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Life on Coronavirus Lockdown in Denmark: How I am coping with anxiety

by Judy Wanjiku Jørgensen

It is day 11 of the COVID-19-coronavirus pandemic lockdown in Denmark. I can feel my head spacing out. My palms are sweaty, and my breath is quickening. I close my eyes and take deep breathes. Beside me is my six-year-old, calling, nagging me for the umpteenth time. We take a 10-minute break from the homeschooling project of the day.

The spread of the novel Coronavirus- COVID-19 in Denmark has been rapid. Globally, the number of infections, as of today, stands at 358,082. As of today, there are 1,450 cases of infections in Denmark. A lockdown was set in motion on March 13, by the Danish government as an aggressive measure of mitigating the spread of COVID-19. This move aims at slowing the onslaught of coronavirus, and possible overloading of the healthcare system.

Being on a lockdown means that I am dabbling between being a mother and teacher: two demanding roles. The tension escalates in my mind, and I am about to snap, but I look into my son’s glassy eyes and breathe. “Mama, needs a break,” I implore. “Mama needs a breather. Ok?”  This is another moment to practice mindful motherhood. We are in a new territory of homeschooling, brought about by the coronavirus lockdown. And like most uncharted territories, there is a fine line between perfection and survival. When homeschooling in quarantine isolation, sanity takes precedence.

Catastrophizing coronavirus leads to more panic

Before the lockdown in Denmark, we all thought coronavirus was a distant novelty. Unbeknownst to us, the pandemic would soon bring our lives to a stand-still. Despite the information of rising coronavirus infections, life before the lockdown continued unabated. To some extent, one might say that there was a collective sense of compassion fatigue: A coping mechanism of sorts.

Now the unthinkable is here. The COVID-19 pandemic has brought the world as we knew it has stood still. Schedules and routines are turned upside down. Social distancing, self-quarantine, cancelled events have become new realities.

Having suffered from depression before, I know the global gloom spread by coronavirus is fodder for panic and anxiety. I am aware of how the cognitive distortion of catastrophizing thinking works. Ruminating on the fear of catching coronavirus is both rational and irrational.

Furthermore, as a mother, I have to yield questions from my sons. From why they can’t go outside, have playdates, go to school or attend sports.

Without catastrophizing the future outcome, I can parent without creating more fear. I can reassure my children, and myself, that we are not on the precipice of mass extinction or a zombie apocalypse. The world may never be as we knew it before the coronavirus/COVID-19 pandemic.

We can assuage fear by looking at this pandemic as a moment to rewrite history. When we do get through this challenging time, I hope we will have a newfound appreciation for our planet. It could become our second nature to think outside ourselves and embrace more empathy.

Decide what you feed to your fears

The constant bombardment of coronavirus news is suffocating. It is impossible to surf the internet or TV without hearing about rising causalities and infections. My son’s cough and skin hives could not have picked a worse time to surface. The rational part of my brain knows that kids are virus incubators. But irrational fear would have me believe that this is more than an ordinary cough. I always keep my children home when they are sick, so why is this time any different?

By validating my fears and worries, I can go about doing what’s healthy for my family and my sanity. That means I can feed my fears the daily dose of need to know non-alarmist information. I am sticking to facts and steering away from fake news and conspiracy theories.

To feel less anxious, I choose to focus on helpful worries. Like making sure everyone has enough mental and physical stimulation. Meeting proper nutritional needs and keeping in contact with friends and family. Fear is sometimes healthy. Fear is a gift that makes us takes self-quarantine seriously and only venture outside only when necessary. We limit our shopping trips to absolute necessity.

It always gets worse before it gets better

The nationwide quarantine is creating massive health and economic predicaments. My husband is not only worrying about his job but that his company is going to lose 20 per cent or more of its customers. Many of whom will go bankrupt as a result of the economic downturn. In the same breath, he sees this as a chance for his company to reinvent and grow. It is interesting to see how the Danish culture is approaching this predicament.

Trust is a cornerstone of the Danish culture. So far, people are willing to adhere to self-quarantine and social distancing. While the COVID-19 pandemic is causing unfathomable uncertainty and fear, it is our response that will determine how fast the virus will keep spreading or die out. We all need to be rational and not buy into the fear.

If I do my part, and you do yours, the statistics might be different by April 31st, when the lockdown ends. Please adhere to personal and respiratory hygiene. Stay at home as much as you can.

Coronavirus is not a respecter of persons. It doesn’t care about your race, religion, wealth or health. With this in mind, it is crucial to follow all the precautions set up to help stall the virus. Think outside yourself, and be considerate of others.

So, as I enter another week of the Coronavirus lockdown in Denmark, I am embracing the uncertainty and being ok with it. There will be discomfort and readjustment. But this is also an opportunity to reconnect, ground ourselves, and be present.

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