[Op-Ed] | Dr. Renee Carr
June 20, 2021
Psychological Stages of COVID-19
From denial to anxiety… to shock and fear…to acceptance and boredom…to settled and relaxed…to curious and reflective…to engaged and aware…to uncertain but determined.
This is the psychological process most Americans experienced from February 2020 through May 2021 during the pandemic. Many also experienced depression. Others experienced relief.
The COVID-19 emotional roller coaster was similar to the Kübler-Ross Five Stages of Grief. According to Kübler-Ross, when a person experiences the death or dying of a loved one, grief will be in five stages: Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression, and Acceptance.
Acceptance of being quarantined brought boredom, but we eventually settled into the changes and began calling this life, “the new normal”. This label was an unconscious psychological defense to cope with losing the life we had.
But what should we do with this NEW life?
After each home found a solution for the toilet tissue crisis and stocked-up on hand sanitizer and masks, many wondered, “Now, what do I do?”
The CARES Act provided financial relief for individuals and businesses negatively impacted by the coronavirus. Direct economic impact payments and extended unemployment benefits gave many individuals the unique opportunity to answer the question, “What would you do if you didn’t have to pay bills?”
Happiness and COVID-19
Happiness studies consistently show that once a person’s basic needs are met, there is no significant increase in happiness. More money does not bring more happiness.
Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs offers the same lesson. According to the theory, humans have five categories of needs: physiological, safety, love, esteem, and self-actualization. Once a lower need is sufficiently met, people will start to experience a higher need.
With stimulus payments, a moratorium on home foreclosures and evictions, car loan deferments, and other COVID-19 financial considerations, many individuals were able to worry less about their basic physiological and safety needs. They progressed to higher level needs of belonging and esteem.
Did the Pandemic Make Our Life Better?
Being isolated from loved ones and friends yet quarantined with immediate family members made us value (or value more) belongingness.
We also began to recognize and reflect upon our value to others and the world. This progression to the need for self-actualization inspired many to re-evaluate their life before the “new normal”.
With the disruption of our day-to-day routine, we were forced from a hamster wheel life and became more engaged in what will excite us enough to get out of bed or off the couch. We became aware of our need to do more with our lives – and we now had the time and financial relief to do it.
The continually rising number of COVID-related deaths made living much more precious.
How each day is lived began to matter more.
Some began to question their career choice. Others began to reconsider their choice of employer or questioned employment all together. Many remembered repressed dreams and some resented roles or responsibilities that deprived them of what – and who – now mattered most.
Working from home provided a sense of freedom for many employees and contractors. Those realizing a need for greater freedom summoned the courage to pursue a passion or idea. Some re-downloaded college applications or dusted off old business plans.
With a newfound time for creativity and reflection, the birth of new products and businesses soared. There was a 24% increase in business start-ups, from 3.5 million in 2019 to 4.4 million in 2020.
The United Nations reported an unprecedented global increase in the number of e-solutions and e-products created. The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office experienced a substantial increase in not only new trademark applications but also applications to revive abandoned trademarks and patents.
The self-actualized desire to live a more fulfilling life and achieve true work-life balance is the underlying reason so many employees are choosing to quit their 9 to 5’s.
It’s the cause of our renewed appreciation for belonging. It’s what has caused many of us to desire both quality and quantity of time with loved ones; and the psychological motivation for the soar in charitable giving despite economic uncertainty.
The pandemic stole so much from us. Yet, it also gave to us.
So, as we say “goodbye pandemic” we also say “thank you”. We hate that you stole our loved ones, businesses, savings, and comfort. You stole irreplaceable milestones like prom and witnessing babies being born.
But you also gave us a chance to breathe, re-evaluate, and start-over. You taught us to savor small things like seeing a smile.
Because of you, we are not certain of tomorrow, but we are determined to make it meaningful.