I’ll just say it: we all feel a little crazy right now! The central challenge? How to stay grounded during what feels like global hysteria. How do we find the balance between staying well-informed enough to be knowledgeable while not being paralyzed in fear?
Just like rationing our purchasing of toilet paper out of respect of others’ needs, consider rationing exposure to the news and media. We may be able to better-regulate our responses by asking ourselves “How would I be responding to this situation if there was no social media?” “How would I be acting at the grocery store if I did not just get done watching the news’ report of people buying up all the hand sanitizer?” Keep in mind that the media is a business. They want to promote the most sensational stories to capture attention and keep people constantly tuning in.
Even if we are not inherently fearful about the situation, fear (like COVID-19) is contagious! Being told by health officials that over-reacting to this illness is still under-reacting does not help us to know what a “reasonable” reaction is. So, it is not abnormal to constantly ask ourselves if we are doing enough. The key, however, is what is directing our behaviors.
What is causing us to act certain ways at the grocery store or with others? Is it fear or precaution? It has been known for years in the field of psychology that fear compromises the immune system. So, fear will never be inherently helpful to us.
Don’t get me wrong – precaution is always a good idea. However, scrubbing things constantly with Lysol wipes may be more of our attempt to manage our own anxiety about the risk of illness, as opposed to what a medical professional would recommend in order to reduce the risk of infection.
CARE FOR OTHERS
Zooming out our lens on the world can also be helpful in times of crisis. This is not about us. This is about the globe. Such a time in our history can encourage us to find balance by working as a global community to support each other.
Who could use someone to help them get their groceries? Who may need extra emotional support if they are quarantined? Realizing that we are all in this together can help ground us to unite in being wise in our fight against this illness, as opposed to simply feeling that fear is the only thing that will keep us and our home protected from “The Other!”
CHANGE YOUR PERSPECTIVE
Even when considering a possible quarantine, how could we view the situation as an opportunity, as opposed to a thing to fear? What do the current mandates related to this pandemic offer as an opportunity that we might have never gotten otherwise? Can we finally do a deep clean of our home? Finish that book? Catch up with our sister who lives in Florida? Pick up knitting?
We cannot change the circumstances. But, we can change our thinking. Consider how we can adapt and view this situation as an opportunity that has been given to us. (Hopefully!) we never experience this situation again, so this may be our only time to do those things that were falling by the wayside.
OFFER YOURSELF GRACE
Remember: we are human. Even for the perpetually-peaceful, this is still scary. Even if we do our best to limit our exposure to the media, we may find ourselves becoming overwhelmed. Allow yourself to feel fear out of love for yourself and our global community. Fear is not something in itself to fear. But, recognize where this anxiety is felt in your body.
When your mind starts racing and you feel that you are surrounded by a world of germs just waiting to kill you, take a breath. Notice your body. Consider how to adjust behavior (e.g. talking about the rapidly-changing updates for the fifteenth time today with a co-worker) to not encourage a reaction of fear.
During this time, our self-care (both physical and mental) is more important than ever. Do something that makes you happy. Support yourself with the medicine of laughter. Rest well. Eat the foods that you know will make your body strong.
When you need support, get it. Speak with your doctor. Find a therapist who does video sessions. Talk with a friend. Just be mindful of not focusing on the negative and “what ifs,” both of which will likely increase your fear.
THIS, TOO, SHALL PASS
We are resilient creatures. We have survived wars, famine, and plagues. Life will not always be like this. Things will become “normal” again. Consider what lessons we can learn from this situation as individuals and a society. Think about how this experience will change your behavior in the future.
We reflect what we are around. So, to find your best balance, surround yourself with things that have the same goal. Depend on messages that encourage precaution over fear. Because fear does not tend to cause healthy reactions, above all, simply keep calm and wash your hands.
Ashley Carter Youngblood, owner and psychotherapist at Inner Peace Counseling, PLC, is passionate about supporting her community during this difficult time. To respond to this need, she is offering telehealth services and pro bono therapy for those affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. Find more information at www.kalamazoo-counseling.com.