Resilience Steps to Calm Pandemic Panic
Make no mistake, COVID-19 is very serious and requires precautions, attention, and vigilance. However, fear and panic run counter to what will help us move through this global threat. Stockpiling toilet paper and water, incessant reading and watching multiple news sources, and staying caught up on social media only serves to underscore the feeling of panic. It reminds me of the time my husband insisted I become licensed to carry mace when I’d walk thru campus at night. There had never been an incident and I walked fearless; until I started carrying the mace. Then, every shadow, noise, or movement struck terror in my heart.
In short, my brain now imagined all sorts of horrors. I was no longer able to rationally and literally move forward.
Resilience lesson #1: Stop living in the projected future that envisions the worst. Imagined fear paralyzes us. Follow the recommended guidelines for logical preparation and personal care and hygiene. Then, stop. Live in today. Now. It’s the only place of power you have.
Resilience lesson #2: Stop feeding your brain with too much information. Find two news outlets (one national and one local) that you trust and let the others go. You do not need to know everything. Be a smart consumer of information. If you are brave, don’t watch television news. Remember that the 24-hour news stations have to fill up the air and pundits pontificate! Let it go.
Resilience lesson #3: Action is the antidote for anxiety. Put yourself in gear first. Take a walk outside. Go for a run. Exercise in whatever way gets your heart moving from exertion and not from fear. Try yoga. You can find basic yoga online. Meditation is also an action. Do it first thing in the morning. Insight Timer is a meditation app I use. I sit for 20 minutes while I listen to the sound of the ocean before I get into the day.
Resilience lesson #4: See non-work time as a gift. In our 24-7 always-on world, this time-out even if forced upon us can be reframed as an opportunity to do things we never seem to find time for in our hurried lives. When was the last time your family played games and did a jigsaw puzzle together? What about the books you’ve wanted to read, the painting you’d like to do? I’m going to watch YouTube and learn how to refinish my desk. It’s how my granddaughter taught herself to play the ukulele. Growing and learning are positive steps with the gift of time.
Resilience lesson #5: Think and act for others. Because action is the antidote for anxiety, consider how you might help others who are more impacted by the virus than you. Right now, parents might not have child care for children sent home from school. Offer your services to help. Nurses and doctors and medical personnel may have their lives in danger. Offer to make a meal and leave it at their door. And speaking of food, sadly numerous children depended upon a hot meal at school as their best (and maybe) only meal of the day. Find out how you might volunteer at a shelter or a soup kitchen. And call people who have been forced into lock down. My dear 90 year-old friend just had her birthday party canceled as no one can go in (or out) of the facility. I’ll be making more regular phone calls to check in and chat. You get the idea.
Resilience lesson #6: Be gentle with yourself. It’s ok to worry and feel bad as long as you name the worry and what you can do if anything about it. Is it a rational fear or a product of an overly-active imagination? Help your children understand and validate their fears while teaching them the power of positive perceptions. Remember, Franklin Delano Roosevelt was right when he proclaimed, “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.” We can do as the British WWII poster insisted, “Keep Calm and Carry on.”
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