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‘COVID Fatigue’ and ‘COVID-19 Caution Fatigue’

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By Dr B. J. C. Perera

Specialist Consultant Paediatrician

Physical fatigue, marked muscle aches, weakness of the body and bodily exhaustion are well-recognised clinical features of COVID-19 disease. Some patients feel really ill, lifeless and have severe muscular and joint pains during the acute illness. In some of them, these effects last a long time, even after recovery. By now, all these things have become well-known and sort of ‘old hat’ type of details of the actual disease.

However, the terminology of the title of this article, COVID Fatigue and COVID-19 Caution Fatigue, DO NOT, I repeat, DO NOT, refer to the physical effects of the illness. These really denote some of the mental effects and their repercussions in those who have not contracted the disease, but are being constantly bombarded and reminded, especially over mass media, of the implications of the disease itself. These may also result in certain undesirable behaviour patterns on the part of those who exhibit these phenomena. The medical circles are just beginning to see the significance and the importance of these manifestations with regard to the current scenario.

COVID Fatigue is a new phrase that refers to the general thoughts and psychological feelings that many people get of being mentally tired, discouraged, and even disgusted by everything that is going on with their lives that are being dictated to by this tiny coronavirus. This includes being isolated and preached on for so long that they have become totally sick of hearing these mantras, over and over, again and again. In some cases, the reaction on the part of some people have been one of irritation, intolerance, resistance, leading to even non-compliance. Some have given up on masking, regular washing of hands, physical distancing, and generally in all forms of self-protection. This type of risky behaviour and disregard for the health rules is an unwholesome way through which people try to cope with the stress that is piling up. Though this kind of behaviour may provide one with short-term relief, it is not truly beneficial and may even lead to disastrous results.

The COVID-19 Caution Fatigue is a related phenomenon that has slightly different connotations. When the pandemic began and lockdowns were ordered, many people were tremendously energized to do their very best and help to reduce the spread of the disease. They were an absolute model lot. However, months of isolation, all kinds of restrictions and the ever-present anxiety have drained people of their motivation. It has caused many to become less strict and less concerned about following the guidelines issued by the health authorities. They have become sort of immune to being constantly reminded of all kinds of cautions and restraints. They have become quite a bit nonchalant about the statements advising caution. It has led to a kind of ‘fatigue of caution’ after being cautious about the disease for far too long. Many people can only remain vigilant for so long before they start to become exhausted and throw caution to the winds. These could become the straws that finally break the camel’s back.

Ultimately both these components end up in a single common final pathway which may induce the public to assume a blasé attitude and take things for granted. It may appear to be the case that these affected people could not care less. In another perspective, they may sometimes even be tempted to behave like COVIDIOTS; yet another newly introduced terminology which is a kind of a slang-word, combining ‘covid’ and ‘idiots’. It describes some people who cause many a problem by going against the very grain that is designed to ensure their safety and freedom from the virus.

The problem with those who suffer from COVID Fatigue and COVID-19 Caution Fatigue is that they start to lose interest in life, stop enjoying the joys of living, give up general happiness with things around them and get into a state where they do not get any satisfaction from life. They may also become so disgruntled as to exhibit some irrational behaviour patterns. This could affect even highly educated and intelligent professionals but for clear socio-political and economic reasons, they are a lot commoner in the lower social strata. People who have all these problems may respond in one of two ways. Some may take the path of resolute resistance and fight back against society and the restrictions imposed. Others may become rather indifferent and get inevitably committed in their mindsets to any and every unfortunate eventuality that may come their way.

The coronavirus itself may be novel, but the outbreak is stirring up some very fundamental instincts in people. A keen sense of warning and coping mechanisms that have been with humankind since the dawn of time are also programmed to induce fear and anxiety. According to mental health experts, feeling worried in such a situation is absolutely normal and even healthy. This evolutionary trait has stuck around for millions of years because it alerts us in times of danger and prompts us to come up even with newer survival skills.

The catch is when anxiety becomes somewhat disproportionate to the situation. It can turn into intense fear or a feeling of hopelessness and it starts to interfere with our day-to-day lives and wellbeing. Following official instructions, things such as staying at home, social distancing, washing of hands, etc., become important to people because it engages problem-solving behaviour. But the uncertainty of how long this situation will last, the constant stream of new information and the social isolation, all create a fertile ground for escalating anxiety. It is important to realise that panic, could also be contagious. The biggest problem at the present time is that there does not seem to be any decent light at the end of the tunnel.

