Pandemic - Personality and Coping Mechanism

Before I get into the subject of my article, I would like to mention that today is a public holiday in more than 80 countries that observe International Worker’s Day or May Day. Here in France, May 1st is known as “Workers Day of International Unity and Solidarity.”

As a freelance English language teacher, my livelihood was destroyed by COVID 19 on March 13. None in my family and social circles have asked me how I have been coping financially. It is most likely because they are concern more about my health than non-existing wealth. As well, money is a pet peeve for many of us.

There have been tens of thousands of deaths around the world, and I do not have words to describe the sorrow of their families and friends. I can only contribute to the discussion about this pandemic’s economic and psychological impacts, as I have lived it.

According to the United Nations (UN), the four sectors that have experienced the most “drastic” effects of the disease are: retail and wholesale (482 million workers); manufacturing (463 million); business services and administration (157 million); and food and accommodation (144 million). I belong to the third group. The UN ILO chief stated these four sectors “add up to 37.5 per cent of global employment, and these are where the ‘sharp end’ of the impact of the pandemic is being felt now (cf ''COVID-19: impact could cause equivalent of 195 million job losses, says ILO chief'' in UN News).

If you want a detailed analysis of this issue, you can visit ''COVID-19: Economic impact, human solutions'' (by Edward Lempinen, Berkeley News) and ''COVID-19: Implications for business – Executive Briefing'' (in McKinsey & Company).

Regardless of whether or not you have lost income during this period, we are all in the same boat when it comes to social distancing to avoid the spread of coronavirus. Our personalities, predicaments and interests, which are different from one person to another, determine how we respond to social isolation. Logically, one would think that introverts come out better than extroverts in this situation because they enjoy being alone. Well, I belong to the latter, and I am doing all right.

Since the lockdown in March (the French government has announced that this will be lifted on May 17), I have written a novel; improved the full draft of a non-fiction book; participated in 4 online chess tournaments; made about 300 pancakes; and baked a dozen apple and banana cakes. As well, I have Zoomed, Whatsapped and Skyped with friends and relatives in three continents; done lone aerobics while watching movies at least 20 times; and consumed two tubes of hand cream to appease my itchy and red hands due to over washing and sanitising.

Prof Luke Smillie and Prof Nick Haslam, in their article published in The Conversation on 9/04/20, have this to say:

  • Differences in extraversion-introversion emerge in early life are relatively stable over the lifespan. They influence how we respond to environments.
  • In a recent study, extraverts and introverts were asked to spend a week engaging in higher levels of extravert-typical behaviour (being talkative, sociable, etc.). Extraverts enhanced their mood and feelings of authenticity. Conversely, introverts experienced no benefits and reported feeling tired and irritable.
  • Research shows people who are emotionally stable, self-reliant and autonomous, goal-oriented, friendly, patient and open tend to cope better in conditions of extreme isolation.
  • A counterpoint to the so-called loneliness epidemic is the study of "aloneliness", the negative emotions many experience as a result of insufficient time spent alone. (Anthony Storr – "A return to the self, solitude can be as therapeutic as emotional support, and the capacity to be alone is as much a form of emotional maturity as the capacity to form close attachments").

Irrespective of personality differences, we should be patient yet purposeful, self-reliant but banding together, and optimistic thinking globally while acting locally. (The big five personality traits are openness, agreeableness, extraversion, neuroticism and conscientiousness).

Let us continue to respect scientists’, medical professionals’ and sane governments’ advice on ways to stay safe and healthy.

(This article also appears in my website Rolade Societal Blog - roladesocietalblog.com)

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