What we Learned Living in China During the COVID-19 Epidemic

Quickly adapting to the dramatic changes to your lifestyle during the initial coronavirus outbreak prevention restrictions in your country and preparing for a ‘new normal’ in your daily life.

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Our ‘new normal’ in Shanghai China

Throughout the current coronavirus outbreak, I will provide helpful tips on how to best manage the changes to you and your family’s daily living circumstances due to the COVID-19.  My recommendations are based on the real-life experiences of my family, friends, neighbors, Life Coaching clients, and myself here in China. I hope that these articles and videos will provide you with the confidence to know that this epidemic can be survived in great health and safety.

Over the past 2½ months, while living in China during the initial spread of the coronavirus COVID-19, my family and I have experienced tremendous changes to our daily lives.  From the very moment the news of the coronavirus COVID-19 was broadcast, there was a heightened level of fear and concern felt immediately throughout China.  Initially, there was a lot of conflicting information, which in turn led to an overwhelming amount of panic and fear about spreading and catching the virus. Luckily the Chinese government moved swiftly to not just manage the spread of the virus, but to also ensure that accurate information was quickly disseminated to the people.  

In this article, I discuss what lifestyle changes you can expect in the first few days of the virus being in your country and how to prepare for a ‘new normal’ in your daily  life.  

Mass Closings, Cancellations, and Restrictions for Large Gatherings

The first set of restrictions that were put in place were done to prevent the spread of the virus.  All levels of education were cancelled as it was reported that the primary method of spreading the contagion was through direct human contact (this has since been expanded to other methods).  These cancellations were soon followed by the postponement of sports leagues and the closing of all parks, museums, gyms, shopping malls, and salons/barber shops. Restaurants either closed or moved to a carry-out or delivery only model.

Next, regulations were put in place to control the movement of people within the city.  In Shanghai we were urged to avoid using public transportation and to remain in the home as much as possible.  This meant that working from the office was no longer an option for most people.  It was very eerie to witness a city of 20 million people, become like a ghost town with virtually empty streets.  These early precautions did pay off, as the infection rate in Shanghai was and remains very low.  It is very likely that most cities where the pandemic has reached will enact similar guidelines to proactively prevent the spread of the virus and protect their citizens.

Remaining Inside the Home

For most in China, remaining inside of our homes as much as possible, was the most challenging adjustment.  Most of the activities usually done outside the home, were now required to be done inside the home.  Almost overnight, our home environment now also doubled as the office, school, gym, and at times – even the movie theater.  The push to have people remain indoors was made very quickly and left most of us trying to figure out how to instantly adjust our home dynamics.

Eventually, we learned how to safeguard our homes from the virus, keep our children happy and engaged in learning, be productive while working from home, and maintain a positive mindset. Each of these areas took time to figure out, and being conscious of these, you can start to develop your own plan of action.  Keeping the home environment safe and positive goes a long way to ensure that the time spent in the home does not add to the stress that comes from this new way of living.

Home Protection and Disinfection Process

We quickly realized that the inside of our home was the only environment that we fully had control over.  It was very important for us to ensure that we took precautions to keep our home virus free.  To achieve this and further protect ourselves and our infant son, I was to be the only person to leave the home for groceries and other needed items. We then developed a 2-step process to decrease the probability of being infected by the coronavirus COVID-19.

  • Step 1:  Baseline Disinfection – We used cleaning products to clean ALL of the touchpoints in our home.  These included: doorknobs, table tops, computers, mobile phones, furniture, floors, appliance handles, light switches – basically everything.  We would do the baseline disinfection several times a week.
  • Step 2:  Return Home Disinfection – Each time I returned home I was immediately disinfected.  The main activities included spraying my shoes, properly disposing of my used mask, changing into my ‘inside’ clothes, and washing my hands and face.  

These activities did more than simply keep us physically healthy; they also provided us with one less concern to stress over.  A significant aspect of these activities is that in addition to your home, they can also be easily implemented in your automobile and office.  

Continuous Stream of COVID-19 Related News

From the very moment that the outbreak was announced, there was a continuous stream of news.  There was a great deal of conflicting reports and reports that seemed more designed to frighten people than inform them.  In my home, my wife was glued to the TV and her mobile phone all day and night to ensure that she was getting the latest news.  Shortly thereafter she shared with me that all this news was causing her anxiety-induced panic about the spread and dangers of the virus.  

We had a great discussion and she decided that we would have specific times and durations where we would watch together and discuss the information.  By limiting the sources and the amount of COVID-19 news that she took in, she was able to remain informed while also reducing her level of anxiety and panic. Identifying trusted news sources and turning off the news periodically throughout the day allowed us to maintain a concerned but not panicked mindset.

Increase of Stress and Tension in the Home

Initially the level of stress and tension, not just in our home but in our entire community, was difficult to manage. For me, each time I ventured outside I had to ensure my mask was on, remember to put tissues and hand sanitizer in my pocket, make sure I didn’t get too close to people that were not wearing a mask, and get my temperature taken each time I entered a place of business. Upon returning home, I then had to act as if I was exposed to the virus, and fully sanitize myself.  The level of stress from simply going out and returning home, was incredible.  Other also experienced increased stress and tension, in their homes, related to taking care of the kids, working from home, concerns about loss of wages, and trying to keep everyone in good spirits.

My friends, clients, and I found it very important to reach out and talk to our friends and family members.  In most conversations, not only did we talk about the impact of the pandemic, we also talked about other topics.  We found that these conversations significantly reduced our stress and tension.  

We are now almost three months into our ‘new normal’, and at the time of the writing of this, the COVID-19 data for China shows that the infection rate is going down daily.  For those of us in China, this is of course, great news.  We are however still very vigilant as we are well aware that things can change for the worse very quickly.  I hope that by sharing these lessons learned, those in the countries that are now experiencing the outbreak can avoid confusion and panic, and stay safe and healthy.   

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