What will we learn after this COVID-19 period of isolation?

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Due to the rapid spreading of the COVID-19 virus, our governments have implemented an obligatory self-isolation measure, applicable to most members of society (excluding people who perform what is considered as necessary activities such as doctors, nurses, pharmacists, delivery workers, grocery store workers, etc.); an attempt to reduce the rate of infection as to not overwhelm the healthcare sector. This approach is also referred to as “flattening the curve”;

At Aristotle’s Café we broached this topic on one of our online discussions. We asked the participants about how they were dealing with the current situation, what emotional effects were they experiencing and what they thought our societies would learn from the episode.

How are you, your family, and your loved ones coping with social isolation? Are you experiencing similar or unique emotional effects?

Appreciating Social interaction and Valuing Social Closeness

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“Think back to the most important experiences of your life, the highest highs, the greatest victories, the most daunting obstacles overcome. How many happened to you alone? I bet there are very few. When you understand that being connected to others is one of life’s greatest joys, you realize that life’s best comes when you initiate and invest in solid relationships.” – John C. Maxwell

Appreciating our relationships and valuing the proximity to our loved ones were among the most common answers that emerged from our discussion…

As social creatures, the implemented isolation measure is taking a psychological toll on most of us.

This is a natural consequence and it explains our current desire for the physical and emotional closeness we experience through social interaction. Missing the warmth of a hug is a natural consequence of the isolation measure and something many of us are currently experiencing.

What have you learned while in isolation? Do you believe the experience will change your future behaviors? How?

“Tell me and I forget. Teach me and I remember. Involve me and I learn.” – Benjamin Franklin

Based on our discussion, there is yet another aspect of social interaction that some of us are missing: social feedback…

Through social interaction, we get the opportunity to display our personality through the way we speak, the way we move, the way we dress. One could say that all of these elements can still be applied through online social interaction.

However, being subject to social isolation has meant performing public tasks inside our homes as well as acquiring a relaxed behavior that results from knowing we are not going to have the traditional social interactions we were used to.

Most of us are practicing public and private activities within our living quarters (or wherever the implemented travel ban caught us) and for most, the struggle to fully wrap our head around the idea continues.

At some level, we are still having social interactions through different online platforms, but our agendas are not quite “normal” nor are we obtaining the needed psychological benefits through this digital type of social interaction.

Connections and COVID-19

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Our participants agree social isolation has provoked in some of us the need for social interaction. Isolation has highlighted the importance of maintaining a connection with others.

As well as the good and bad things about technology...

Technology has facilitated the alternative of a digital connection through the use of video calling applications. Our discussion pointed out how isolation is also making us realize how precious free time is and how this time can be used to connect with our loved ones.

“Deep human connection is … the purpose and the result of a meaningful life and it will inspire the most amazing acts of love, generosity, and humanity.” – Melinda Gates

How are we handling the lack of physical connections? Should we feel a certain way? Are we feeling forced to feel happy? Are we feeling forced to feel sad?

It has become evident that many of us are seeking motivational stories in which to find the encouragement to overcome these difficult times. It seems we need to see hope to be able to believe hope exists.

Is this attempt to seek encouragement a natural response of our brains? Or, is it a recently learned behavior that provides us with the needed level of comfort to better deal with a difficult situation?

Whether we think we are getting more or less connected due to the implemented isolation we are currently experiencing, it is important to pay attention to how we are feeling.

If we decide feeling more connected with others can improve our current condition, we should, by all means, take advantage of our free time to reach out to others and remind them how much they mean to us and how much we wish to be able to enjoy their presence. This could be a gesture with the potential to improve more than one person’s life at a time.

Were you satisfied with your level of connection with others? Are you now?

Working from Home during COVID-19

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The idea that some of us are not simply working from home; but at home during a crisis, trying to work was brought up during the discussion.

In recent years the topic of working from home has acquired popularity among some professional sectors.

The current social isolation has negatively impacted many of our jobs. Unfortunately, many people have been forced to stop working, in many cases resulting in permanent unemployment.

Other jobs present a different scenario. In order to reduce the negative financial effects of the crisis, many sectors have implemented working from home as an attempt to continue conducting businesses as close to usual as possible.

Thanks to a wide array of technological tools, many industries have been able to continue working online.

For your particular case, would you consider working from home as a benefit or as a burden? Why?

Through the current exercise of working from home, we could see whether or not the approach could be a long-term viable solution post COVID-19 crisis, or if some may disregard it since it is being implemented during an atypical situation.

Do you think the knowledge acquired from working from home under the current conditions could be utilized to determine if this approach should be implemented as a norm, once the COVID-19 situation is under control?

If you are having the option to work from home, we recommend you really pay attention to the effect this approach is having on you and your family.

