O.P we can train our minds to make the perceptual shift from fear and hopelessness to love and hope.

Dr. David Allen

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