To get through this time as efficiently, serenely and healthily as possible, it is important to be familiar with some ways to calm ourselves. It is quite essential, to try and ward off such mental complications brought on by utter despair and try to get on with this ‘NEW NORMAL LIFE’. In that context, there are some possible coping mechanisms to try and mitigate the effects of COVID Fatigue and COVID-19 Caution Fatigue.

For a start, staying informed does not mean that one has to be perpetually connected and follow live news 24/7. It can really become exhausting. Turning the push notifications off on news apps can help relieve some of that pressure. It is necessary to choose just one or two reliable sources, and keep track of their updates at allocated times once or twice a day. It is also recommended to set a specific length of time for social media to avoid getting caught up in it, which is often, very likely to increase anxiety. Of course, it is not possible or recommended to completely bury your head in the sand and be totally oblivious to what is happening. One is bound to see some unnerving headlines on social media and in news reports. It is essential to remind yourself that a lot of it is speculation and not fact. A concerted effort must be made to follow the clear instructions of the health organizations and try to avoid news headlines that do not contribute to your wellbeing.

One should not be deterred if the exercise or dancing class that one is enrolled in is not taking place at the moment or your regular walking sessions in the designated exercise sites are impossible because of locked-in situations or curfews. Aerobic exercise is known to allay anxiety, especially if it was already a part of your usual routine. Practicing a dance routine, exercise sequence, or yoga are all healthy ways to keep your mind distracted and channel your adrenaline elsewhere. You can turn your garden into a workout area, or move around some furniture in your living room for the purpose.

For some people, it is not just the prospect of catching the virus itself that is causing stress, but the feeling of emptiness and the disruption of daily routines. You need to connect with others. Staying indoors means being by yourselves, or with your family or housemates for a much longer period of time than you are used to. Some might be asked to self-quarantine, but that does not mean completely isolating yourself from your social contacts, apart of course from physical isolation. Maintaining human interaction at such times is very important. Being able to express your thoughts concerning the virus, exchanging opinions and even making jokes will make you feel supported and make it easier to overcome the anxiety. Humans are social beings, wired to be loved, to love, to belong and of course, to meet in-person. It is no wonder that people are finding physical distancing so difficult. In such a case, technology is quite a blessing: call people via a telephone, have a video chat and check on your friends and acquaintances as frequently as possible.

One also needs to guard against certain things that may accompany these changes in the mental status. Spiralling into undesirable and even destructive behaviour is easy when confined to your home. Sleeping in and walking around in your night-clothes might feel nice for a couple of days. However, if it is to be done for days on end and perhaps even for weeks, it will only increase anxiety in the long run. Try to keep the sleeping routine as consistent as possible and get at least eight hours of good-quality sleep. Wake up at a reasonable time in the morning, change out of your night clothes and set a structure for yourself. Work or study from home if possible, cook for yourself and the family, and eat three proper meals a day.

Many experts advocate focusing on the immediate future so that uncertainty about the longer-term outlook does not make one feel hopeless and helpless. However, it is also important to work against the ‘current-moment’ type of biases during the pandemic. Avoid the temptation to do something that brings you pleasure in the moment without acknowledging the risk it may pose in the future. In the case of the pandemic, this could mean going to a large group gathering in your lane without thinking about how this may affect the spread of COVID-19 down the lane. It is hard to assess the perils and risk, especially when the risk is invisible, like the coronavirus and most of the infected people are symptom-free. One needs to find a balance; an equilibrium which may mean less pleasure in the current moment, but more risk mitigation in the future and put risks into their proper perspectives. It may be hard to stay committed to goals like improving public health by staying home, because they are so abstract and can often seem to have no effect on one personally. However, it is necessary to reframe this thought to acknowledge how your behaviour could increase the chance of you or your loved ones getting sick.

In the current scenario, when anxiety takes over a person in a sort of big-time way, it can feel like as if this catastrophe will never end. But it always does end. Remember the Spanish Flu of 1918 which killed over 50 million people? There were no effective anti-viral drugs and there was no vaccine. However, although the scientists are not quite sure as to how it happened, the epidemic died out within about two years. The current pandemic is a worrying time for almost everyone, but this situation is temporary. Be kind to yourself and your loved ones. It may sound rather optimistic, but we will overcome this together.

