The novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has changed the world in many ways, and forced people worldwide to vastly alter their lifestyles during lockdowns and quarantines.
As a result, many have discovered good and bad things in their lives. The vast changes have also led many to start learning the importance of taking care of their mental health and overall well-being.
The quarantine and lockdowns have been a turning point for the majority of people, ensuring some took challenging decisions, whilst others saw their lives worsen.
The widespread suspension of activities have affected economic and social conditions, and forced people to become more introverted, and self-reflecting on how they can change their lives.
The lockdowns have helped many people review their life routines, finish pending decisions, and make new ones.
Daily News Egypt takes a look at the social changes made by a group of people during lockdowns, many of whom have said that these changes will continue in the post-coronavirus period.
Most of the people interviewed have focused on the mental aspect, and agree that quarantine made them more aware of how to take care of themselves physically and psychologically.
The lockdown shocked people, due to its very sudden nature, with many finding themselves imprisoned at home, making them feel lonely or listless or anxious. While socially distanced, the internet and social media have allowed them to reach into each other’s homes over the past few months. Social relationships for many seem not to have suffered. At the same time, lockdowns have also allowed us to explore hobbies and interests we might never have had time to do before.
COVID-19 proved more difficult for those with OCD
A 20-year-old trainer, who preferred to remain anonymous, said, “All people feared the coronavirus, and followed the precautions and took it quite well, but for those like me who already fear viruses, it was a double dose of fear.”
“I already had anxiety and panic attacks before the coronavirus, and I already fear diseases and viruses so much,” she said, “In the beginning, I was so worried about everyone around me, and when I knew that older people are the most vulnerable to the coronavirus, I worried about my parents more.”
The young lady added that when restrictions were relaxed and normal life returned, she could still not adapt to these changes, as people around her began to practice their life activities normally.
Despite this, she stayed at home until August due to the difficulties she felt with the changes back to normality.
“Later, I returned to work from the office. I was taking serious precautions, and as a result, my skin was damaged by alcohol,” she said, “I was already aware of mental health. I used to visit a therapist, but stopped during the coronavirus, but in July, I lapsed into a deep depression, so I started to contact my therapist again to help me cope with the events.”
She added, however, that sometimes the depression gets the better of her, and she follows through on the negative thinking.
“For example, I could change my clothes three times per day just out of fear that I caught the virus,” the young lady said, adding, “Since March, I have not eaten food from outside, this is already annoying me, and I still sanitise all the new things I buy from outside.”
She said that she lost many friends due to the alterations she has made in her social life, although she was able to keep in daily touch with her best friends.
“My relationship with many of my friends was mainly based on outings, and when I stopped going out with them, we started to drift apart,” the young lady said, “Also, I was always the only one wearing a face mask and following precautions, which was so awkward for them.”
She added, “Now I am focusing on improving my social life that fell apart during the coronavirus, as I lost some people because of outings and celebrations that I did not attend.”
“I also lost many people due to their reckless dealings due to the virus, for example in the morning they might take a PCR test, but at night they would still go out to meet friends without even waiting for results,” she said, “These type of people are not honest, and I do not want to be friends with them because if I contacted them and got the virus, I will definitely infect my mother and she will not bear this. For me, I will be killing her. I was sad about people’s behaviour.”
Going online to solve problems, connect with the world
Kamilia Ahmed was another one that the quarantine and lockdowns ensured that her stress levels rose exponentially.
“I was living alone at home and not going out like before, so quarantine changed me from being an extrovert and outgoing person, to someone always trying to find a solution to not go out of the home,” Ahmed said.
The 26-year-old lady, who lives and works as a marketer overseas, said that the whole coronavirus period was a particular phase in her life. She discovered herself more, and got used to new things that she had hated a lot before.
Speaking on the personal and social changes she experienced during the coronavirus period, the young marketer also revealed that during quarantine, she experienced the pros and cons of being bored.
Ahmed said that people tend to get emotional when they are bored – they are also more open to communicate and try several new things. They can become attached to things just due to their being bored. In turn, when they return to their previous busy lives, they will discover how exactly they feel.
“The whole experience changed my outlook on life, and I started to see that it’s always God’s will, not us,” Ahmed said, “During quarantine, I got closer to one of my friends. We were already friends before, but we became closer during the quarantine, especially as we both moved to another country, and our situations and interests were similar.”
Ahmed noted that whilst all this helped the two get closer, after the quarantine, everything changed, and things between us did not go well because we discovered that we were close because we were bored. She added that her thoughts also took a change as life shifted back to normal from lockdowns.
Regarding the new skills she learned in quarantine, Ahmed said, “The quarantine time helped me be creative in my decisions and actions. I started to prefer and appreciate working from home, and I also preferred Zoom calls, which I had hated before. Now, it’s better for me than going out and meeting people.”
Ahmed noted that she started to turn to the internet to find online solutions to get things finished, such as searching for an application to do her grocery shopping.
