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Why we need to be more gentle with our mental health and emotions during COVID-19.

Dea Mandija
4 min readMar 31, 2020


Expectations in ordinary circumstances can be an amazing thing. We can feed ourselves stories about future outlooks that inspire us, give us a purpose, a clear vision in who and what we want to become.

Nonetheless, throughout life, 9 out of 10 times, those expectations might not be met, and with that comes this sudden realisation that nothing you planned is going to be the same anymore.

It might be by being fired, learning you have a disease, the loss of a loved one or even the rise of a worldwide pandemic which leads to total humanity isolation.

That sudden annihilation of expectations can be terrifying.

You don’t know what the future holds anymore. Old coping mechanisms might be unavailable. The little story you’ve been telling yourself about how everything will turn out in a certain way in the end, is gone. Poof.

And the funny thing about expectations is that sometimes, you don’t even realise you had any until they’re being stripped away. Replaced by nothing in particular.

Living in this current COVID-19 climate isn’t easy, and we can all attest to that. Nor can it be fixed with simple pep talks, motivational quotes, or on the other spectrum, threats. It’s far more complex than making people feel bad for having any complaints or negative emotions because “all you need to do is stay inside you spoiled person”. It needs more dialogue and empathy. And here’s why:

We are not bonding socially like we’re accustomed to.

You know that amazing feeling you get after hugging someone quite tightly? As if all the bad in the world will disappear?

That’s because oxytocin is being released.

This hormone, sometimes known as the “cuddle” or the “love hormone,” (even though research suggests that it’s a bit more nuanced than just that ) is released when people snuggle up or bond socially.

And it’s not the only one associated with pleasure and happiness when we bond in various ways. We hug, kiss, dance, embrace each other because it feels good. Because our bodies crave that kind of connection.

As social creatures, we’re not used to being declined those needs in these drastic manners. Our brains need to get rid of old habits, like staying close to one another, or even holding hands, and that can be repulsive.

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Our emotions are on a high-speed drive.

We’re not just feeling angry and confused. That would be manageable. It’s literally a rollercoaster of ups and downs, with swings from high to low. There are moments where we feel blissfully free by it and moments where we’re actually drowning in it.

As you might know, the five stages of grief include:

Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression, and Acceptance.

And this is what our bodies might be going through. We’re trying to mourn the loss of our past lives, habits, and most importantly, expectations.

There’s a cycle in this cocktail of emotions as well.

We go from feeling bad about ourselves and how our lives are changing, to guilty because other people might be on the front line risking their lives. To hopeful because humanity is all in it together, fighting! To confused because what kind of future will there actually be?… and the cycle repeats itself. Sometimes all in the same day.

Treat yourself as you would your inner child.

With all of that being said, I’m not a fan of simple “motivational threads” and “just think positively” mindsets. Those more often than not trigger the exact opposite of what they’re supposed to. What I do believe in is practicality, especially when it comes to taking care of oneself.

It’s good that these throwback challenges of people sharing their pictures of when they were younger are circling around. You’re going to need them for this.

Whenever you feel like neglecting your basic needs (be them physical or mental) during this period, I want you to take a look at the younger you, your inner child.

Would you not feed them all day properly due to stress or workload? Would you tell your little childlike self how everything is going to end up badly?

No, hopefully, if you aren’t psychotic, you wouldn’t. Legalities aside.

You would feed your child, bathe it, congratulate it for the small achievements. You would tuck your child in bed and tell him or her a story about how humans lived to survive and overcome another day.

In the end, we’re all just big kids that need looking after, one way or another.

Healing means rewiring your brain and changing thought patterns. And that is difficult, especially since we’re creatures of patterns.

It’s difficult to take these steps of self-care and regard when you can see the world around you crumbling. People are losing loved ones, jobs, and themselves. Our communities have changed so suddenly.

Specialised language like “self-isolation” and “social-distancing” is integrating into everyday language, and that’s a sign of a big shift in our human story.

But we need hope. We need each other to stay safe, mindful and optimistic about what shall come, even if it’s just remotely or digitally. Togetherness as a word has a vibrant sound to it. That’s how we experience it all, the good and the bad.

So please, take care of yourself, to contribute to a new future that is being built right before our eyes, with uncertainties, warts and all. And all the annoying people on twitter and Instagram aside, do stay inside.

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