“We are united by the challenges imposed by this global pandemic”
25 year old Eurisa reflects on her new reality in Kosovo*
About the author:
Twenty-five year old Eurisa is an UPSHIFT paritcipant from Kosovo* and co-creator of ‘Shnet,’ the first sexual health application in Albanian. She completed her studies at the Department of Psychology at the University of Prishtina and later became the Executive Director of the NGO Social Lab. Eurisa is a passionate women's rights advocate, and has authored an online feminist comic book titled "Hyjnesha".
The local coffee shop where I usually get a muffin and a coffee before opening up my laptop to get started on work, has taken a temporary hiatus... So have my plans for lunch at 12:00 with friends and checking out the new paperbacks at my favourite bookstore. These interruptions to my (and many others’) daily routines have all been part of heightened measures to tire out the spread of Covid-19 in Kosovo*. In order to mitigate the spread of the virus, the majority of people in Kosovo* are self-quarantining and practicing social distancing as per the advice of public health officials as a preventative measure – even if they have no signs of the virus.
Since a week now, every aspect of my daily routine has changed. Even though it hasn’t been easy, I know social distancing is necessary for everybody’s safety. This gives many others and me the motivation to follow the rules and stay at home. With the number of cases rising all over the world, this is the smallest part we can do, in order to tackle a monumental sized problem.
However, in the face of indefinite quarantine and an unsure future, the virus is taking a toll not only on our physical health, but also on our collective psychological health. This disease is proving to be a prison – and so is fear that comes with it. A quote that keeps me going and motivates me to challenge my fear is that of one of my favorite authors, Frank Herbert, who writes, ‘Fear is the mind-killer. Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration.’
It’s a bit tough to be cooped up inside for a long time because you feel almost as if you’re not part of the world. There is almost a sense of surrealism to this whole situation. This new way of life was unfortunately shown to be very real with a recent death in my family. In order to stay safe and keep others safe, my aunt who died of old age had a very small funeral, and many people who loved her couldn’t say their proper goodbyes.
There are steps we can take to stay mentally healthy and feel like we’re still connected to others. In Kosovo* we have very close relationships to friends and family – gathering around a table and swapping stories for at least an hour a day is as common as brushing your teeth in the morning.
One of the things my family and I have been doing to retain a sense of normalcy is having the morning coffee and conversation out in the yard, as a way to connect with nature, breathe in fresh air and feel the sunshine as it warm us up. Sadly, not everyone in Kosovo* is this lucky though. Many families may not have a roof over their heads and others whose livelihoods depend on going outside every day, may not be able to stay safe. There’s more who are not able to afford disinfectants, protective gloves and food.
In order to soften this immeasurably trying situation, I have started a routine every single day and have advised everyone I know to do the same. So I work as usual on my articles and designs, it’s just that the distance to work is about five seconds – from the breakfast table to my computer.
I also try to get at least half an hour of physical activity, recalling the non-equipment exercises I was taught in gym class. Routines are important in times like these because they give you a sense of control. The problem with situations like these is the feelings of anxiety that people experience due to a loss of control and routine.
Something else I’ve been practicing in order to feel mentally healthy is skipping a lot of the news related to the virus. I take breaks from watching and reading about the pandemic because the repetitiveness can be upsetting and may trigger feelings of stress in me. Instead, I look up new healthy recipes and I try to remind myself to take deep breaths when I feel overwhelmed.
Trying new things has also been quite a theme in the past few days. In this age of technological advancement, trying new things has never been as easy. And you can try a lot without even leaving your home – which makes it all the better for a time like this. With unlimited free online courses on many different platforms and subjects, I have started to tinker with learning coding and studying up on my Shakespeare. I have my alarm to thank for reminding me to take these online classes in subjects I haven’t had the chance to previously get acquainted with.
And most importantly, I try to keep up with my friends and family members as much as I can. I send memes to friends, video-chat with my siblings and my nephews, tweet about everything and nothing and I make sure to stay connected. Technology has gotten a very bad reputation since its increased usage in recent years, but in times like these, it resembles finding water in the desert.
The world is shifting in an unprecedented way, but it seems like we are shifting in parallel. Social contact in times of isolation and maintaining routines can be immensely supportive for our mental health and wellbeing. The key during all this I presume will be keeping our virtual connections with the world and remembering that we are united by the challenges imposed by this global pandemic.
*All references to Kosovo should be understood to be in the context of United Nations Security Council resolution 1244 (1999).