A coronavirus message from Madrid: 'how a simple gesture of appreciation gives us hope and a greater common purpose'

Citizens of Madrid go to their windows to applaud health workers at 8pm every evening (PA Images)
19:12pm, Sat 21 Mar 2020
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One day we are enjoying the beginning of a sunny spring, making jokes about 'coronavirus' and watching how our Italian neighbours are living a complete madness.

A couple of days later, our own country is in quarantine. All companies are trying to implement teleworking, thinking about the economic consequences of this crisis and you can only go out of your home to buy food or walk your dog. Just 10 minutes, just one person per dog.  

This is the situation we had in Spain a week ago, and after seven days we begin to observe the psychological consequences of this quarantine.

As psychologists, we have online sessions with our clients and we work on the fear of uncertainty, future issues, the virus and emotional effects of isolation such as anxiety, boredom and unhealthy habits like overthinking, excess use of social media use or emotional eating.

There are plenty of psychological difficulties in this crisis and we are living in a weird, lonely and uncertain situation.

But, we also live in a country that for seven days, at 8pm each night dresses on gratitude. A country in which all the neighbours go out to their windows and, for several minutes, clap doctors, nurses, health personnel, employees of the food sector and police - those who are taking care of us.

We have seen how our buildings wake up with messages of people in the stairs offering their help to other neighbours to go to the supermarket or buy medicines.  

We have lived how football teams like Athletic de Bilbao show in their stadium messages like "Eskerik asko por cuidarnos"  (Thank you for taking care of us in a mix of Spanish and Euskera).

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It seems we do not feel just lucky or confident about our health system but also grateful and co-operative. There is a big movement of creativity calling for people to stay at home. Not just big companies, but small entrepreneurs or freelancers are sharing their material for free.

Of course, there are extreme situations, people without a home, others with sick relatives and for sure we will suffer future consequences of this virus, but we can observe how a nation with multiple ideological and identity differences feels united every night by a greater common purpose.  

And who knows, in all crises humanity has made great scientific and technological advances for development in different fields and we will probably also learn a lot from this crisis at a digital level but maybe, just maybe, we will also develop more sustainable habits, more gratitude, creativity and a bigger sense of cooperation.  

The terraces under the skies of Madrid, walks on the Spanish beaches and long talks in the parks of pet owners will return. This call only asks us to be patient and help those who help us.

A month ago, in a course that I teach about new technologies and wellbeing, two students presented a project of a social media platform for retired people that aimed to face loneliness and cognitive deterioration. 

We could now extrapolate their idea to all of us, using technology to train our personal strengths, to feel connected but also to spread responsible and co-operative messages like #stayathome #quedateencasa  

Leticia Martínez-Prado is a clinical psychologist and professional coach and associate professor of new technologies and wellbeing at IE Business School and Psychology at Syracuse University in Madrid