by Prof. Andrew Azzopardi
Dean, Faculty for Social Wellbeing, University of Malta
The term resilience was originally an engineering term referring to the ability of a material or object to be subjected to significant stress and to return to its original shape and properties. As a community, as an economy and as individuals we are under significant stress. Uncertainty has permeated every area of our lives causing us to fear everything from death to running out of toilet paper.
It is here that I would like to remind you of the message and the ethos that the Faculty for Social Wellbeing stands for and which comes to the fore. When the promises of further wealth and monetary recompense seem to matter so little, the intangible wealth of wellbeing that is to be found in the simple act of connection, of friendship and conversation are truly the treasures that are lasting…and free. The Covid-19 may have taken many things, but the mandatory isolation has forced us to reconsider our priorities.
How much does money matter when our quality of life is severely diminished?
As the Faculty for Social Wellbeing we call upon our community to come together, in spirit if not in person and to start connecting with each other truly by being of service to one another. Now is not the time for individual renegades who think that self-isolation or quarantine are over-reactions of anxiety ridden public health doctors. We need to take on the burden of this sacrifice if not for ourselves because we are not the most vulnerable demographic, for others who do fall within this category. We must also put our faith in the professionals leading the resistance. Most of us can easily read, research and become more knowledgeable about the virus but only those with the information and the training to access the bigger picture can take the kind of informed decisions that are needed during this tough time. Contrary to our normal stance we urge the Maltese community to be united, to set aside individualistic thinking and to follow the directions of the health authorities.
Community traditionally meant people gathered within a geographic location that could meet regularly if not daily, but the digital revolution has made the physical dimension redundant in the current circumstances. We do not require to be next to each other to feel that we are present in each other’s lives. During these quieter moments, take the opportunity to phone, message, email and video chat with friends and loved ones both in Malta and abroad. Check in on people who are not doing well with the isolation and the anxiety of the situation and most importantly if you are struggling reach out. Whether it is a friend or a neighbour, a family member or a colleague, we are all in the same boat. Let us also be of support financially. Despite our feelings on big businesses, most of the Maltese economy is made up of small to medium enterprises. They are struggling so let us support financially, by decreasing or suspending rents temporarily, by buying gift certificates to be used at a later date, by offering to help persons on minimum wage. Community needs to become a tangible and actionable value if it is to be of any worth at all.
In fact I recommend:
- On a day-to day basis routine is paramount.
- Keep working if this is possible but be sure to not work more or less than you usually do. Shower and change out from what you normally wear at home.
- If it is possible for you, try to engage in physical exercise (there are many routines on YouTube one can do with minimal equipment and experience) and eat well.
- Read, watch series and play video games as a filler for the remaining time.
- Acknowledge your distress and sadness especially if the virus has altered large life plans like weddings and work projects. Denial will not take the stress away but appropriate grieving without wallowing allows us to take stock of the sadness without being consumed by it.
- The coronavirus is also an existential trial for many of us who do not contemplate our mortality and fragility frequently. Let us engage with this powerful moment and use the momentum to perhaps re-evaluate our priorities, take decisions we have been putting off, engage with religion if this is of value to us. To return to the mindless humdrum of the daily grind without reflection during this moment would be a lost opportunity.
Finally, as Dean of this gracious Faculty I would like to urge the Maltese and international community to be resilient. This crisis may not allow things to return exactly to the way they were but perhaps within these difficult moments new opportunities for better ways of doing things, arise.
We remain with you in spirit.