Is the Fear of COVID-19 Going to Rule Us?

Alcohol, mask, and gloves; the essentials to go out of home these days.

Alcohol, mask, and gloves; the essentials to go out of home these days.

Carolina Mira, Copy Editor

For the past couple of months, we have been social distancing. We have taken these measures for our own protection, but have you ever wondered what is the root of our self-preservation? Let me tell you, as humans, we are ruled by fear. It is an automatic response from our bodies that is meant to protect us. Right now one of the biggest fears is getting infected by the quickly spreading virus, COVID-19. Everyone has taken every measure to ensure their safety during this time of uncertainty. We have used and bought everything from gloves, masks, antibacterial, and alcohol, but all of that isn’t enough, we have also distanced ourselves from everyone. We are all terrified of this virus because we have no idea how to cure it or who it is going to affect.

Throughout our lives, we have learned all about the social norms in our cultures that made us seem polite or expressed that we cared about someone, everything was about physical contact. Like shaking someone’s hand when you meet them, or a kiss on the cheek to say hello. According to Maria del Rosario Reyes, organizational psychologist, “We need to find new ways to interact so that we don’t lose that feeling of affiliation and to reaffirm it.” When meeting someone new, we tend to always look at the way they greet us and the way that they express themselves in order to identify if you like that person or not; its basic human instinct. “Humans are social by nature and they need to develop those skills and to feel like they are a part of a group or society,” Reyes said. Right now, what should we do? The norms will clearly change, the fear of touching someone and getting infected will always be in our minds when we now greet strangers or friends, we will never be sure. There is also the possibility that people will misinterpret something that was deemed normal in the past. It is a difficult situation since physical contact helps us establish relationships, it can either give us comfort and positivity or fear and doubtfulness.   

Fear is an unavoidable stage of human life, we all feel fear and discomfort. It is a coping and defense mechanism of our bodies, it ensures that we can protect ourselves from danger. This is called a flight or fight response. We all react differently to fear but, for most, during COVID-19 our levels of fear are higher. As I have seen, since quarantine started, people in grocery stores refuse to walk down an aisle that has more than 2 or 3 people on it because they are afraid that one of them is contagious. But I’ve seen others that go there without gloves or mask and the first thing I think of is, “are they crazy?” They are being selfish and naive, thinking that they won’t get infected or they really don’t care if they do or if they infect others.

For me, it has been the opposite, I can’t help but think if I’m infected as soon as I get home, frightened that someone transmitted the virus, I can’t help but feel dirty making me take a shower immediately. Even when I don’t leave my home I tend to wash my hands five times as much as I did before, scared that some product we bought had the virus. Often when I go to the grocery store to get the essentials, I bring them home and leave them outside until either my mom or sister comes with antibacterial wipes and alcohol so that we can disinfect product by product. After, I have to change all of my clothing and leave my shoes outside, immediately washing them since the virus can live in fabric for a couple of hours. This paranoia of getting a disease is affecting every mundane task that we do and since everyone is talking about it it is impossible to get it out of our minds.

Even though we might be driven by fear right now, one way or another, humans will have to find a  way to get back that physical contact because it is a necessary interaction for animals. “Human contact increases the endorphins that are being released by our bodies, it gives us a sense of wellbeing,” Reyes said. We are used to having that contact in every situation, whether it is out of joy, comfort, or many others, we still need it. 

Although we will find a way to restore that contact, the transition will be very hard. At least it has been for me, I don’t know what to consider normal anymore. We live right next door to both my uncle’s family and to my grandparents. Recently we all gathered to celebrate Mother’s day but when the six people that were coming started to arrive, I immediately felt uncomfortable. I started to greet my aunt, we both leaned in to give each other a kiss in the cheek but immediately we both remembered that we couldn’t, it was inconsiderate to do something that once felt so normal.   

“Humans have two options in this kind of situation they either paralyze or they evolve. Throughout history, we have seen that in every scenario of crisis there have been opportunities for people to be more creative and for them to reinvent. But there is also fear, and at this moment it is ruled by uncertainty and our thoughts guided by the paranoia of contagion,” Reyes said.