COVID-19:The Confinement Roller Coaster Wave

Written by Marion Aufseesser

25 March 2020

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The change WAVE was first designed by Elisabeth Kubler Ross a Swiss psychiatrist. It is widely used in medicine and management. I use this curve often when working with clients needing to change jobs, thought patterns and their behaviour. I have now adapted it to the current COVID-19 crisis. No doubt over the next weeks I will let it evolve…

I hope that my CONFINEMENT EMOTIONAL ROLLER COASTER WAVE will allow you to better understand the emotional roller coaster we are all riding on right now.

To be able to come to terms with the new World order and cope as best we can with our new living conditions under COVID-19 we need to understand what we are experiencing. Depending on who we are we will have different coping mechanisms in place which have allowed us to carry out our lives in times of stress.

Right now, and most probably for the first time in human history as we recall it, the pandemic is raging worldwide with unprecedented speed and in real time and live, meaning we pretty much all know what is happening on the other side of the planet instantly.


The change wave seems to be never ending. Life is about cycles and we go from ups to downs, highs and lows… like the tides in the sea.

How to read the graph? My graph is like a “screen shot” of the current COVID-19 confinement emotional roller coaster wave, taken around March 24th 2020 as I experience it from my vantage point which is in GENEVA, Switzerland about 1 kilometer away from the HQ of World Health Organisation (WHO) and the United Nations (UN).

Before you read the wave, I would like you to understand that the wave is like water… each word can be placed somewhere else and go back and forward.

Imagine the words to be seagulls flying around, settling on the water and then flying off again. They come and go, back and forth.

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For many of us in Western Countries, 2020 started off quite well. And then, suddenly, we went from being happy in a few days or weeks or months to speeding down on that roller coaster.

Do you feel your tummy? Do you remember the emptiness when that roller coaster car plunges into what you feel is a void? We know the roller coaster car will make it otherwise if we thought it wouldn’t, well we’d never pay to ride on it, would we?

How quickly did you move from DENIAL to accepting the new situation?


ACCEPTING means integrating the news and adhering or even anticipating what needs to be done.

I guess those of us who received “insider” or more accurate information may have moved ahead more quickly than people who were less informed or did not believe the news for whatever reason, sometimes mistrust, sometimes other reasons.

Did we believe the true news soon, we may have had a few days more to come to terms with the new situation and anticipate our organisation and behaviour. Maybe we organised our home office. Maybe we bought a little more essential item. Maybe we made sure generations were separated so as not to infect each other.

I guess it’s a little like in a business situation. When a company has to plan a downsizing it usually does not happen overnight. Management has a few months to prepare.

The employees are then shocked when the wave hits them, for example when they are assembled together in a big conference room and are informed like a bombshell of the bad news such as the closure of the company.

The different phases of the confinement emotional roller coaster wave

If we are mentally prepared we most probably went more quickly from DENIAL, DISBELIEF and SHOCK (Ah, that is in CHINA, Wuhan, we don’t eat wild animals, this is not for me) to feelings of:

FRUSTRATION about the misleading and different message officials were handing the population all over the western countries. Some PANIC, as COVID-19 was getting closer to home and potentially impacting us indirectly or directly.

ANXIETY observed around us: People starting to feel stranded as they were far from home and airlines were grounding leaving people stranded on the beaches, in cities all over the world, aid workers stranded in refugee camps amidst hostility threatening their lives not from COVID-19 but from physical aggression.

ANGER is also all over the place: against whom? Depending on your world views you may be incriminating eating wild food, 5G, WHO (World Health Organisation), the Government or what do I know…

FEAR because the contagion is out of control and we are losing grasp of our daily lives and many are scared of what will happen to the economy. Will our work still be there? Will we lose part or all their savings if we were able to have any? If we are on a tight budget, as all the vulnerable part of our populations are, how will we cope economically? Low income, migrants, refugees to name a few of the most vulnerable groups.

FEAR of dying of course if we are in one of the risk groups. (For more info:

LOSS of CONTROL of our daily routines and the UNCERTAINTY is most probably one of the most unsettling aspects right now, apart from the fear of contracting COVID-19 of course.

SADNESS obviously is on the rise, and even more so if you are personally impacted or your close ones are.

BEREAVEMENT if a close person has died because of COVID-19. The bereavement process will be even harder to cope with as in “normal” times as in many parts of the world, it is currently not possible to organise burials according to one’s ritual due to COVID-19 restrictions.

Needless to say, each and every health care professional in direct contact with patients must be feeling all these emotions. When they can’t work and save lives as they should be able to for lack of resources their mental and emotional health state will take its toll. Hence all the very emotional PLEAS by health care professionals not only to follow strictly the laws of confinement but to be overly responsible.

EMOTIONAL EMPTINESS can be a part of the picture.

GUILT and survivor guilt, as we can experience these feelings for many different reasons right now. Some of them could be that we are feeling lucky to live in a comfortable home, have different resources. If we have had COVID-19 and are currently immune I can also imagine feeling of survivor guilt:

“Wow! I had it, it seems I am safe right now!” (potential virus mutations left aside of course). Hence also the huge output of GENEROSITY to SUPPORT those less fortunate in our communities

DOMESTIC VIOLENCE, CHILD ABUSE, SUICIDE, DIVORCE, PTSD, DEPRESSION are what we need to prevent now by not leaving any one alone as we know from past epidemics and pandemics that these issues with serious psychological outcomes are on the rise.

TENSIONS WORKING FROM HOME WITH FAMILY AND COLLEAGUES need to be addressed this is why creating help and support lines are vital.

RELIEF for those immune; relief will be on the rise when this wave is over.

Eventually, time will come to REBOUND. To start living a new kind of life. It’s of course too early to say HOW or WHEN we will return to a new normal standard of living.

Already now there are feelings of NEW ENERGY because all our SURVIVAL INSTINCTS are working overtime.

Sometime in the future this terrible tsunami will come to an end. We will rebuild. Will we change? Time will tell.

Feelings of HAPPINESS amidst all this chaos, realising that infants and small children, although carriers of the virus, usually do not get very sick. Happiness feelings also, if we realise and are in GRATITUDE that we are fortunate enough to be at home, with our close ones, that our close ones are safe where ever they are and that we have enough resources to stick through this.

Our EMPATHY then goes out to those, who are not quite as fortunate as we are and so all over the world SOLIDARITY is rising. We will REBOUND and we will have NEW ENERGY.

Finally, we will RECOVER and POST COVID19 society will certainly be different and the World will have CHANGED. It is now up to us to decide what will change and how durable those changes will be.