If you find the approach beneficial, you should definitely support future attempts to implement the practice.

In many cases, working from home means being able to spend more quality time with our families, which could have the potential of creating stronger family ties.

“We must restore the sacredness of the family as a bedrock of humane values everywhere, in peace as well as in war.” – Kofi Annan

Would it be possible to apply the approach across all sectors? If not, would it be democratic to apply the measure only in some sectors?

Reacting to the COVID-19 Situation

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Probably one of the most common current questions among our society is: How exactly are we supposed to react to the present situation?

We are living through an unprecedented event and most of what we are experiencing can be considered new to us, and that explains why everybody (including our governments) are struggling at properly dealing with the situation.

“A time of crisis is not just a time of anxiety and worry. It gives a chance, an opportunity, to choose well or to choose badly.” – Desmond Tutu

Should we think of the current COVID-19 situation as a crisis, risking getting stressed or even depressed?

Should we think of the situation as a simple change that will soon go away, risking forgetting about it and not learning anything from it?

For different reasons, the media around the world has presented COVID-19 as either a global crisis in the form of a pandemic that represents a threat to humanity or as another form of a non-threatening virus that would soon go away.

Some people have experienced panic and have exercised panic shopping, depleting goods from grocery stores, and creating shortages, which further contributes to a sense of panic.

Our discussion showed that others have chosen a different approach by opting to stay busy, maintain an agenda, and continuing to act as normal as possible, as a way to deal with the present situation, in other words, they have relied on distractions.

Has the forced social isolation kept us away from distractions? Or, has it created an overwhelming amount of extra time that has pushed us to be even more distracted than before?

For many, dealing with the present situation has come with an additional amount of stress and anxiety. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) suggest finding ways to cope with stress as a way to promote stronger individuals and communities.

Doctor Joshua Gordon, Director of NIH’s National Institute for Mental Health supports the same idea, urging people to realize enjoyable activities in order to better cope with stress and anxiety resulting from dealing with the COVID-19 situation.

These recommendations promote stronger immune systems and reduce the impact of the virus in our communities.

While trying not to be stressed about COVID-19 we could fall into finding different ways to get distracted and end up not really assigning COVID-19 the attention it deserves.

Completely ignoring the COVID-19 situation could lead us to miss the opportunity to learn from it and use the experience to drive much-needed changes at both, the personal and the governmental levels.

“Always remember your focus determines your reality.” – George Lucas

During our discussion, we talked about how in the last days, it has become easy to find videos showing how in different parts of the planet, nature seems to be reclaiming territories.

Nature seems to be occupying spaces that humans have been forced to abandon. It is arguable whether nature is actually reacting to the current events, if these isolated events are being generalized and blown out of proportion, or if it is just a coincidence.

What is clear is that these animals are a reminder that we are not the sole occupants of this planet and that moving forward, our society’s everyday decisions should factor in and promote the well-being of all forms of life inhabiting the planet.

Do you believe the present situation is a valuable opportunity to revise existing legislation and to create new ones, in an effort to better our chances of dealing with future global challenges?

“We are very, very small, but we are profoundly capable of very, very big things.” – Stephen Hawking

While people have different opinions about how to approach the situation, it is important to implement a balanced approach, one that allows us to respect and follow sanitation recommendations while still maintaining an appropriate level of physical and psychological well-being.

For example, we could open a window and exercise breathing fresh air or we can open the front door and have a conversation at a distance with the neighbor across the street. It is important to keep in mind that while these may not be ideal practices, they will help us endure the difficult times.

What kind of new forms of interaction have you employed during the isolation period?

Being Alone with Ourselves during COVID-19

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Being alone with ourselves was another topic that emerged in our online discussion. Isolation was considered by some of the participants as both, a challenge and a blessing.

“Be a loner. That gives you time to wonder, to search for the truth. Have holy curiosity. Make your life worth living.” – Albert Einstein

Is being with ourselves a challenging idea simply because we are social creatures and social interaction is ingrained in our DNA?

According to our participants, isolation seems to be forcing us to look into our own eyes. It is forcing us to question, analyze, and scrutinize who we are and who we believe we need to be; an idea many of us seem to be struggling with.

"Crises and deadlocks when they occur have at least this advantage, that they force us to think." – Jawaharlal Nehru (first prime minister of India and Indian Independence Activist)

Why, in some cases, is self-analysis associated with discomfort? Is it because of the forced questioning of the self? Didn’t we already question our behavior and the aspects of our personality before COVID19?

We should not think of self-analysis as a daunting practice. Who we are today is the result of the actions we have practiced during many days of our lives.

Improving who we are is not an easy task, but it is also not as difficult as we think it is. Practicing new, better actions every day will put us right on the way of the transformation into a better version of ourselves.

