Impact of COVID-19 on the hierarchy of needs

We are all familiar with Maslow and his hierarchy of needs. Well during this time, such a hierarchy of needs are directly impacted by the virus. The infiltration of the virus may have led to the collapse of such a hierarchy. We know from a theoretical perspective that very few people lived up to the esteemed hierarchy of needs. This may bring a sense of reliefs to some…

Phew…less expectations to live up to!

Yet, if we have a closer look at the basis of the collapsed hierarchy of needs, we may become aware of intertangled multicoloured wool with various threads… these threads may be our physical needs, our emotional needs, our social needs, our education needs, our financial needs and spiritual needs.

Reflecting on what happened over the period of the last two months, in Africa
and much longer in other parts of the world we become aware of:

Suddenly physical distancing is required. Although those that are healthy within the household could touch and hold one another, although physical is not advised. Physical contact with others is suddenly a deadly sin and contravention of legislation. Personal space becomes so important. Yet, our bodies are withheld to make contact with others. Connection and contact forms part of the essential needs to flourish. In discussions with others, the message is overwhelming…Technology does not cross the divide and provide in people’s need for physical contact.

Another stress point may be schooling and education. Although parents and students may be keen to “not fall behind”, it is a contentious point because what about the safety of everyone. They have and have not’s, structural injustice and inequity become much more pronounced. Other than basic needs, basic rights are being affected.

Providing for your family and homeschooling is another ball game altogether. Not being able to earn an income, worry about putting food on the table, again creates stress and uncertainty. People want to work, yet they may fear moving into a positive relationship with the virus. Tension builds up. Organisations on the other hand, if they are not prepared to re-adjust their goals and performance targets, may place more pressure on people to perform and deliver. Financial survival may shift into the foreground. CCMA may be flooded by retrenchments, where organisations want to be profitable, doing more with less. All these movements create and emphasize vulnerability. Burn out may become more pronounced in the workplace.

People may really find it challenging to make sense of what is going on. This may lead to a sense of feeling “lost at sea”, where people may not feel that they can’t make sense of life. In such times, some people may look to make sense of life through a spiritual lens, where they look to a power outside of themselves to hold things together. For some people, this may be within and outside of religion as a container, for other people it may be “finding the goodness in life/beauty/nature”.

Emotionally, people are struggling to feel emotionally connected. They experience a myriad of conflicting emotions. A variety of different emotions are visiting, for example, uncertainty, irritation, frustration, anger, loss of control and loss in general. People’s perceptions of the world, their basic belief system of how life should be are severely challenged.

Whether living in physical and social isolation or being thrown under the same roof within a constricted space turns up the emotional heat of the emotional pressure cooker. Emotional pressure is mounting. Some people living in a relationship with mental health conditions may experience the mounting pressure, much more intense than those that have a remote and distant relationship with mental health conditions. The fact that you have to put on a mask, maybe a contentious point, as some people may have a very negative association with masks, as it may relate back to traumatic events. The mere idea of masks may re-traumatise people, yet it is a requirement for living. In
other situations, where people are living in a relationship with a specific condition, they may experience that the condition is closing in on them, and they feel like it is infiltrating their whole life. In other situations, where people had to go without cigarettes some ended up at the doctor due to withdrawal symptoms and they became very ill; some reverted to buying cigarettes illegally; some may struggle with the expression of frustration in a constructive manner. Let us take another situation, for example where people are in the clutches of drugs or alcohol, withdrawal symptoms may be so intense that hospitalisation becomes necessary, or inclusion in rehabilitation centre. Where people are really struggling to cope and experience intense emotional experiences, there may be the presence of violence and abuse. So, we can see that the family may be severely impacted by the complication of COVID.

Lockdown also created problems for some in the clutches of porn. For example, in Italy porn was freely accessible during such times…Can you imagine what was going on in those households? The pain and agony of infidelity and rejection…more fights, shouting and shame trips.

Considering what was said, we may derive that mental health is under severe pressure due to the impact of a pandemic. Latent mental health conditions may become more pronounced. Current relationships with mental may be experienced as significantly intensified.

What can be done? Consult your mental health practitioner, counsellor, and psychiatrist. Have regular contact via technology with your loved ones and check in with them. Support them in making contact with caregivers.

Any general tips? No condition-specific inputs may be given as consultation with the appropriate caregivers are key. In general, focus on what is within your control and do that; let go of what is outside of your control. Where possible establish a rhythm and structure to keep you going. Find ways to practice mindfulness. Consult with your medical health practitioner.

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