Finally, people need to be warned against falling into “thinking traps” such as the assumption that since you have not been sick, you will not get sick in the future, or convincing yourself that an outing is necessary when your motivation behind it may just be boredom. Now is not the time to let our guard down. For the good of everyone’s health and the well-being of the country, we need to do our part to maintain an appropriate level of caution and try our very best to re-flatten the curve. Indeed, sanity must prevail, through sheer necessity of course. Come rain or sunshine or this miserable corona, life must surely go on.

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Most Venerable Kotugoda Dhammavasa Uttareethara Maha Nayaka Thera turns 88

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It was in the year 1803 that there was a renaissance within the Maha Sangha (the Great Community of Buddhist Monks) in Sri Lanka thereby adding a fresh chapter to the history of the Buddha Sasana in Sri Lanka. This was when the Most Venerable Welitara Sri Gnanawimala Thera, the Great Prelate received the Upasampada or the Higher Ordination in Burma, returned to Sri Lanka and established the Sri Lanka Amarapura Nikaya. (The name of this monk is embellished with traditional appellations such as Bodhisattva Gunopetha or being imbued with the qualities of a Bodhisattva or Buddha-Aspirant, and Preacher to King and Emperor.)

Thus the Amarapura Nikaya, which began with this Most Venerable Thera, later spread itself very rapidly down five generations of the Sangha spanning the entire Island. These generations of the Sangha organized themselves into 22 Nikayas. This was with the blessings of each of the Mahanayakas. They also preserved the identity of each such Nikaya.

In Sri Lanka, Amarapura Maha Sangha Sabha was formed in 1952 with the concurrence of 15 of these subsidiary Nikayas. Presidents of the Amarapura Maha Sangha Sabha have been;

1. the Most Venerable Prelate Beruwela Siri Nivasa Thera

2. the Most Venerable Mapalane Pannalankara Maha Nayaka,

3. the Most Venerable Uddammita Dhammarakhita Maha Nayaka,

4. the Most Venerable Balangoda Ananda Maithri Maha Nayaka

5. the Most Venerable Madihe Pannaseeha Maha Nayaka.

In the year 1962 all 22 Sub-Nikayas came together to form a more organized and properly constituted Sri Lanka Amarapura Maha Sangha Sabha. It was the Most Venerable Agga Maha Panditha Balangoda Ananda Maithri Thera who was installed as President and has been succeeded by;

1. the Most Venerable Dhammavansha Thera,

2. the Most Venerable Madihe Pannaseeha,

3. the Most Venerable Ahungalla Wimalanandi,

4. the Most Venerable Kandegedara Sumanavansha,

5. the Most Venerable Boyagama Wimalasiri,

6. the Most Venerable Kotugoda Dhammavasa and

7. the Most Venerable Dodampahala Chandrasiri.

The Most Venerable Chief Prelate Ganthune Assaji Thera is the current chair.

In terms of the Constitution approved in 1992, an Office of Supreme Prelate (Uttareethara Mahanayaka) was created, and the first to hold this office was the Most Venerable Madihe Pannaseeha Mahanayaka Thera who was succeeded by Most Venerable Davuldena Gnaneesara Thera. After his demise the Most Venerable Kotugoda Dhammavasa Thera, who turns eighty-eight today assumed and continues to be the Uttareethara Mahanayaka.

He was born on 26th January 1933 and ordained as a monk with the permission of his parents, on 17th August 1948. He received his Higher Ordination on 10th July 1954 at the Udakkukhepa Seemamalakaya set up on the River named the Kalu Ganga in Kalutara.

He had his training and primary instruction in the Buddha Dhamma from his Venerable Preceptors, later entered the Paramadhamma Chetiya Pirivena for his education. It was at the Maha Pirivena in Maligakanda where he received his Higher Education in three languages, under the shadow and tutelage of the Most Venerable Pandita Baddegama Piyaratana Thera.

