Jacqui Maguire, registered clinical psychologist
Recently I was asked to predict how our nation would transition into level 3. My answer was that it’s never best to predict human behaviour when we don’t have an evidence-based blueprint. What I could guarantee is that we will not respond unanimously.
As we begin this week at level 3, my educated guess us that there will be cohorts of people:
1. Those that are raring to get back to some form of ‘normal’ life. Who come tomorrow morning will eagerly dash to their car, enjoy a change of scene, revel over face-to-face communication with colleagues, queue in the McDonalds drive through. Grateful that national lockdown is over.
2. Those whose anxiety will increase. One million New Zealanders are expected to be back at work tomorrow, and for some this will induce fear. They may worry we don’t have COVID-19 under control, that there is still community transmission, that leaving their bubble puts themselves and their housemates at risk. They may have wished level 4 had continued on to heighten the chance of ‘elimination’. This group might be wary of others, experience heightened symptoms of anxiety and lower productivity in the workplace.
3. Another cohort in New Zealand have quite enjoyed ‘life on pause’. A slowed escape from hustle culture, opportunity to reflect on their life and their future, mindful ‘High Quality Connections’ with their bubble and chosen others. This group might experience grief and determination to bring aspects of level 4 lockdown into their regular life. “Covid-19 resolutions”. Sadness, worry, bargaining, anger and acceptance may all surface in the coming days.
4. And then there are those who may be indifferent. For whom level 3 and level 4 don’t pose any major distinction.
Of course people and life is not as simple as four distinct categories. We are complex beings. People’s states will likely fluctuate as emotions and thoughts come and go. Nonetheless, frameworks are always useful. No matter what cohort you sit it, I believe the most useful thing is to remain present, rather than following a wandering brain into the past or the future.
In the next coming days pay attention to your thoughts, emotions, body and behavioural reactions. By paying attention we gain awareness. By gaining awareness we have the opportunity for understanding. With understanding we have the the power for deliberate action rather than emotional reactivity. And with deliberate action we have freedom.
“Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms—to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.”