There are lots of words being used, well, lots at the moment. ‘Unprecedented’ is one of the main culprits. It’s become like a prefix that is itoned prior to getting on with what you really want to say. Seems fair seeing as how no one now alive recalls a time when our lives have been so dramatically and rapidly altered. I asked myself why it was being used so much and came to the conclusion that people are literally at a loss for words to describe what is happening to them, to us all. They fall back on a word that should capture it but somehow, perhaps through overuse, perhaps through scale, just doesn’t quite do the experience justice.
I will keep it this shortish. I have no desire to amplify the negative and I am not seeking attention. If my thoughts can assist then they will have been worthwhile.
The not so common words
It appears to me that the words not so commonly said are the interesting ones. They are the ones that prick my ears. I listen out for them during the daily 5pm briefing as they offer a small window into the science behind the rhetoric. Things like, ‘early deaths’ i.e. those that were expected anyway but have occurred sooner. Also, ‘excess deaths’ i.e. a higher number of deaths than we were expecting over a given time period. These words, the numbers associated with them and what they mean shine through the dimly lit corridors we are all feeling our way along in pursuit of something true and hopeful. There are so many misunderstandings, half-truths and outright inaccuracies that real, reliable information feels like a rare and beautiful treat. Much of the time these insights give hope and perspective, they guide and reassure. Sometimes they are far more frightening than the surface level reports the journalists deliver. Here is one I found particularly useful…
This is the pharmacist in me thinking. As with other viruses the amount of virus in your blood at first infection directly relates to the severity of the illness you suffer. If you are in a group of 100 people in a crowded place, half of whom are asymptomatic but are shedding you are breathing in lots of droplets per minute and absorbing a high load of virus. The resultant illness is likely to be worse than it might be if you were infected when passing a single person on a path while out on your daily exercise. It’s a sliding scale. Hence why we are are all staying at home to reduce contact. When it’s put like this staying at home is easier to understand and cope with. Equally if one of your household has the virus, self-isolation helps protect the others. If two of them have it, self-isolation helps prevent them increasing each other’s viral load if they sit in the same room coughing on each other. As challenging as it is, the science is pretty straight forward and we will win a slow victory if we keep at it until, hopefully, an effective vaccine is developed and pharmacists can join the effort of vaccinating 68+ million people. There is another side to the coin…
This is the marketer in me thinking. It occurred to me pretty early on during lockdown that there is another type of load that I needed to manage. That is media load. In a similar way to viral load, exposure to media of various types, but especially about the virus, will have a cumulative effect that is likely to be detrimental to your mental health over time. Despite it being natural to want to know what is happening there is so much media that it’s impossible to consume it all. Limiting exposure to relevant media that is reliable and updates your understanding of the situation is useful. You need to know what to do. Absorbing every byte of virus related hysteria really isn’t. The vast majority isn’t relevant to you. We all know that much of what is written by people on social media is nonsense. However huge swathes of the nonsense is now about the virus and spreads unusual, inaccurate and unhelpful ideas about lemon juice and telephone masts amongst other things that worried people are actually reacting to.
Lockdown, it appears is a marathon not a sprint (see Viral load above), which means that our natural coping mechanisms (I’m talking chemotransmitters not essential oils in your bath) will naturally last for so long before they begin to fail. What starts as tolerable anxiety can lead to depression over time if unchecked. Now that the countries marketers have caught up and many of the TV adverts relate to the virus too we are going to struggle to escape it even if we want to (Heeeelo Netflix). It has surprised me how quick it has happened, and how every company feels the need to tell me about the virus and what they are doing to help. I fear that it demonstrates some of the less attractive aspects of marketing.
Look after yourself
Think about your viral load. Think about your media load. Manage them both. Eat as well as possible, sleep as much as you can, drink in moderation, get some decent exercise. Take the chance to be where you are with who you are with and really connect. The world will come flooding back in soon enough and we’ll all be pulled back into the stream.
Put your phone down and talk to each other. Pick up a book, or a paint brush, or a game of chess, or your trainers or a pen and write a letter to someone who might be feeling lonely. Stick it out and keep going. It’s something we are great at in this country. See you on the other side.