The coronavirus outbreak has already become the most serious health crisis seen in the last century.
With unprecedented strain on public services, economic slowdown, and tragic loss of life, many are understandably upset and anxious about what’s to come.
In order to try and gain control over some of the Anxiety associated with crises, No Majesty will be sharing stories that focus away from scaremongering and rumour, and – as is our continued aim – towards storytelling, and how this chapter fits into our timeline as humans.
In our age of social media and ‘always on’ culture, it’s amazing to observe how quickly new words and phrases can enter our everyday language. ‘Self-isolation’ wouldn’t have meant much a couple of months ago, and now for millions of people globally it is their reality.
There is an odd conflict between the idea of avoiding people outside of our home, and knowing that we are all experiencing the same thing. Consequently, many of us yearn to hear the stories and experiences of others in similar situations, whether related to work, relationships, or our health.
In our ongoing pledge at No Majesty to share stories, we’ve been talking to different people in self isolation about their experiences, from the challenges they face, to the opportunities that have been created in the unlikeliest places.
I spoke to Charlotte, who has been working from home for the last five years as a travel manager. From a business perspective, the travel industry is perhaps the most well-known victim of the Covid-19 pandemic. In the days following the crisis, Britain’s biggest airlines grounded around two thirds of all their fleets, with many more cutbacks still in progress.
“I have been working from home for five years now so in terms of isolation there hasn’t been much change in my daily life. However the industry I’m in has been impacted profoundly by the pandemic, and as I work on commission, my income will be affected to such an extent that I won’t have any at least until September or October.” Luckily, since we spoke, the government has announced some measures to provide financial support to many self-employed people, though many may be unable to access this until June.
Though many will find themselves supported financially by new government measures, unprecedented now find their own health at risk when at work. Those designated as ‘key workers’, including NHS staff, and those working in schools and public transport, are at risk of infection, and consequently many of their relatives in isolation can’t help but fear for their safety.
I spoke to Vida, a self-employed coach and psychologist, whose mother is still at work. “I’ve been running my own business for over 10 years so I’m pretty used to working alone”, she told me, “but I’ve been a little worried about my mum. She’s an NHS dentist, one of the high-risk professions at the moment, and is still seeing emergency patients.” Many were shocked to learn the story of Areema Nasreen, a 36-year-old nurse who, after working on the front lines of the crisis at Walsall Manor hospital, contracted coronavirus and ended up fighting for her life in intensive care. Thankfully, she is now reportedly making some progress in her recovery.
For those asked to stay home, each day likely seems longer, due to the nature of staying in one building for extended periods of time – under government guidance, people may leave their home once a day to exercise. “I’m hoping to use the time productively” Vida tells me, “catching up on new research findings related to my work [as a coach and psychologist]. I’ve already started organising and tidying my cupboards. I’m also doing more yoga at home since my local gym closed.”
While many are likely to take up a new hobby, others understandably find the prospect of missing social contact quite daunting. “I’m already tearing my hair out, the social distancing is horrific and the idea of doing this for months makes me physically ill,” says Oliver, a self-employed Company Stage Manager. Though despite the frightening prospect of distancing, he intends to spend time “Writing a script, writing a book, and learning a new language”.
Charlotte feels similarly to Oliver: “So far it’s been ok, in fact I’ve been enjoying it in a way as I have got all that time to do the things that I love, but as the time goes by and if the situation does not improve I might start feeling a bit anxious.”
Here at No Majesty, we’ve already written about the potential effects of isolation on things like mental health, and how a lack of outside information may lead to the growth of misinformation, around important social and political issues.
But while isolation can leave many disconnected, many businesses are thankfully striving to stay in service to those who need them. “[Isolation] has already affected some of my training and face-to-face sessions,” says Vida, “But as I use Zoom conferencing for many of my sessions I’m hoping to not be massively affected. I have created a more flexible cancellation policy and support for clients who might be struggling to pay for sessions.”
Many will recognise the worries of those interviewed here, in their own lives and the lives of those close to them. At times like these, we all hope that we can make the most of our situation, and with things like increasing government support many will be able to have some stability in their work, although many will inevitably lose out. At the very least, those anxious about the prospect of isolation can hopefully find comfort in the knowledge that others are sharing in their experience.