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Story | Research
23 March 2020

Op-ed: We’re not responsible for coronavirus – but we are responsible for how we deal with it


Psychologist Loulwa Kaloyeros, a coach with QF’s innovation TV show Stars of Science, on how keeping a routine and discovering new interests can help us cope with COVID-19.

Panic, fear, anxiety, and hysteria are just a few of the emotions that we are all currently struggling with amid the worldwide coronavirus outbreak – justified as we live in an unprecedented crisis that is of international scale yielding loads of uncertainty. Does this help solve a problem? Certainly it doesn’t. Are these feelings avoidable? Again, certainly they are not.

Psychologist Loulwa Kaloyeros says the changes to daily life created by coronavirus give people the chance to discover new interests.

We are human, and fear is a basic human emotion. It is our reaction to a universal existential concern: death. This new disease is scary and contagious, and in some cases fatal, and the worst part is that we know very little of how it functions. Our enemy is an unknown invader that is wreaking havoc in our daily lives.

We are faced with a new set of challenges to deal with in addition to all other problems bombarding us.

Loulwa Kaloyeros

We are faced with a new set of challenges to deal with in addition to all other problems bombarding us. We are now struggling with working online, socializing at a distance, and very often we are overwhelmed with information from everywhere. Boredom, confusion, and eventually burn-out will settle in, for we are social beings who strive on human contact, predictable challenges and calculated risks.

Currently, we are thrown into the midst of an emotional turbulence, and we are expected to navigate this storm safely. Most of us have never had to deal with so much in such a short span of time.

As we adapt to this new mode of life, it is essential to also protect our psychological health.

Loulwa Kaloyeros

What can we do?

We are being bombarded daily with advice about how to protect our physical health and manage our surroundings, and as we adapt to this new mode of life it is essential to also protect our psychological health. Dozens of internet sites and social media platforms are flooded with lists of tips and tricks to help us cope; the lists are so long that we end up being more confused, and very often just resist everything and sink into a mode of emotional and behavioral apathy. Our first line of defense is to binge on food, series, self-defeating thoughts, and maladaptive habits, encouraging us to surrender to anxiety and depression.

Victor Frankl wrote: “When we are no longer able to change a situation, we are challenged to change ourselves.” The best defense is to treat ourselves gently and develop daily routines that are as close as possible to any normal day. Wake up on time, take care of your health and hygiene, and set a plan for your day. Develop a schedule that creates a balance between work and study, do physical exercises, eat a three-meal healthy diet, and devote some of your time to a pleasurable hobby.

This is also an incredible opportunity to discover new interests. Check out drawing, gardening, crafts, and maybe cooking. Discover new relaxation techniques such a yoga, Tai Chi, and meditation that help your mind and body stay in shape. You can practically learn everything online through professional sites and YouTube videos.

Have you been buying books and hoarding them without finding the time to read? Now is your chance to enrich your knowledge and fantasy. Devote 30 minutes per day for reading a book, a timeless skill and cultural hobby.

According to Kaloyeros, the mass of information people receive about how to adapt to “a new mode of life” can leave them confused. 

In a nutshell, we are responsible for the reactions we have to these unpredictable and uncontrollable events. We are not responsible for the epidemic, but we are responsible for how we deal with it. We are responsible for insulating ourselves from this scary storm and for protecting ourselves until we overcome this ordeal.

Always count your blessings. Most of them are priceless, and they are the ultimate value of our lives and the essence of our existence.

  • Loulwa Kaloyeros has specialized in stress management at the Centre for Stress Management in London. As well as teaching at the Lebanese American University, she is an active coach and trainer, and has developed training programs for schools, banks, and other organizations. Her role with Stars of Science has seen her coach aspiring Arab innovators to handle stress and pressure since Season 6 of the show.

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