Surviving Lockdown

-  Saurabh Chandra

Lockdown is Back! And so is the anxiety, rumination and depression directly or indirectly related to it. I have known people who out of worry and anxiety, turn on the TV or social media to know about the current situation, which makes them more nervous. When they try to isolate themselves from information, it adds to more distress. It becomes a vicious circle until it explodes as an emotional outburst on Governments, leaders or closer to home on family members, friends and spouse.

The current wave of the pandemic has been more devastating, primarily by sheer numbers, with many losing their loved ones and many being critically ill. Taking care of the family suffering from COVID-19 is challenging with no hospital beds, scarcity of oxygen and other life-saving equipment.

There is hardly anyone to steer people who are scared, angry, and anxious. It seems as if they are left to fend themselves in a raging fire, slowly engulfing everything around them. Depression and panic attacks have become familiar to even people who did not have any signs of such mental disorders earlier.

Social media has played the role of both the angel and the devil. The networking is in use to gain access to hospital beds, oxygen concentrators and Plasma. At the same time, it has also played havoc in the lives of people with self-medication advice, gloom scenario broadcasting,and propagating depressing stories and fake news.

So here is a strategy to navigate through this crisis, which again is a personal opinion and individuals can alter it based on whatever works for them

1.   Information Moderation 

Humans are engineered to be curious, know what is happening around them, and act accordingly. Fear and anxiety fuel the curious mind to know more and prepare for fight or flight. As is the current situation being hard to comprehend, people are forced to be at home due to lock down, with nowhere to go, social media, TV and phone remains only windows to the world. According to statistics, screen time has jumped by 30 to 40percent since the inception of the pandemic, which means there is a mind-numbing information overflow. We are consuming unimaginable content through news, social media platforms, OTT platforms and more. There is an unlimited supply of information, severely impeding our capabilities to think clearly.

The first strategy is to restrict the data,limiting the online/screen time to a maximum of 1 hour. How to do that is something of a challenge, but various strategies are available online. It is difficult to withdraw from the instant gratification fueled dopamine rush, but do this immediately. What to do with the time at hand if one can restrict the information overflow? That takes us to our strategy no 2.

   2. Nurturing/Developing a Skill/Hobby 

It's a perfect time to sharpen your axe,develop a skill, which could be helpful when things start to boom again; and trust me, it will. A course in your interest area, a professional workshop, an expert seminar, any such activity would improve your skill. It may prove you beneficial when the world returns to its usual self (whatever that normal would be). In pre-pandemic world, I have heard numerous times people mentioning about how much they wanted to pursue a hobby like cooking, gardening, singing or playing a musical instrument but they never have time. Pandemic has given us a lot of time to do what we wanted to do most (well, except travel). If you never had a hobby and considered watching TV as a hobby, you need to rethink your life choices. Develop a hobby; there would never be a perfect time.

3.   Family time

Please spend some quality time with your family (sitting together fixated on individual phones and sharing WhatsApp forwards to your family member does not mean quality time). Play a board game,eat all meals together, engage in a conversation or maybe a congenial argument or debate, is helpful for you and your family members' mental health. A phone call to a family member or a friend, without any discussions on pandemic and its impact will result in an assuring and bonding conversation for all.

4.   Mind and body care 

All the grief, panic and anxiety take its toll on your mind and restrictions to stay at home, affects your physical well being adversely, it is advised to take care of both through moderate exercise. Experts recommend, Yoga or any other form of physical activity to improve your bodily functions and uplift the mood. A 5–10-minute meditation,which can have a tremendous calming effect on your mind. It is tough to relax your mind amid a storm raging outside, yet sitting in silence, putting aside your gadgets with just 5 minutes of meditation and yogic breathing can do wonders.

5.   Help and volunteer 

Helping others will be by far the most potent medicine for your frayed nerves. Once you start helping others, it will uplift your confidence and make you less jittery. The act of helping tends to instill a sense of happiness. Help could be physical, through networking, assuring a grieving friend or a family member, preparing food for someone suffering from illness, etc. These physical philanthropic acts, with your personal involvement will have much desired effect on your well-being than just financial help.

Note to Young Architects and Students

Architecture students are in a process of completing their final year, those who have recently passed and all the other fellow Architects; It’s a tough time for our profession, like most of the other professions.We may be looking at dark clouds of hopelessness, unemployment and gloom but let me list out few silver linings, things to do and things to look forward to:

1.History tells us each pandemic is followed by a post-pandemic boom (The Economist: What History tells you about post Pandemic boom-May 2021), we are going to bounce back stronger and harder. And when we do, infrastructure development would be in the priority list for all Governments.

2.  A major investments and developments are expected in Healthcare sector, It will be a good time to align your skills to match with a tsunami of Healthcare projects.

3. Healthcare sector cannot be developed without the Doctors,Nurses, Paramedical staff, Engineers and IT professionals. Institutional and educational sector strengthening would be required to get these professional trained in different level of institutes.

4.   Pharmacy Industries would also be taking a nice size of pie in the development. Industrial sector would also shine up.

5.   New and Quick Construction technology would be in demand, we have already moved to EPC tendering system, Design and Build would be future of construction.

All-in-All, the current situation is transient, you may not be able to attend a regular internship or would might benot getting a call back from your interviewer, that’s because at present all the firms, no matter how big or small, are struggling to keep themselves afloat. As things return to normal, floodgates of work would be opened and there would be a hiring frenzy with sky-rocketing job market. (Just an example,we hired around 40 human resources despite the pandemic situation last year, as we were awarded 5 large hospitals developments). The lock down is a fantastic opportunity to polish your skills, get yourself aligned with whatever is coming next, or whatever is your interest. Think wisely, get yourself skilled, beyond what you have learned in college and once things start to show up, you will have the best chances.

The next pandemic on the horizon is a pandemic of mental problems, grief and pain, which has already started raging and will have a devastating effect even after COVID departs. It will be more life-threatening, serious, long-lasting, and impactful. The above measures are not the full-proof strategy to steer you through the storm but a rudder to keep you afloat. You may include your coping mechanism, and even after your best efforts and following the above advice, you may have trepidation, and that's perfectly ok. We all are in the same storm, with different boats and different people onboard with varying levels of preparedness. 

Sun is going to shine again soon. Life is going to back to what it expects it to be, maybe not the same, maybe better……hang on…….

About Author

Saurabh Chandra is the director of DDF Consultants, a large-scale planning and architectural consultancy firm, working on a wide cross-section of projects, from Master plans, Institutional Projects, healthcare projects, Engineering, Project management and Disaster Management. He writes for leisure, and is an avid traveler. His interest includes Photography and New technology.

You can connect with him on: 

Instagram: wanderingcreative

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