The formula to resist confinement by coronavirus

By José Antonio Muela Martínez, Jaen University

Huge amounts of money are spent on caring for those affected, as well as on their diagnosis and treatment. Research is invested to find a vaccine. And all this is necessary, essential, yes. But it's not enough.

After all, we don't have to fight one infection, but two. There is not one pathogen, but two. COVID-19 has a known contagion rate and incubation period, but the other infectious agent is much more contagious, faster, and more dangerous. It is fear.

It emerges before thoughts like: "They say that this disease will affect 70% of the population, I will surely be one of them." And how do I appease fear? Frequently giving a ineffective response. For example, I wear masks that do not protect me, but in exchange I limit their use to those who are really infected and need them. I can go to the supermarket with three trolleys to fill them with what is left of the chicken –which I don't like–, in addition to the whole shelf of yogurts –even though in the end I have to throw them away when they expire–, and, of course, all the toilet paper that be able to catch.

Another possibility that we are seeing these days is to react with a denial response. Take refuge in the "It won't happen to me" and take the family to the beach, because for that there is no school or face-to-face work. Or leave the children with the grandparents, who love them very much and don't care if the baby coughs a little. Or maybe organize a barbecue in my patio with all the neighbors because the bars have closed.

The real motivation comes from within

Luckily there is a third option: offer a proper response. How? All behavior responds well to an extrinsic motivation (we are forced from the outside: "either you eat the lentils or there is no video game console this afternoon") or to an intrinsic motivation (we force ourselves: "I have to continue studying hard if I want to get there to fulfill my dream of becoming a doctor ”).

The first is easier to implement, faster in the short term but more ineffective in the long term.

The second is more complex, slower in the short term but more effective in the long term. If I have to stay at home to avoid spreading the contagion and my motivation is extrinsic, I will fulfill it whenever I have an authority figure nearby. But if there is no authority present or I can cheat on it, I will leave home and spread the virus.

However, if my motivation to stay locked up is intrinsic, the authority will be myself. Staying at home will not be an imposition that I do not share, but a decision that I agree with although it bothers me. Escaping will not be a fun game, but an irresponsibility that I am not willing to commit simply because "I am not like that".

When a person does what he thinks is right, then he does not give up in the face of difficulties, he is able to resist pressure from other people and, in addition, he feels good about himself, because his self-esteem is strengthened.

Recipe for healthy quarantine

So I think the basis on which to base a "healthy" quarantine has the following ingredients:

Intrinsic motivation: “The idea of ​​staying at home may be from the authorities, but I am the one who decides to follow it. I am the one who agrees to comply with it ”.

Altruism: “It's not about hiding so I don't catch it. Perhaps it is already infected. It's about not spreading the infection. " Taking the accounts is easy: if I stay at home healthy, the infected will be zero; If I stay infected, there will only be one infected: me; If I go out healthy, I can catch it and I can spread the disease to other people, the number of people infected will be many, including me. What do I prefer?

Forecast: "I know I will need such food and medicine, so I have them ready." But I also know that I will have feelings that I have to prepare for:

– Uncertainty and fear for myself and my loved ones (some of whom I will not be able to see and that will make me feel sad);

– If the authorities increase the number of days of quarantine when we are already in it (which can happen although it is totally inadvisable), then I will feel deceived and mistrust who should trust me deeply;

– I will get bored of being at home all day, I will feel frustrated for not going out to do things that I feel like and that will make me more irritable;

– If I have transmitted the virus to someone, I will feel guilty …

A "psychological kit" To combat the epidemic of fear:

– Inform us daily (but not continuously) from reliable and official sources.

– Practice physical exercise: exercise bike, push-ups, going up and down steps, etc.

– Maintain communication with loved ones every day, preferably by videoconference.

– Carry out all those activities that we have never had time to do and that we always postpone (reading, music, watching series, painting, learning to cook, studying history …).

– Practice personal growth activities (relaxation, praying if you are a believer, meditation, sense of humor, gratitude, forgiveness).

Do the above every day, making it a routine.

José Antonio Muela Martínez, Full Professor Department of Psychology, University of Jaén

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.