The phrase “If you’re not afraid, you’re not paying attention” has been around in various forms for twenty or thirty years. In this era of Covid 19, we can’t not pay attention as much as we might like to. We have to pay attention: shelter-in-place, lock down, quarantine, all the usual social gatherings banned. We get it. But, along with the obvious economic stress, there is the enforced intimacy of family, friends, roommates, or the pain of a single living alone. Throw in the constant reminders of illness, mortality, and the unknown. Here you have a perfect storm for stress, anxiety, worry.
Let’s take a look at some practical steps we can take to ease up these fears.
1. Take a break from the bad news. The constant stream of political-medical information is compelling and helps us prepare and strategize, but an overdose leads to extra shots of adrenaline. This can become addictive, then counterproductive. The trick is ‘switching channels.’ It’s hard to just turn it off. One way is to have something to turn on: music, favorite TV show, good movie, bad movie, face time with a friend, a book, cooking.
2. Go outside. The typical rules in a ‘shelter in place’ situation allow for outside walks, exercise, bike riding. Just stay six feet away from folks. Ideally, this would be a walk in the park, noticing bird songs, new flowers, the steady trees.
3. Meditate. This is a proven method to deal with both anxiety and depression. Check on these apps:
Kaiserpermanente reviewed meditation apps:
And these are UCSF resources for mindfulness apps:
And here is a discussion on other ways to sort through other possible responses:
4. Go easy or yourself and others. We all have different ways of dealing with this. Our family, friends, roommates, guaranteed, will have other approaches. The time we are in requires thoughtful negotiations. If it starts to get heated, back off with a comment that we can continue this later. Same goes for the self. We are all used to ‘taking care of business.’ That’s how we got to where we are. Time to be gentle.
5. Stay in contact. Defy the isolation by contact. Family, friends, workplace colleagues are available by phone, email, text, FaceTime, video conferencing. A family member or an old friend where there was a falling out? Good time to call. There are profoundly creative way being developed to help us with this. I’d bet these will increase as we go. It is the human yearning for connection coupled with creativity that will get us through this.
6. Workout. Your apartment, your house, is a gym. Stairs are really a stair master. There’s the floor: push ups. Yoga on the rug.
7. Schedule something everyday. Some of us need a higher degree of structure than others. Getting a task list gives us both direction and goals.
8. Try something new. Poetry, painting, gourmet cooking, house project, singing.
There are other psychological creative ways to deal with this global mess. For some, it may be helping a neighbor’ others political activism, and others having spiritual approaches.
Most importantly, go easy, folks.