With the demise of his preceptor, Dhammavasa Thera became the Prelate of the Dharmapala-arama Viharaya in Mount Lavinia. By this time he had already become very popular by broadcasting and delivering sermons in temples and in private homes, contributing to articles disseminating the Dhamma, and articles on topical subjects through the full-moon day publication entitled “Budusarana”, then to daily newspapers, and to the Vesak Annuals published by M D Gunasena & Co., Dinamina etc.

The Thera was also engaged in social welfare activities of the area by setting up Children’s and Young Persons’ Societies within the Vihara.

With the passage of time and the demise of remarkably eloquent monks such as the Most Venerable Narada Thera, Prelate of the Vajira-aramaya, Heenatiyana Dhammaloka, Kotikawatte Saddhatissa, Pitakotte Somananda, Kalukondayawe Pannasekera and other such classic preachers, Kotugoda Dhammavasa Thera stands out as a prime orator among those who came to the limelight after the days of the erudite monks of yesteryear.

Owing to the ceaseless invitations to deliver sermons extended to our Venerable Thera he travelled to various regions of the Island, yet fulfilling all his duties pertaining to his own Nikaya and to the work of the Sangha Sabha neglecting nothing whatever. With all this he continued to participate in the discharge of the infinite services expected of all erstwhile office bearers of the Sangha Sabha.

Our respected Thera was gradually chosen to hold various posts within the Amarapura Nikaya. Some such are his appointment in 1970 as an ordained member of the Working Committee and to the Post of Honorary Prelate (Maha Nayaka); in 1981 as the Chief Ecclesiastical Sangha Nayaka; and in 1990 as the Deputy Chief (Anunayaka) of the Amarapura Nikaya. At the same time it is because of his quality of being industrious that he was elected the Secretary (Lekhakadhikari).

The Venerable Anunayaka Thera who served the Maha Sangha Sabha of the Sri Lanka Amarapura Nikaya with great dedication, in order to ensure its unity and advancement, was in 1980 appointed its Co-Secretary (Sama Lekhakadhikari) and in 1992 as its Chief Secretary (Maha Lekhakadhikari) It is only appropriate to place on record that during this period of about fifteen years he performed a very special quality of service to the Sasana by updating the Amarapura Sangha Sabha; by setting up a Kathikavata (Ecclesiastical Edict) for the Amarapura Nikaya (whereby ‘rules governing the discipline and conduct of Buddhist monks including matters related to the settlement of disputes’ together with a Sanghadhikarana Panatha (i.e. an Ecclesiastical Act) were drafted and approved; and finally by drafting a strong, formal Constitution and obtaining approval for same.

It was on 17th December 2016 that the Venerable Kotugoda Dhammavasa Anunayaka Thera became the Mahanayaka of the Amarapura Nikaya, and that on a proposal made by none other than the Most Venerable Agga-maha-panditha Ambalangoda Sumangala Maha Nayaka Thera who, at the time, was himself the incumbent.

On 3rd October 2008 the Venerable Kotugoda Dhammavasa Maha Nayaka Thera was appointed to the post of Chairman, and it was on 26th May 2017 that he was elected Uttareethara Maha Nayaka or Supreme Maha Nayaka, which is the highest position within the Sri Lanka Amarapura Nikaya.

He has visited many countries in Asia and Europe disseminating the Dhamma and participating in Conferences thereby earning great international fame. Meanwhile he also serves as the incumbent monk of the Sri Lanka-aramaya in Myanmar and of the Charumathie Viharaya in Nepal.

In the matters of national and religious issues in the country he expresses his views in such a calm and collected manner that he has earned the respect of the Supreme Maha Nayaka Theras of other Nikayas and politicians both in power and in the Opposition and of intellectuals.

He has been honored with the title of “Agga Maha Panditha” by the Government of Myanmar. Although other honorary awards were conferred upon him by foreign countries and foreign institutions he does not use them, entirely because of his humble disposition.

At the end of and exposition of the Dhamma (a Dharma Desana) at Temple Trees His Excellency Mahinda Rajapaksa (who was then the incumbent President of the country) made an offering to him of about 14 perches of land in Wellawatte. Upon this land stands today, the “Office of the Sangha Sabha of the Amarapura Maha Nikaya”, a three-storied building replete with all conceivable facilities. It is a matter of great joy to us that in honour of the Most Venerable Kotugoda Dhammavasa Maha Nayaka Thera it was possible for us to make an offering of this building to the Buddha Sasana, on the 15th of August 2020.

