Self-care during the pandemic and beyond: Implications for consumption and well-being

Professor Olivier Badot and PhD student Jannsen Santana from ESCP Business School discusses the impact of the COVID-19 Pandemic on physical and mental health

In today’s fast-paced society, people tend to lose touch with their bodies, and cases of mental and physically-related disorders arise. Yet the coronavirus lockdown is boosting the appearance of these mental illnesses at a global level, with people exhibiting varying degrees of grief, panic, hopelessness, paralyzing fear, or difficulties in sleeping.

Excessive anxiety, mainly caused by over-indulging in tuning or reading bad news about Covid-19 which tends to affect people’s emotional or physical well-being, with symptoms varying from hearts beating faster, blood pressure rising and breathing rate increases, to gaining weight and the nagging worry about the future. While social change caused by the crisis is impacting mental on health and well-being; people are developing home-based coping strategies to better deal with these times.

The phenomenon, already underway, in self-care and in people reconnecting with themselves through the practices of yoga, or other related spiritual practices, seems to gain force as people want to fight anxiety and other mental disorders coming from the confinement and social change. To better deal with these issues, people are taking up yoga, dancing to music, walking up and down the stairs, doing exercises and carrying out breathing techniques or even taking a 20-minute walk outside.

Moreover, depending on home circumstances and the number of people living together, they will have to cope with constraints and variabilities. For instance, parents may face extra challenges once they need to work from home and incentivise their children to continue being physically active as well as continuing other activities.

Consumer research around well-being has shown that people tend to escape from the struggles of their everyday life by engaging in extraordinary experiences such as ‘consuming’ adventurous experiences, spiritual and religious movements, music, or nature. Some marketed escapes can offer healing and therapeutic services for those people in need. However, it seems that when it comes to confinement, there is no escaping from it. In such stressful circumstances, your body goes into fight-or-flight mode, spurring you on to do something. For those who were able to escape to the countryside, in which they can benefit from their families’ house in nature, they may well have faced less stress and worrisome routines. But those that are living in big cities, which is 55% of the entire world’s population, in small apartments/houses, they will have to find ways of fighting or at least escaping to imaginary places through the on-line practices of yoga, home exercising, music and so on.

Contradictorily, our desire for well-being, associated with fear and anxiety can lead us to adopt unhealthy behaviours and poor decision-making too. Home confinement may tempt people to just curl up on the couch and binge-watch Netflix. The consumption of alcohol and nicotine, for instance, are very linked to anxiety, consequently drawing our attention to look at ourselves during the pandemic. Likewise, anxiety has been considered as an emotion that can increase caffeine and food consumption. Therefore, the longer we remain in confinement, the higher the chances of having other health-related diseases associated with the consumption of food and drugs.

If you would like to find out more, please follow the link to our latest impact paper discussing the topic above in more depth: