How to convince stubborn loved ones to self-isolate or social distance

Channel 4 News released a video this week showing gym-goers happily pumping iron despite clear warnings that all non-essential outings should be curtailed.

One of the fitness fanatics said, ‘Everyone’s gonna get it, it’s just one of those things’, while another said that nothing would stop her going to the gym.

For most of us, this is an astounding view to take.

COVID-19 can spread to absolutely anyone, and while symptoms might not be as severe in some people (the young, or those without underlying health conditions), us having it and ‘taking it on the chin’ means we can pass it on to more vulnerable people.

But, if you live near bars or restaurants, you’ll notice that people are still going about life as if nothing is happening.

According to Charlotte Armitage, Business Psychologist at YAFTA Consultancy, it’s not just because peope are ‘selfish’.

She tells ‘Ultimately, society is being asking to make big changes to the way that they operate and function in a very short space of time.

‘We would not usually expect behavioural change of this magnitude to be executed in such a short space of time and therefore it’s not surprising that some people are taking longer than others to adjust to the change.

‘You can’t control the behaviours of others and everyone will have their own motivations for behaving or not behaving in a certain way.

‘However, our survival instincts operate to protect us when we perceive a threat, therefore if people become aware of the potential threats of the virus to themselves or their families it may have an impact on how they behave.’

Emphasise the threat, perhaps by demonstrating the difference in cause and effect in countries which have isolated vs countries that have not.

Whatever you do, though, try to steer away from a doom and gloom attitude that might push more stubborn or scared people away.

‘Be mindful that for the groups of people who are considered as ‘at risk’, that you could end up causing them upset, worry and anxiety by forcing the message about the dangers of the virus home to them.

‘If they don’t want to listen, it could be because they are worried already and this is their way of coping with their anxiety about the situation.’

This support might give them the push they need to stay at home without feeling like they should go out for ‘one last’ non-essential shopping trip or meal out.

She says that if they’re well enough to have guests, ‘ensure that they are comfortable, have enough food, books or magazines in the house and to make sure that they are able to use all the functions on their technological devices easily.’

Then, once they do decide to isolate, use apps like Skype and Zoom to keep in touch and keep their morale.

‘Video calling will be an important communication tool if the most vulnerable are forced to self-isolate so make sure that your loved are comfortable using this function,’ says Charlotte/

‘Having daily social contact with people, via online platforms, throughout the isolation period is going to be vital in maintaining psychological wellbeing.’

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