How the Covid-19 Anniversary Might Mess With Your Head
It’s been a year since the U.S.’s first lockdowns. Disaster experts explain why that’s significant.
Today is March 8, 2021. But somewhere on the internet, there’s undoubtedly someone marking it as another date — March 373rd. Or is it 374th?
Honestly, I’ve lost track, which I guess is the entire joke.
For many in the United States, March 2020 was the month the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic first became apparent in their lives. It was when the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention began to advise limiting group gatherings. The month bedrooms and living rooms transformed into makeshift schools and offices as the real versions were shuttered. By the end of that month, the U.S. was leading the world in confirmed cases of the virus, setting a tone the rest of the year would follow. As the meme goes, it was all March from that point.
Now it’s March again — for real this time — marking a year since Americans experienced that significant shift. That milestone has spawned another slate of memes, largely boiling down to the idea that the month’s arrival feels like an attack. Which, according to experts who study disasters and mental health, is pretty spot on — research on disaster anniversaries shows that heightened emotions tied to these dates are quite common. In other words, even if you’ve been living in a “March” haze for the past 12 months, this month might actually feel different.
“It’s a reminder of everything that happened the year before, so we absolutely see disaster anniversary reactions where people can be triggered by coming back up on that event,” explains Betty Lai, PhD, an assistant professor in the Department of Counseling, Developmental, and Educational Psychology at Boston College. Lai studies how children and families respond to disasters, and she considers Covid-19 to be one since it is a “community-wide, large-scale, potentially traumatic event.”
There’s a chart in this field of research that chronicles six phases of a disaster, starting with the “pre-disaster” threat or warning, followed by the “impact” period Lai mentions, the subsequent phases of response, and, ultimately, “reconstruction.” This model points to the…