“Loneliness is not lack of company, loneliness is lack of purpose.” – Guillermo Maldonado

Have we become addicted to the daily distractions that help us ignore demanding thoughts? Have we chosen the comfort of ignoring an issue over the discomfort of continuously working on a better version of ourselves?

“Each of us must work for his own improvement, and at the same time share a general responsibility for all humanity.“ – Marie Curie

Living with less

“Contentment comes not so much from great wealth as from few wants.” – Epictetus

Participants in our discussion also commented on the topic of consumerism. One participant mentioned how during this period of isolation she has realized how little she needs to live a comfortable life.

A combination of isolation and a shortage of goods in some areas has forced some of us to ration what we have. The current COVID-19 situation is forcing us to be more efficient about how we use our resources. This behavior is a result of the circumstances.

Could our societies favor a lifestyle of less comfort in order to ensure healthier societies and natural environments once the COVID19 situation is under control?

“If one’s life is simple, contentment has to come. Simplicity is extremely important for happiness. Having few desires, feeling satisfied with what you have, is very vital: satisfaction with just enough food, clothing, and shelter to protect yourself from the elements.” – The Dalai Lama, 1935.

During the past days many of us might have revised our definition of what is truly important in our lives.

Our current need for social interaction and closeness has made us notice that consumerism is not essential in our lives and that we can still experience satisfaction even without attending to the practice of consumerism.

However…

We need to keep in mind that we are experiencing atypical living conditions. According to Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, generally speaking, we are currently experiencing the lower levels of his pyramid, mostly the “Safety needs” level.

The behavior of an individual seeking survival differs greatly from that of an individual seeking self-realization (the highest level on Maslow’s pyramid). It is reassuring seeing our humane side kicking in during this crisis, but what we need to strive for is employing and maintaining that humane side once we overcome the current challenge.

Could we accept and stick to the realization that consumerism is not as essential as we thought it was?

Global Issues

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“The next evolutionary step for humankind is to move from man to kind.“ – Unknown

One of the participants in our discussion highlighted the importance to avoid pointing fingers and blaming races for the spreading of the COVID-19 virus.

The fact that a geographical location can be assigned to COVID-19’s patient zero cannot be used as an excuse to discriminate against a specific ethnicity.

In the case of the spreading of a virus, the problem of one country should be considered the problem of the world and it should be tackled accordingly.

We live in a very connected world in which, as we are finding out, it is almost impossible to isolate a virus within a single geographical area.

Discrimination and any other form of dividing behavior is not what the current global situation calls for. A sense of global unity should prevail for our combined efforts to efficiently control the virus.

Going Back to “Normal”

“The secret of change is to focus all of your energy, not on fighting the old, but on building the new.” – Socrates

In general, the participants of our discussion agreed there exists a generalized wish of going back to normal as soon as possible. Predominantly, there is a need to socially interact and be close to the people we love, and returning to our previous living conditions is a shared desire within our communities.

Is it good to go back to “normal”? Is what we considered as “normal” really so?

"Great occasions do not make heroes or cowards; they simply unveil them to our eyes. Silently and imperceptibly, as we wake or sleep, we grow strong or weak; and at last some crisis shows what we have become." – Brooke Foss Westcott (British Theologian)

There is no doubt the majority of us are craving going back to our previous living conditions, in which we felt comfortable and our social needs were satisfied.

This desire is natural, but it comes short on being an inclusive thought. We could venture to state that the previous living conditions, referred by many as “normal”, fell far from being so.

The way our governments practice economy combined with the exploitation of natural resources resulting from the high demands of consumerism is having devastating social and environmental effects.

Going back to such living conditions signifies getting back on a road that could slowly lead us to a complex situation in which the survival of our species and all of those inhabiting the planet are at risk.

Accepting to go back to such conditions could be considered as evidence that humanity has become incapable of learning anything, believing that financial profits are the solution to any problem.

“I wish it need not have happened in my time," said Frodo. "So do I," said Gandalf, "and so do all who live to see such times. But that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.” – J.R.R. Tolkien, The Fellowship of the Ring

At Aristotle’s Café, we believe in promoting a respectful exchange of ideas.

We can agree or disagree on whether or not the current COVID-19 situation is a wake-up call, or whether we need to take the situation lightly or extremely seriously. We are not here to give you answers nor to impose our way of thinking.

We are here to expose to you other individual’s points of view on a given topic in an effort to spark the beginning of discussions that matter.

We hope you enjoyed this reading and invite you to share your comments with our community below this post. And the reading sparked in you the desire to practice and even more dynamic interaction, we invite you to consider participating in one of our following online discussions, in which your input will enrich our conversation.

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