She also started using the professional networking site, Linkedin, more as she searched for a job, with the site helping her to find new ways to communicate with people. It also helped her with market research and strategies.
As for mental health, she said that she was stressed and became physically exhausted as she had worked for a long time.
“It was a little bit difficult to stay alone in a small home in such a condition, so the one solution was to start taking care of my mental health,” Ahmed said, mentioning that staying alone was doubling her stress.
“In my home country, we had a roof which I believe would have helped me to have a good time, to breathe fresh air, roam around, and listen to music,” she added.
Dreams come true during quarantine
For 33-year-old social media manager Noha Louis, staying at home was a frustrating experience, given her extroverted nature.
“I couldn’t bare staying at home at all, as I like going out,” she said, “After I gave birth to my baby boy, I stayed for a few months at home with him, and then returned to work. Staying for a long time at home makes me feel crazy.”
“My house was new, as I completed it during the quarantine,” Louis said of her time at home, “Then I started to learn new things to be creative with my baby, and I ended up spending the whole time during lockdown making new recipes, activities, and games for my baby.”
She added, “When I shared this stuff with my friends, they found it very creative and encouraged me to start my group for moms to support each other.”
Louis noted that, in October 2020, after making the necessary preparations, she started a group on Instagram advising other mothers on how to take care of their children.
“Later I began to receive many supportive messages from mothers thanking me for my advice and helped them,” she said, “I was so happy that my work was beneficial and helped people with their children, especially as I always wished to do something significant for society.”
She noted that she had wanted to be a teacher or doctor to help people. But this new role was equally as valuable, as after the lockdowns, she found herself swamped between being a mother, handling her job, and also taking care of her blog.
Amira Eid, a marketer, spoke about how she discovered that she could not continue her life in a full-time job and neglect her dream project.
“At work, once they heard about the pandemic, they decided to let us all work from home,” Eid said, “At that time, I felt that life had stopped. Until now, we are working from home.”
She added that during the first two months of quarantine, she did a lot of things and tried many things at home alongside her daily work. Later, however, she started to feel fed up, as under normal circumstances, her work would last from 9:00 to 17:00, but during the coronavirus, she found herself working more hours.
“I started to think that I should make changes in my life as my life had stopped on my full-time job and I had nothing else to do in life,” Eid added, “I found that this time was the best opportunity to make my dream come true.”
She said that she had always wished to create a project selling handicrafts inspired by heritage, history, and culture. As a result, she started to learn how to create business plans and marketing strategies, and then to apply them to her project.
Moreover, pharmacist Menna El-Kilany said, “I regret all the times I rejected to have fun outside the home and try new things.”
“Being forced to stay at home made me appreciate outings and celebrations, more,” the 28-year-old lady added, “The coronavirus forced me not to do all the things I wanted to do. Previously, I was someone who always loved to stay at home, but this decision was deliberate.”
She noted that, in the pre-coronavirus period, she was not that type of people who attend all social events, instead only going out occasionally.
“After quarantine, I decided that I will do everything, do all the things I have missed out on, go out, have fun, explore, and travel,” she said
El-Kilany said that she took advantage of the free time she had during lockdowns to complete a clinical nutrition diploma, and started working in this sector four months ago. She recently created an Instagram page to provide online nutrition.
While some people had started their business, others have highlighted how the coronavirus has negatively affected both them and their businesses.
Wellness coach Adiba Twigg said, “I had to shut down my business, a wellness centre, as I learned that time with family is even more precious than I made it out to be.”
Twigg also said, “I learned to pivot and started an online business to be more flexible, just as I began to take care of my health, and I have become more aware of mental well-being.”
Some missed family time during lockdown!
Another big issue highlighted by the coronavirus pandemic was the concept of family.
A 28-year-old journalist living abroad, who wished to remain anonymous, said, “I appreciated the concept of family, as I was envying those staying with their families despite everyone complaining about this.”
“Most people were baking, cooking, and watching films and series with their families during the quarantine,” the journalist said, “This quality time I was missing!”
She also said that she became closer to her family more than when she was staying with them, noting that the twists of fate during the coronavirus mean that they now “talk too much”. It also meant there was increased understanding on both sides, and she even started to believe in their views.
Regarding mental health, she added, “Social life activities were reduced in quarantine, so I started spending more time with myself and understanding myself more. I started to take care of psychological health and have self-awareness.”
She said that she was not working at home during quarantine since she is a media worker among groups excluded from lockdown.
“I was going to work every day, covering the news,” the journalist said, “I wished I was able to stay at home like the rest of the people, but the workload was too hectic, just as there was a fear of being infected.”
She also said that when she felt increasingly stressed and uncomfortable, leading to increasing digestive troubles, she decided to seek professional help.
“I started to take online sessions with a therapist to control these feelings,” the journalist said, “The session later improved my thinking and made me aware of how to deal with my stress and negative thoughts.”