Humour can help people take precautions against the coronavirus disease (Covid-19) and adapt to its impact on daily life – if it is used in the right way, a wellness expert at Georgetown University in Qatar (GU-Q), a QF partner university, has said.
Dr Mahnaz Nowrozi Mousavi, director of Student Wellness & Counseling at GU-Q, says that while the public should follow official health guidance amid the Covid-19 outbreak, this doesn’t necessarily have to prevent them from having fun.
“Dealing with Covid-19 should be done with rationality,” she said. “We should neither exaggerate nor minimise the importance of the situation and its impact, but instead keep a balanced view and follow guidelines, because otherwise we may experience negative psychological impacts on individuals and the community. 
“From a psychological view, humour – if used appropriately – is good and healthy, especially in difficult times. A good sense of humour helps individuals and brings the community together, because we can communicate effectively through humour.
“There is a fine line between using appropriate humour and meanness and stereotyping. Good humour lightens the mood and raises people’s spirits. Obviously, if jokes are taken out of proportion, exaggerate or minimise the gravity of an issue, and if they are at the expense of certain groups of people, then it is not humour, it is hostility.
“I have seen some humorous videos about avoiding shaking hands, how to greet other people while respecting them, and how to follow proper hygiene guidelines. These are all good ways to communicate through humour.”
Dr Mousavi explained that people use humour as a form of coping, communicating, and expressing emotions. “We in the Middle East tend to be caring, collective, and connective.” she said. “One of the best ways of controlling direct contact with others in order to avoid the spread of coronavirus is to use appropriate humour and lighthearted and caring comments like ‘Not hugging is caring’ or ‘Not shaking hands to be cool’.”
She also emphasised that people should not be limiting activities they enjoy unless there are specific guidelines for them to avoid these. 
As for the workplace impact of Covid-19, Dr Mousavi said: “If there are ways that people can do their jobs remotely by e-mail or phone and video calls for some time, without being in direct communication with other people particularly in small physical spaces, this can be a good practice. 
“Working remotely can actually decrease the stigma and the risk of someone feeling insulted if we don’t meet them. It can bring about a change of mindset, because at the moment we can explain to people that a meeting is not necessary because our health and the health of others is the priority, and this helps them to realise that not meeting directly is not a reason for taking any offence.”
Regarding the psychological impact of self-isolating due to Covid-19, Dr Mousavi said that as humans we like to move freely, rather than be isolated, but health precautions take priority. “Quarantining yourself does not mean a complete isolation, as people can come together using social media and through other forms of communication,” she said. 
“It can actually be very beneficial, presenting a great opportunity for us to read a book we always wanted to read, or to complete a project. It is also important to create some sort of structure for ourselves. And, most importantly, it is important to know that it is best practice that is needed to protect ourselves and protect others.
“We must all be responsible for protecting ourselves, our families, and other members of society.”
Dr Mousavi re-emphasised the importance of following the preventative measures that Qatar has put in place to protect the community from the spread of coronavirus, and the need for everyone to maintain good hygiene, such as by regularly washing hands and using hand sanitisers.