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Physically distant, but socially a lot closer

In the Chart of Humanities, we collect the voices of experts from the Humanities for Health who told us about their guiding pillars at the time of COVID-19. We report here the experience of Giskin Day, principal teaching fellow in the School of Medicine at Imperial College London and member of the international Faculty for our Advanced Workshop in Narrative Medicine

Domestic context – Biological model

I have tried to keep up variety in the types of exercises attempted from home (possibly because I get bored easily). Remember to get up and move every half an hour.

Psychological model

In times when it’s difficult to switch off, I have found it psychologically restorative to watch the live safaris being streamed on WildEarth. It’s a way of connecting with my favourite environment – the African bush – when I can’t actually be there.

Social model

When we say ‘social distancing’ we actually mean ‘physical distancing’. Socially we are a lot closer to our friends and family than before. I make a point of checking in with acquaintances – people I don’t know very well but still care about – especially if I know they might be lonely or struggling to do their work from home.

Spiritual model

I have added a gratitude coach to the journaling app I use. Although I research gratitude, I am a bit cynical about the psychological ‘hard-sell’. Now I am going to make it part of an autoethnographic refocusing of my research. Initial results are promising for improving mood.

I don’t feel well equipped for this but I will draw on my brother’s experience who is in hospital with a non-Covid related illness.

Hospital context – Biological model

Do everything you can within your power to get well. Make an effort to rehabilitate yourself, e.g. by working with physiotherapists or nutritionists. It might be the last thing you feel like doing, but try anyway.

Psychological model

When your environment has shrunk, you can miniaturise your noticing behaviour to take pleasure in, say, the different textures that surround you. Now that phones are not banned in hospital, perhaps try to take some beautiful photographs of things we usually take for granted.

Social model

For those in hospital, lots of people will be desperate for news. Depending on how well you feel, perhaps reply to people individually rather than setting up one WhatsApp group. Even if you have to say the same thing. It’s hugely reassuring for those who care about you to hear directly from you.

Spiritual model

See yourself as part of the care team for those suffering around you. Get to know fellow patients. If you are all covid-positive, you can’t infect each other. For some people, you will be the last friend they will make. Everyone has a role to play in providing comfort and solace in desperate situations.

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