Our country, and the world, is in the midst of dealing with the Corona virus outbreak. Starting in China, it has spread around the world tremendously quickly and the actual number of sick people is not really known as figures of mortality are based on the number of people actually tested and confirmed to have the disease. The seriousness of the pandemic necessitated the lock-down. Our government is responding fast and efficiently as information comes in. Travel from other countries to Uganda has since been suspended to slow the contagion. Schools were closed, gatherings cancelled and the stress levels of many people are going up.
Right now, we are adjusting to an entirely new set of parameters for our lives. Virtually every person will have some aspect affected – work, school, entertainment, social etc. This uncertainty, and the rapidity with which these events are unfolding, can create stress and conflict as we attempt to adjust. Because it is so widespread without symptoms there is not a way to determine how long this may take. Here are a few steps we can take to avoid or even lessen conflict at home:
- Acceptance – not panic! First of all, accept that it is what it is. The pandemic is here, it’s real, and it’s killing masses, yet no known cure has been found. The only way to curb down it’s spread is staying at home. Take many smaller steps to prepare for self-quarantine if you haven’t already. Meaning, don’t play victim as we are all as affected than anyone else. We all are in this together so let’s work towards making the best out of lockdown, regardless of the circumstances. Acceptance can help lessen your personal stress tremendously.
- Make family time memorable: Whether we like it or not we are stuck together for the next unforeseeable future. We might as well make it work. I am lucky to be with company that I enjoy so I am having the vacation of my life. We have created a timetable for what to do each day and the bonding is priceless. Revamping childhood games is one of those, just to show our young ones that there was life before phones and gadgets. From baking cookies with the young ones, sharing relationship advise and stories with my sisters, to watching movies all day, we are deciding together—and having fun doing it.
- Workout together. Avoid focusing on the problem, it only becomes bigger because you give it the best of your time and attention, instead, get your body and brain in synch by working out, start by walking and playing with your children or spouse at home, and if you can add in a workout routine to keep your body fit, it produces endorphins, chemicals in the brain that act as natural pain killers and also improves your ability to sleep and reduce stress and generally creates a happy and healthy environment. For instance, we commence our day with a morning workout then plan what to do during the day. In the evenings we go for a 30-minute walk and return to playing cards, freshen up and dinner. This makes us look forward to the next day’s activities.
- Reach out to others, it heals them as much as it does you. Often, when your focus is only on your own issues, they become disproportionately greater – reach out to others to offer whatever help you can. A day in our timetable is dedicated to checking up on relatives and how they are dealing with this pandemic and the safety measures they are taking. We are getting to know our new neighbors with precaution of course, sharing insights on life and businesses. Talking about it helps lessen any anxieties you may experience. Stress and fear are the fuel that conflict needs to survive, try to mitigate these. The spirit of community is a significant balm to stress and conflict.
- Address conflict as it arises. Especially in times as tense as these, small issues take on outsize importance and can be very damaging. Understand and acknowledge that just as you may be experiencing stress – other people will be as well. Everyone is bringing their own personal issues with them as they face this situation. Extend extra grace to people you deal with who may not be handling it well.
- Take care of yourself and your family. Follow the CDC guidelines. Wash your hands rigorously. Keep your hands away from your face. Clean your home more than usual. Be your brother’s keeper and smile! It gets contagious. Being proactive will make you feel more in control of the situation.
Finally, take a deep breath. This too shall pass. #Stay home, stay safe, stay informed
(“Bladda” was a childhood game where two people held a rubber rope and the player jumped in and out of it at different lengths; “kwepena/nobo” is dodge-ball; “Bullshit” is a card game where each player calls out another’s bluff for lying.)
(Contributions from my lock-down mates: Comfort Mulomi (BA Organizational Psychology), Buerine Nicholet Namukose (BA Quantitative Economics) & Urthor Tendo Matovu (Beloved Teen))