Friday, May 1 – There is a Before and an After 

By Josette BUENOS AIRES, ARGENTINA

There are several things on my mind this week – as usual, never a dull moment in this cranium. 

Psychological distress. 

I am becoming concerned at the number of people in my circle who are expressing evidence of psychological distress – feeling down, depressed, moody, angry, anxiety-ridden, having insomnia. 

I, as un unlicensed psychologist, am torn sometimes with how to help them. I do make sure I listen and empathize – probably the best and most important way to be there for others without dictating what they should do or feel or tell them – anything, really. It’s not the time to be “telling.”

Current studies are showing that changes in daily routines, sleeping patterns and eating patterns as well as the stress that being in a pandemic has caused are in turn contributing to a worsening of chronic health conditions, mental health conditions, fear and worry and increased consumption in tobacco, alcohol or other drugs. Different risk groups and age groups will also experience these feelings and situations in different ways: children, elderly, parents, health care workers…all these diverse populations of people have their own set of worries and concerns. The task would be to help manage the specific stress for each of these different populations. What everyone is experiencing is particular to that person as well as that group – no one has written the book on this, so, in a way, we can be excused from many behaviors that perhaps in a “normal” situation (what is normal?) may not be ideal.

My cognitive training would tell you to write down your thoughts and look at the truthfulness in said thoughts. Are they true or not? And if they are not truthful, is it helping you to think that way?

I wanted to go outside, but this looked extremely suspicious (ha! A little bit of humor)

I often say to people that no one can tell you how or how not to feel during this time because not one person alive today has experienced it before (unless they have found the source of immortality). It is not the time to feel ashamed, disappointed or any other type of negative emotion towards oneself; think, “Oh, I was supposed to do this today, and I didn’t” kind of mentality. It is not time for self-punishment. Taking care of your mental health during this time requires, in my opinion, giving as much place to negative thoughts and feelings as positive ones, or accepting that you don’t want to do anything, accepting that you want to eat junk food, accepting that you want to cry, accepting that you’re in a bad mood, etc. Accept how you feel in that moment rather than suppressing it.

  • Take breaks from watching, reading or listening to news about the pandemic
  • Do breathing exercises, stretch, meditate
  • Try to get some sunlight each day
  • Exercise 
  • Sleep well and regularly
  • Eat healthy, well-balanced meals
  • Connect with people
  • Try to divide up your day
  • Try to divide up your week – the week is the week and the weekend is the weekend

I do believe that it is particularly important to make sure your week is still defined as a week, and your weekend still defined as a weekend. Doing activities on the weekend that you wouldn’t do during the week will help to give you a break from the new routine that you have established for yourself. 

Boxing at home

The latest here lately has been what to do about the prison population in Argentina – the most talked about prison being one that is a few neighborhoods over from where I live. As I mentioned in my last post, the prisoners were causing riots, which has been resulting in a clash with both those who manage the prison and the politicians behind it. 

It really is rather a controversial issue – do you keep them locked up to serve their time but with a high risk of contracting the virus – or what do you do? I suppose that if the government had anticipated this issue (much like they did with the elderly covering their pensions *sarcasm*), there would have been facilities set up to account for social distancing or some protective measures in place to prevent this virus from sweeping through this population.

Conspiracy theorists would argue that the prison population is one of the populations that are not useful to society – that the virus was designed to take out those populations who are “a drain on society” and not useful (quoting a girl I know).

However, I believe that everyone should have a chance to live – in whatever way that may be. And it is too bad that the government did not anticipate this issue. So, what happened?

1900 prisoners in prison not far from my apartment were “released under house arrest”… 

“Well, that’s not so bad,” you may think.

So, what do you think about a man who was locked up for sexually assaulting a young girl and is now under house arrest next door to her?

The news has been filled with the police having to recapture these criminals because, despite demanding that they be put under house arrest, so they don’t succumb to the virus, have gone out, and contributed to recidivism – robbing, stealing, creating mischief. Quite a few have also, upon release, gone after their significant others. I really wish law enforcement didn’t have to deal with this on top of everything else they have going on these days – that WE have going on.

I’d like to mention that during these 6 weeks of quarantine (we have 2 more weeks now), there have been over 30 femicides. 

#niunamenos

(ni una menos means “not one woman less” – and is the slogan for violence against women)

*sigh* It’s a double-edged sword. Someone is going to suffer no matter which way the pendulum swings. 

There is a before and an after…

What that after may be, no one knows. But the road to it is not paved with gold. A pandemic with a resulting epidemic in crime? I hope not.

But we can hold on – even when we feel like letting go. Just remember why you are here and those that love you – you have to be safe and healthy, and if you can’t do it for yourself, do it for them.

Josette