In 1918, 500 million people – one third of the world’s population at the time – was infected by the Spanish flu. Out of those infected, 50 million died. The people who were alive must have thought that the world was ending.
There wasn’t much hope on the horizon because the Spanish flu kept snuffing out life like a wind snuffing out candles.
More than 100 years later, this same wind of a global pandemic is blowing across the world.
It may not be snuffing out as many lives as it did back then, but half a million people have already lost their lives globally. This is five times more people than the entire population of Seychelles.
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You may not know someone who has died from Covid-19 or even know someone suffering from this dreaded disease, but your life has already been adversely affected.
You probably know someone who has lost their job or maybe you are that person. Indeed, few among us may be infected by Covid-19, but we have all been affected. In this devastating climate, it’s easy to lose hope.
Lurking threateningly beneath Covid-19 is another pandemic that has been killing people for decades and threatens to kill even more now – stress.
WHO Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus has noted what stress is doing to people: “The impact of the pandemic on people’s mental health is already extremely concerning. Social isolation, fear of contagion, and loss of family members is compounded by the distress caused by loss of income and often employment.”
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According to a recent Infotrak survey, Covid-19 has pushed eight out of 10 Kenyans into stress. Out of these, 61 per cent feel lonely, 52 per cent feel helpless and 33 per cent feel angry.
Stress usually opens the door for such negative feelings and consequences to storm in. As such, we should not take stress for granted because stress kills. But the good news is that the first line of defence against such stress is hope.
Every cloud has a silver lining that is called hope. We, therefore, need to ask the question – what is the silver lining in the Covid-19 cloud?
I found the answer to this question in an experience I had in 1997 when I supported a friend to campaign in a constituency in Nandi County. He was running to be MP.
At one point, a mob accosted his motorcade with the intention to kill him. This forced him to flee, creep over a fence and into a church compound to save his life. It was not a joking matter!
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Deep crisis has a way of digging deep within us and refocusing our hope towards what really matters. So let us ride the Covid-19 waves into the arms of God. This doesn’t necessarily entail trooping back to places of worship, but rather recalibrating our values and priorities.
This is a time of recalibration. The world needs to be recalibrated, relationships need to be recalibrated, our spirit, body and mind need to be recalibrated. We cannot look outward for a solution.
We have to look inward, deep within us and recalibrate accordingly. You see, until you know what you are dealing with, you simply do not know what you are dealing with.
I have heard people describe the quarantine necessitated by Covid-19 as a large, invisible prison. But it’s only a prison if you allow it to be so.
Yes, your movement is limited; yes, your businesses are suffering; yes, you may have taken a pay cut at your workplace, or even lost your job. But no, this situation will not last forever.
As Abraham Lincoln and several other people said in the past, ‘The best way to predict your future is to create it.’
We create our future through our thought patterns and habits. Our thoughts become things. We should, therefore, take stock not just of where we are, but where we hope to be.
Our current reality should not determine our future but rather drive us to create the future that we want.
According to research captured in the Counselling Psychology Quarterly Journal, hope has a therapeutic effect that motivates energy, stimulates goal development, reduces negative emotions and increases coping ability.
Such active hope, like a tree, runs on the fuel of an active patience that grants us time to recalibrate and strategise.
The Spanish flu came and went, and so will Covid-19.
–The writer is founder and chairperson, Green Africa Foundation. www.isaackalua.co.ke