One week ago, FGN issued the order to close all schools and universities in Nigeria. Unexpectedly, we are all at home. Our academic calendar has been interrupted. Our students are disappointed, sad, stressed, and missing their classmates. Everyone is anxious, checking for COVID-19 updates, wondering if it will reach all four corners of Nigeria. Being at home with family during a time of crisis provides the emotional support we all need; however, our routines have been disrupted. And, while we love our families, being with them 24/7 can cause stress if we are being honest about it.
This letter will be about COVID-19: Together at Home
We are all now practicing social distancing, which means physical distancing. It does not mean social interaction has ceased – far from it! It just means more of it has shifted online, and, in fact, we are more connected than ever. There is an explosion in online communities, overwhelming our internet capacity. In a sense, we are together, worldwide, but also at home. We are together at home. What can we do while together at home?
Our favorite musical talents have started a program of online concerts from their homes, under Global Citizen with the hashtag #TogetherAtHome, and uploaded to Youtube. Chris Martin, John Legend, Charlie Puth, Jennifer Hudson, etc., have participated and during each concert, they respond to requests from listeners in real-time. Seeing them at home, while we are at home, in real-time, is delightful. Here is the first one, by Chris Martin, which I found charming:
TED Connects: Community and Hope
TED Talks has also shifted gears to provide meaningful content during this time. They have launched TED Connects, which are interviews with leading experts on various topics in response to COVID-19:
In preparation to write this letter today, I watched the first episode, by Susan David, on the topic of “How to be Your Best Self in Times of Crisis.” She describes the social and emotional toll COVID-19 has taken, and advocates emotional agility, which she defines as “having any number of troubling thoughts and emotions and still managing to act in a way that serves how you most want to live.” She raises many good points about our circumstances and how we are emotional creatures, and provides some good tips for how to respond during times like this. I highly recommend it, I was particularly struck by her comment that “Life’s beauty is inseparable from its fragility.”
Side Note: The second episode in the series, by Bill Gates, “How We Must Respond to the COVID-19 Pandemic” has now positioned him in direct opposition to President Trump. Gates proposes a complete shutdown for 6-10 weeks, whereas President Trump has indicated he wants to end the shutdown by Easter, only 2 weeks away. Is this the turning point when a private citizen becomes more influential than the President of the United States? Watch this space.
Life at Home
During this time of transition to living at home while we fight the public health crisis, it is important that each person at home has the support and the space he or she needs. Students need quiet time and space to continue with their online classes, uninterrupted so they can focus on learning. Parents need quiet time and space to continue with Work From Home (WFH) activities their employers have given them during this period. It might be worthwhile to have a family meeting to discuss how you might rearrange your living quarters and/or set up a schedule of online time to ensure everyone is able to do what is necessary, and prioritize the most important things.
While at home, it is also important to stay connected to others outside of your family. Online platforms like Skype, Zoom, Facebook, etc., are great ways to keep in touch; you can also reach out to people you have lost contact with during this time, and reconnect. Hearing from a friend you have not heard from in a long time will bring unexpected joy into your life.
When we are at work or school, we have a routine imposed on us. While at home, it is easy to slide into a situation where there is no rhyme or reason to how each day unfolds. You may even find yourself becoming a creature of the night, sleeping all day long. I would urge you to guard against this as much as possible – make a routine for yourself, with a daily schedule. Make appointments with yourself to get things done. Keeping a structure will help you achieve the things you want to achieve during this downtime away from work and school. Cook healthy meals together with your family, and try your best to get a good nights’ sleep. These things that our parents taught us to do are even more important during a time of crisis.
Beware of information overload; we have all become obsessed with the latest news about COVID-19. Set aside certain periods during the day when all devices are switched off, including the tv and radio. A daily digital and news detox will refresh and enable you to be ready for the next breaking news about COVID-19. Decide which sources you trust, and focus on those sources; otherwise, the toll on your mental health and energy levels will become too much.
We are used to going outside for walks or to the gym, but during this time, we are not able to do that. As such, you may have stopped getting the exercise you need. Simply putting on your headphones and listening to music while you walk around your home will get your blood flowing and keep you balanced.
Also, remember to engage in activities you enjoy – if you are a film or tv person, consider downloading a few new movies or binge-watching a favorite tv show. Look for something humorous and fun, not related to COVID-19. One example is the new tv series on Netflix, “Love is Blind” – watching how these couples navigate potential romantic partners is a nice distraction from CNN, or as people call it now, the Corona News Network... Love conquers all, right?
Always, with best regards, stay safe, Semper Gumby
Dawn Dekle, PhD
AUN President (Vice-Chancellor)
Teaser: stay tuned for the next letter from the desk of the AUN President, on the topic “COVID-19: Mental Health and Emotional Contagion”