“Freedom is like health, it is taken for granted while one has it. One becomes aware of it when it has gone.”—Henry Wallich (German-American economist and central banker)
This quote is probably the best way to describe, in hindsight, the view and feeling of many whose lives have been upheaved by the COVID-19 pandemic.
From physical distancing, the wearing of masks, the shutdown of recreational spaces to lockdown and the stay-at-home order—freedom and social life as we once knew it has drastically changed, stolen by a microbe, whose end, no one really knows or can predict just yet.
Globally people have been taking to social media, seemingly the only forum for some sort of sense of social gathering, sharing their stories of how the social restrictions caused by the virus have impacted them. Multiple videos are posted daily of activities which families, couples and others are doing in their homes to make life lighter and less frustrating at this time.
Guardian Media did a social media poll asking people what they missed and what they thought they might have taken for granted pre-COVID-19. The results revealed, quite commonly, they sorely missed the simpler things in life that made their freedom worthwhile, but also what they might have underappreciated.
These effortless things included hugs, hanging out with friends, going for drives, visiting family, dining, taking a walk, going to church, standing in fewer lines at the grocer’s cashier rather than the long lines now required just to get in, and many longed for the opportunity to spend a day at the beach again—an element not many can recreate at home.
What people miss
Archie El Damian: "Going for walks, whenever I feel like it."
Melissa Ochoa wrote, "I never took much for granted but I miss the beach and restaurants. I was missing going to church but not any more. I'm disappointed in most reactions to crises in some churches. Not all. I am the church. Where I am we fellowship."
Roberta Rose-Collins misses going to the beach. "For me, that’s more of a self-care activity than anything else. I rarely go into the water, but love walking on the sand and soaking up the energy of the ocean.
"I am not sure I took it for granted, because I was always grateful that I live on an island where quality beaches with true blue water and clean white sand, is just a few minutes from my home in any direction. But I definitely miss it.
"If I were in Anguilla now, I would have at least had the opportunity to replenish my soul with a beach walk, despite COVID-19.
Riyadh Mohammed: "Freedom to take that drive to anywhere."
Lisa Beckles said: "Visits to my dad in the home where he is, my hairdresser, and going to church."
Ruby Williams, "I miss hugging my grandchildren.
Alicia Cooper: "I actually miss work."
Giselle Nicola Jones: "Visits with family, we are a close-knit family so we spend a lot of time together, so it's been rough."
Choc Diamond: "I miss the feeling of freedom! I miss going to the gym, taking a walk around the savannah, and not having to wear a face covering."
Kay Greenidge: "I miss my students not being able to be in touch with those who don't have phones, not knowing if they have food or if they're safe..."
Desiree Diaz: "I’m missing going to run in the mornings and gym in the evenings. So I have to be looking for activities at home just to keep moving."
Anessa Simone Hamilton Legen: "I'm a hugger. Social distancing has been tough. I miss running by my parents and big family gatherings."
Abiola Sampson: "Miss going out for cocktails and having the option of not cooking."
Krystal Jack: "Sports! This is the season for cricket. I miss my team, the suspense of each game, the joy, the camaraderie, and the entertainment..."
Tracey Michelle Gomez: "I miss travelling. The opportunity to be outdoors and enjoy nature, particularly the poui at this time of the year."
Aiesha Oliver: "I miss outings with my kids, beach, restaurants, pools, malls. I feel trapped."
Salma Moh: "I miss us being able to go to the beach, fly a kite, the pool, etc. We are an outdoors family...this has limited us greatly...kind of depressing honestly..."
Debra Graham: "Miss being with family and friends. What I took for granted as I live pay cheque to pay cheque, not fighting hard to save."
Alicia Thomas: "I miss not being able to go out as I want. It's just work and home, the grocery if I need to stock up. I miss not having all the stores open to shop. Other than that, I'm good by God’s grace."
Sarah L Romero: "I miss my financial independence because I can’t work."
Joyce John: "I miss going out with my son. Dinner, beach, movies and just going further than work."
Silvern Nora: "Peace of mind, I took simple things for granted. Being able to see someone sneeze and not panic, taking a walk, and other simple affection. You never miss the water till the well runs dry indeed."