We offer merit to His Excellency the President and the Honourable Prime Minister who are today attending to each and every need of our Supreme Maha Nayaka Thera in a spirit of extending infinite regard and respect to him, in appreciation of the national and religious service the Maha Thera has rendered.

Let us also gratefully place on record that the Honourable Sajit Premadasa, Leader of the Opposition, has provided an elevator as an offering to facilitate the caring for our Mahanayaka Thera.

I also wish to thank the Doctors, the Staff of the Nawaloka Hospital, Members of the Nikaya-abhivrudhi Dayaka Sabha (Organization for the Advancement of the Nikaya) and the Dayaka Sabha of the Mahanayaka’s Vihara and who are all providing medical care.

Arrangements were made by the Dayaka Sabha and the student monks to offer alms to the Sangha to mark the birthday of our Thera when he reached the age of 88, on 26th January 2021.

On 21st January 2021 at 7.00 p.m. a Bodhi Pooja was organized by the Amarapura Nikaya-abhivruddi Dayaka Sabha at the historic Kalutara Bodhi to invoke blessings upon our Supreme Maha Thera.

May the Supreme Maha Nayaka Agga Maha Panditha Kotugoda Dhammavasa Maha Nahimi live a life free from sickness and sorrow.

 

Deshamanya Ajita de Zoysa

Chairman

Sri Lanka Nikaya-abhivruddi Dayaka Sabha

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Govt.’s choice is dialogue over confrontation

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By Jehan Perera

Preparing for the forthcoming UN Human Rights Council cannot be easy for a government elected on a nationalist platform that was very critical of international intervention. When the government declared its intention to withdraw from Sri Lanka’s co-sponsorship of the October 2015 resolution No. 30/1 last February, it may have been hoping that this would be the end of the matter. However, this is not to be. The UN Human Rights High Commissioner’s report that will be taken up at the forthcoming UNHRC session in March contains a slate of proposals that are severely punitive in nature and will need to be mitigated. These include targeted economic sanctions, travel bans and even the involvement of the International Criminal Court.

Since UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon’s visit in May 2009 just a few days after the three-decade long war came to its bloody termination, Sri Lanka has been a regular part of the UNHRC’s formal discussion and sometimes even taking the centre stage. Three resolutions were passed on Sri Lanka under acrimonious circumstances, with Sri Lanka winning the very first one, but losing the next two. As the country became internationally known for its opposition to revisiting the past, sanctions and hostile propaganda against it began to mount. It was only after the then Sri Lankan government in 2015 agreed to co-sponsor a fresh resolution did the clouds begin to dispel.

Clearly in preparation for the forthcoming UNHRC session in Geneva in March, the government has finally delivered on a promise it made a year ago at the same venue. In February 2020 Foreign Minister Dinesh Gunawardena sought to prepare the ground for Sri Lanka’s withdrawal from co-sponsorship of UN Human Rights Council resolution No 30/1 of 2015. His speech in Geneva highlighted two important issues. The first, and most important to Sri Lanka’s future, was that the government did not wish to break its relationships with the UN system and its mechanisms. He said, “Sri Lanka will continue to remain engaged with, and seek as required, the assistance of the UN and its agencies including the regular human rights mandates/bodies and mechanisms in capacity building and technical assistance, in keeping with domestic priorities and policies.”

Second, the Foreign Minister concluding his speech at the UNHRC session in Geneva saying “No one has the well-being of the multi-ethnic, multi-lingual, multi-religious and multi-cultural people of Sri Lanka closer to their heart, than the Government of Sri Lanka. It is this motivation that guides our commitment and resolve to move towards comprehensive reconciliation and an era of stable peace and prosperity for our people.” On that occasion the government pledged to set up a commission of inquiry to inquire into the findings of previous commissions of inquiry. The government’s action of appointing a sitting Supreme Court judge as the chairperson of a three-member presidential commission of inquiry into the findings and recommendations of earlier commissions and official bodies can be seen as the start point of its response to the UNHRC.

