While the coronavirus poses a significant threat to our physiologic well-being, the overall experience of this crisis worldwide could be harmful to us in another way.
It's been almost a month since most of the world started going on different lockdowns and community quarantines. School, work, and other activities have been shut down, except for the essentials like the production and distribution of basic needs and of course, healthcare. And while a portion of the population is filling up the hospitals, the majority of the world has been being asked to stay home to reduce the transmission of the virus and lessening its further impact to the world, our health, and the economy.
At first, following the quarantine may seem easy. You stay home, and you become part of the global movement to battling COVID-19. But after a few days, the reality of the fear, the anxiety, and the isolation kick in.
At the onset of this crisis, I took it upon myself to let close friends and family (and even social media contacts) know that they can contact me for any urgent questions about their health. As doctors, we also wanted to minimize the number of people physically going to us for consults to reduce putting more people at risk outside of their homes. To my surprise, the majority of the complaints of friends who consulted me were experiencing very minimal and vague symptoms that turned out to be more psychosomatic than an infectious profile. Simply put, the people are getting sick or at least feeling unwell out of the worry of actually getting sick.
When the spread of the virus started taking a steep rise, much of the world had not been sufficiently informed and educated about the nature of the virus, the course of the disease, and its possible impact on a healthy individual, a young child, someone with chronic illnesses, and older people. From that alone stems an intense fear of contracting the virus and being affected. Let's call this the "uninformed crisis anxiety." That's the first stage.
The lack of grasp of the full concept surrounding this disease and how it impacts us can make us anxious from the get-go, and so, we, or at least some of us, seek information. Then, as you find more information to understand what's going on better, there's a massive chance that you either get bombarded by alarming details or worse, false information. And so, the fear triggers you to search for more answers. If you dig way too deep, you find information that you generally don't understand, like information for health professionals and other specialized fields. Let's call this "over-informed anxiety."
Lastly, there is, of course, the anxiety that stems from the financial impact of having to stay home and not getting paid. While many people have been working from home, many industries have been shut down, and that includes many of us photographers who have been left with no income for the next few months. You're fortunate if you've got a lot in the bank, but for people in countries like mine, many live from paycheck to paycheck, and for the past three weeks, there has been no paycheck at all.
Even if you're not worrying about the financial impact of this crisis or if you're not fearing that you might end up getting infected and die, that doesn't spare you from any mental health threat. If you have been staying home (thank you very much), especially if you live alone or away from many of your loved ones, you might feel overly isolated and stuck. That may be quite easy to deal with for a few days, but considering that this may take a couple of months to die down, it could get harder.
In anticipation of this, I took the initiative of setting up a Facebook group for people in my circle, both photographers and non-photographers, who may want to use this downtime to learn (more about) photography. We called this group "Workshops from Home." The setup is having at least one Facebook Live photography talk to be conducted by respected professionals for about 1.5 to 2 hours each day. Viewers are constantly reminded to ask questions to increase social engagement between them and the speaker.
In a span of a week, the group had almost 2,000 members and is now nearing 3,000, with an average of about 600 to 1,300 active viewers in the span of a live video. The content is also kept within the group permanently for anyone who may want to catch up or re-watch past sessions.
After the first week of the workshops, I conducted a casual poll in the group to see if any of them feel less anxious and if they thought that the workshops have been helping them. The results were, as expected, a unanimous "yes." At the beginning of all this, I had a handful of photographer friends who would contact me every day with questions about their fear and anxiety about the situation. I involved them in this project and secretly observed how it would affect their overall outlook about the situation and a decline in the number of out-of-the-blue anxious questions that have been found.
In a conversation with some of the constant viewers of the live sessions, they mentioned that just being able to have that feeling of being in a group continually, even only virtually, has helped them bear the experience of the lockdown. Several resource speakers also verbalized relief after participating in this virtual group activity, because it benefits them socially. It is pretty apparent that this is doing more good than expected.
Maybe this can help you too. Whether you're a professional or someone who has been wanting to learn the craft for so long, there's an entire universe of online content about photography available through YouTube. Of course, there's also a vast collection of premium tutorials currently on sale here on Fstoppers as well. Several global brands like Nikon, Leica, DxO, and Laowa have also started having online sessions on their websites. Anyone is also more than welcome to join Workshops from Home as well, but do note that not all courses are entirely in English. It might also be useful to do a personal search yourself for any other local options. I'm pretty sure that there are more communities out there doing the same. Those with actual interactions between the speakers and viewers have proven to be more beneficial too.
Way to go Doc Nico! Thank you so much! 🙏