Anna-Maria Seemungal: "I miss Nature. I miss hiking to beaches, rivers, and waterfalls. I miss my hiking crew. I miss seeing new places and I miss taking out pictures of those places and things on the treks."
Shelly-Ann Seeram: "I have to appreciate my health and wellness especially. I miss my peace of mind, where I don't have to worry or be paranoid about a fatal disease. I miss making a stress-free, trauma-free trip to the pharmacy and supermarket. I am paranoid since the night before. I have sleepless nights. I miss going to these places without suiting up for a battle with an invisible opponent...Too much stress and trauma."
Rea Eva Johnson: "I miss going to the mall, beach, cinema, restaurants, and travelling out of the country, and I miss my students. I miss my mother, sister, niece, and all my family. We went from seeing each other every other week in real life to just seeing each other in video calls. I miss Eddie Hart savannah."
Angie Sookdeo: "I'm a front-line worker ... I miss not being able to be up close and personal with my clients in their most vulnerable time. Labour and childbirth are hands-on, now there are so many restrictions implemented."
Behavioural therapist speaks
We engaged behavioural therapist Judy Joseph-Mc Sween to assess the responses by poll participants for commonalities and other specifics. She also looked at how this experience would cause behavioural changes post-COVID-19, at an individual and social level.
Joseph-Mc Sween referred to the American psychologist Abraham Maslow’s hierarchy of needs theory, which comprised a five-tier model of human needs—physiological, safety, love and belonging, esteem, and self-actualisation. (SEE SIDE BAR).
Speaking on participant’s overall need to enjoy the simpler things in life again, Joseph-Mc Sween explained that in Maslow’s theory of human motivation, he identifies that human beings are motivated by unsatisfied needs and that certain lower needs need to be satisfied before higher needs can be satisfied. "Satisfying needs is healthy, while preventing gratification makes us sick or act evilly," she said.
"If we look at these needs in the context of the current COVID-19, for each of us, some combination of these needs is not being adequately met. More significantly, for all of us, our desire for safety (the second need) is not being fully met. A reminder that certain lower needs need to be satisfied before higher needs can be satisfied."
She said people’s response to this unknown and uncertain pandemic was an amalgamation of anxiety and fear, as a portion of the brain known as the amygdala secretes increasing levels of cortisol causing people to enter into what is commonly termed the "fight, flight or freeze mode.”
She explained this anxiety was further aggravated by the absence of familiar routines.
"The presence of a lockdown and physical distancing means the familiar are absent—no hug, no gym, no bar, no beach or no mall, no love and belonging (third need)," Joseph-Mc Sween said.
"We have each developed rhythms that assist us in manoeuvring our daily bouts of anxiety and fear. This rhythm of activities stimulates another part of the brain—the prefrontal cortex, that secretes oxytocin, thereby countering the impact of the cortisol, restoring a sense of focus, clarity, peace, and presence. Being fully present to nature’s rhythms heightens the production of oxytocin—the ebb and flow of the tide, sunrise and sunset, the birds at dawn, the insects at night."
She said currently, the ultimate craving by everyone affected by the social complications associated with and caused by COVID-19, was for the restoration of that sense of peace, that accompanies the knowledge that needs have been met.
"I encourage all, rather than waiting for post-COVID-19, we begin to seek new rhythms, form new relationships and embrace the wisdom that arises in silence," Joseph-Mc Sween recommended.
BOX in fine print
1. Physiological--basic physical needs like drinking when thirsty or eating when hungry.
2. Safety--a need for safe and predictable environments and typically react with fear or anxiety when these are not met. Safety needs are more apparent in emergency situations
3.Love and belonging--feeling loved and accepted. This need includes both romantic relationships as well as ties to friends and family members. It also includes our need to feel that we belong to a social group.
4.Esteem--desire to feel good about ourselves. According to Maslow, esteem needs include two components. The first involves feeling self-confidence and feeling good about oneself. The second component involves feeling valued by others; that is, feeling that our achievements and contributions have been recognised by other people.
5.Self-Actualisation--feeling fulfilled, or feeling that we are living up to our potential.