 

 

NEGATIVE RESPONSE

 

The government’s setting up of a Commission of Inquiry has yet to find a positive response from the international and national human rights community and may not find it at all. The national legal commentator Kishali Pinto Jayawardene has written that “the tasks encompassed within its mandate have already been performed by the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission (LLRC, 2011) under the term of this President’s brother, himself the country’s Executive President at the time, Mahinda Rajapaksa.” Amnesty International has stated that “Sri Lanka has a litany of such failed COIs that Amnesty International has extensively documented.” It goes on to quote from the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights that “Domestic processes have consistently failed to deliver accountability in the past and I am not convinced the appointment of yet another Commission of Inquiry will advance this agenda. As a result, victims remain denied justice and Sri Lankans from all communities have no guarantee that past patterns of human rights violations will not recur.”

It appears that the government intends its appointment of the COI to meet the demand for accountability in regard to past human rights violations. Its mandate includes to “Find out whether preceding Commissions of Inquiry and Committees which have been appointed to investigate into human rights violations, have revealed any human rights violations, serious violations of the international humanitarian law and other such serious offences.” In the past the government has not been prepared to accept that such violations took place in a way that is deserving of so much of international scrutiny. Time and again the point has been made in Sri Lanka that there are no clean wars fought anywhere in the world.

International organisations that stands for the principles of international human rights will necessarily be acting according to their mandates. These include seeking the intervention of international judicial mechanisms or seeking to promote hybrid international and national joint mechanisms within countries in which the legal structures have not been successful in ensuring justice. The latter was on the cards in regard to Resolution 30/1 from which the government withdrew its co-sponsorship. The previous government leaders who agreed to this resolution had to publicly deny any such intention in view of overwhelming political and public opposition to such a hybrid mechanism. The present government has made it clear that it will not accept international or hybrid mechanisms.

 

 

SEQUENTIAL IMPLEMENATION

 

In the preamble to the establishment of the COI the government has made some very constructive statements that open up the space for dialogue on issues of accountability, human rights and reconciliation. It states that “the policy of the Government of Sri Lanka is to continue to work with the United Nations and its Agencies to achieve accountability and human resource development for achieving sustainable peace and reconciliation, even though Sri Lanka withdrew from the co-sponsorship of the aforesaid resolutions” and further goes on to say that “the Government of Sri Lanka is committed to ensure that, other issues remain to be resolved through democratic and legal processes and to make institutional reforms where necessary to ensure justice and reconciliation.”

As the representative of a sovereign state, the government cannot be compelled to either accept international mechanisms or to prosecute those it does not wish to prosecute. At the same time its willingness to discuss the issues of accountability, justice and reconciliation as outlined in the preamble can be considered positively. The concept of transitional justice on which Resolution No 30/1 was built consists of the four pillars of truth, accountability, reparations and institutional reform. There is international debate on whether these four pillars should be implemented simultaneously or whether it is acceptable that they be implemented sequentially depending on the country context.

The government has already commenced the reparations process by establishing the Office for Reparations and to allocate a monthly sum of Rs 6000 to all those who have obtained Certificates of Absence (of their relatives) from the Office of Missing Persons. This process of compensation can be speeded up, widened and improved. It is also reported that the government is willing to consider the plight of suspected members of the LTTE who have been in detention without trial, and in some cases without even being indicted, for more than 10 years. The sooner action is taken the better. The government can also seek the assistance of the international community, and India in particular, to develop the war affected parts of the country on the lines of the Marshall Plan that the United States utilized to rebuild war destroyed parts of Europe. Member countries of the UNHRC need to be convinced that the government’s actions will take forward the national reconciliation process to vote to close the chapter on UNHRC resolution 30/1 in March 2021.

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Album to celebrate 30 years

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Rajiv Sebastian had mega plans to celebrate 30 years, in showbiz, and the plans included concerts, both local and foreign. But, with the pandemic, the singer had to put everything on hold.

However, in order to remember this great occasion, the singer has done an album, made up of 12 songs, featuring several well known artistes, including Sunil of the Gypsies.

All the songs have been composed, very specially for this album.

Among the highlights will be a duet, featuring Rajiv and the Derena DreamStar winner, Andrea Fallen.

Andrea, I’m told, will also be featured, doing a solo spot, on the album.

Rajiv and his band The Clan handle the Friday night scene at The Cinnamon Grand Breeze Bar, from 07.30 pm, onwards.

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