Societal Pressures Around COVID and How to Focus on Positivity
We've been buckling under peer pressure since the start of lockdown. There are good and bad things that we've felt the pressure to do, either knowingly or subconsciously. The unnecessary hoarding of pasta and loo roll quickly became something we all did when presented the opportunity. Most of us were baking bread or growing tomato plants because everyone on social media was. We tapped into a more natural way of living - making food from scratch, growing vegetables etc. - which was rather lovely. Now, though, the societal pressures attached with COVID seem to be far more dangerous. Both to our mental and our physical health.
It feels as though we are judged if we do follow the rules and if we don't. Either way, the fear of judgement means we are invariably trying to navigate the correct social etiquette during a pandemic. It's exhausting. And, 'with no immediate end in sight, many people have experienced increased pressure (or desire) to engage'  in social activities. We need to remember that 'everyone is dealing with a different set of pressures and circumstances... and while we want life to return to normal, certain social gatherings increase the risk' . This guide will help you to combat societal pressures and focus on positivity.
Set Your Boundaries
Peer pressure is hard to combat. And, it feels impossible to shake the fear of judgement. The most important thing right now is trying to battle this virus whilst keeping yourself and others safe.
- Unsure of what to do? Look at the government website or go to Simple Politics on social media, they summarise everything clearly and concisely.
- If you feel pressure from friends to go to the pub and it doesn't sit right with you, then don't go. We're in a pandemic! They will understand.
- Some of your friends might be living as though life is back to normal. If that makes you uncomfortable, try talking to them about it. And, set your boundaries so that you can ensure your safety.
- You might feel safe bubbling with a friend or two. After all, they're your closest friends, and you trust them. Just remember that your 'bubble' is never as small as you think it is; people you spend time with inevitably spend time with other people, and those people with others, and so on. Consider the risks before you break the rules.
- And, don't judge friends or family who are not following the guidelines. Focus on what you are doing and what you can control.
The most important thing to remember is that whilst other people might feel content bending the rules, your comfort is your call. People might tease you for sticking to the guidelines, or get upset if you don't go to social gatherings. But, 'your boundaries are not up for debate' .
There are some circumstances where you should put other people's feelings above your own. You might hate wearing a mask, but unless you have a medical condition which makes you exempt, you absolutely should wear one. When shopping, wear a mask and keep your distance from others. For their safety as much as for your own.
The person in front of you in a queue, for example, might keep looking back at you and appear uncomfortable. You might be too close to them, check your distance and step back if possible. You might feel completely safe, but for a lot of people, this pandemic is terrifying. It's easy to forget its severity if we haven't suffered from it, or if we don't personally know anyone who has. So be considerate, and prioritise being safe.
Keeping physically healthy and trying not to catch the virus has consumed us, and it seems we have neglected our mental health as a consequence. Take this article as your prompt to change that.
- 'Savour the small moments' : Small joys always surround us. 'The smell of coffee, the feel of the warm shower on your back and so on' . Take a moment to enjoy them; it will boost your serotonin levels and elevate your mood.
- Own it: Take ownership of how you experience this pandemic. Enjoy the amount of time your spending with your family, or in your home. Similar to the above, find those small joys, and embrace them. If you convince yourself that this will be the worst experience ever, then you'll set yourself up for an internal battle. Alter your mindset, say it will be okay, and you ease the stress of it slightly.
- 'Limit your intake' : Filling your free time by watching news channels, or over-researching the pandemic, will drive you mad. You'll feel overwhelmed by it all. By all means, you should stay up to date with the guidelines, but limit how long you spend doing that every day.
- 'Random acts' : It's easy to forget that we aren't alone, that everyone is all experiencing the same thing. Practice random acts of kindness, and spread some positivity in your community. Send a kind letter to a friend, or leave a thank you note for your postie or bin collectors. You don't have to spend any money to spread kindness. It could be as simple as sharing your friends latest work on social media. 'Think of those who could benefit from your thoughtfulness and generosity. Then act.'  It will make you feel good, too.
- Gratitude: At the end of the day, write down a 'positive acknowledgement of something you accomplished, learned or are grateful for' . It ensures that focus on the positive things, and it will 'dilute some of the negativity you've absorbed' .
- Let it out: We will all have days where the weight of this pandemic takes its toll. And, that's okay. Nobody is expecting you to come out of this completely fine. When you start to feel rough or are struggling, talk to someone about it. Let it out of your system. You will feel better for it.
We are all trying to find our feet with how to navigate this pandemic. Pat yourself on the back, you're doing a great job so far. Focus on making sure you feel comfortable and safe in social situations, set your boundaries, and try to remain positive. We'll get through this the other side.
- Authority U of WH and C. Staying Safe and Managing Social Pressures During the Pandemic [Internet]. UW Health. [cited 2020 Oct 20].
- Waters L. Silver linings: how to stay positive during the coronavirus crisis. The Guardian [Internet]. 2020 Mar 17
- Arruda W. 9 Ways To Stay Positive During The Coronavirus Pandemic [Internet]. Forbes. 2020 [cited 2020 Oct 20].