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How Has Maslow’s ‘Hierarchy of Needs’ Been Tested During Covid-19?

What is Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs?

Abraham Maslow was a psychologist who believed people’s motivations were based on seeking fulfilment and change through individual growth. He split them into a five-tier pyramid known as Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. Maslow divided the five stages into two groups. The first four are the Deficiency needs and the fifth is the Growth need.

Maslow stated that before a person can move up the hierarchy, they must be satisfied with the lower tier first. The five needs of the Hierarchy from bottom to top are:

Physiological – Known as the basic requirements for survival; e.g. air, food, water, warmth, sleep. Without these needs the human body cannot function properly.
Safety – The need for safety and security become important once the Physiological needs are met. They represent control and order in a person’s life. This can be gained through social stability, financial security, law and order and emotional security, to name a few.
Love and belongingness – The third need refers to interpersonal relationships; such as being accepted, friendships, giving and receiving affection, intimacy and love.
Esteem – Maslow classified this into two categories. The first is self-esteem and being able to acknowledge achievements, independence or dignity. The second is the desire for respect or reputation from others.
Self-actualization – The highest level in Maslow’s hierarchy refers to a person becoming the best they can be through achieving their desires and accomplishments. This can be different for each individual. For example, it could be an aspiration to reach an academic or fitness status, or a creative achievement such as literature or art for others.

For more in-depth information about Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs you can check out Simply Psychology here.

How has the pandemic tested the pyramid?

Since the lockdown began, our situations drastically changed. Everything we took for granted, like going to the cinema and seeing friends, to seeing our families was stopped and we were told to stay at home. The result of this changed how we view Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs.

From the bottom of the pyramid, let’s take a look at Physiological Needs, which even from the start had a massive impact on the country. The basic need for food was tested, as supermarkets couldn’t keep up with demand at the start. Toilet rolls, flour, eggs, rice and pasta were all scarce and shopping became a challenge. Sleep also became difficult for a lot of people, which is natural in times of a crisis as our daily routines were affected.

When the first tier is disrupted it was difficult to start with, but when the second tier was affected, life became somewhat tougher. The Safety Need was pushed to the limit, as people were anxious about finances and their job security. Many companies were shut, people went on ‘furlough’ indefinitely and many jobs have been lost. Not only that, the scarcity of PPE, for our frontline staff became a bone of contention, as people deserve to feel safe at work. But there simply wasn’t enough to protect our workforce.

The most difficult tiers

Whilst the first two tiers have proven hard to accomplish, the third is the most difficult in my opinion. Love and belongingness are something we have all struggled with after not being allowed to see our family and friends. Although thankfully we have modern technology to keep in contact with our loved ones, it still has a massive effect not being able to see them face-to-face and give them a hug and a kiss.

When three bottom needs are put under strain, the top two prove difficult for almost all. People’s esteem is tested. By going out to the shops to buy what we need, it comes with a feeling of guilt and anxiety for being out. There was a lot of social judgement about what everyone was doing.

Self-actualisation became somewhat impossible for many of us. There are some people who have made the best out of a bad situation by doing the things they put off for so long. But many others have found these times extremely difficult. Whatever the desire may be for the individual, the motivation just wasn’t there.

Appreciation for key workers

Even how we look up to others has changed. Months ago our idols were celebrities, footballers, actors and singers, but now we are able to see who the real heroes in life; those all-important key workers. We are able to see that supermarket staff, bin men, lorry drivers, police, fire fighters, teachers and incredible NHS staff are what is really making the world go around. We have given appreciation through rainbows and claps on a Thursday evening for these new heroes we admire.

How can we get attain the hierarchy now?

It may seem that the peak of the hierarchy won’t be achieved for some time now, but it doesn’t have to be that way. With things slowly going back to normal and safety procedures being put in place, it’s important to remember that we will get through this together.

We need to remain level-headed and calm as we ride out the storm. The five tiers will steady again as we remember that we still have food and water, and a safe place to sleep. Government schemes are there to help those who need it, and most importantly, just because we can’t physically see our loved ones it doesn’t mean that they don’t care or love us.

As we all adjust to the new ways of living, let’s remember that we can get through this together with the help and support of our friends and family. And we can show them that we’re there for them.

Our guest blogger is Gayleen Hodson, and you can find out more about her here.

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