Life in the Time of a Pandemic: How to Stay Sane while Keeping Safe
Until the past few days, I was feeling both very detached about the news continuing to overwhelm my inbox, and simultaneously feeling afraid. Over the past 48 hours, my response has began to change, as there seems to have been a national realization of the seriousness of the situation. Is it possible to at once avoid checking out or panicking? How can we meet this occasion appropriately?
Here are some questions I have been asking myself, and they may be helpful for you to ask yourself, too:
1. What is within my control? I can wash my hands frequently, I can clean the surfaces that I come into contact with often, and I can practice “social distancing” by keeping myself and my children away from others, especially if we are feeling unwell. I can encourage my friends and family to do the same. I can choose to not stockpile supplies, and I can be a resource for my employees and children in this uncertain time.
2. How much news is enough, and how much is too much? I tend to like to be “in the know.” It helps me feel like I’m not at the mercy of the world and that I can prepare. With that said, I recently realized that though I don’t necessarily learn something new every time I ingest a piece of media or read an email about COVID-19, sometimes reading news or emails endlessly can cause me to spiral into anxiety. Therefore, from this point on, I am choosing to be intentional about my exposure to the news, and to do my best to focus on facts rather than anecdotes.
3. Am I allowed to be distracted? For the past few years, the news has been central to many of our lives. And as I mentioned earlier, for many of us, it’s motivating to know what’s going on, to prepare for what’s to come, and to know when to take action. However, when consuming the news becomes overwhelming or prompts us to feel paralyzed, it might be time to take a break. I find that distractions are definitely helpful for me. I cannot function (take care of myself, take care of my family, complete my work) when I feel paralyzed. Additionally, while practicing social distancing and/or quarantining ourselves, it could be helpful to have as many distractions on hand as possible. This can also offer us an opportunity to connect with our loved ones while apart: by exchanging show recommendations, video games, or indoor activities!
Beyond these questions, it’s also helpful to remember that while massive crises can bring out the worst in us, it can oftentimes also bring out our best. Last weekend, I was shocked when I went to go pick up some toilet paper, only to find that multiple stores were out of stock. Finally, at the third store, an employee was putting two packages of toilet paper on the shelf right as I walked up. I heard him say, “These are the last two,” and then I watched as the woman in front of me held out both her arms to accept the packages. I was prepared to turn around and to try my luck elsewhere, but before I did, the woman turned to me and offered me one of the two packages she was holding. I was floored by her kindness.
Over the next several weeks, we will see how COVID-19 continues to affect us, and I’m sure it will be uncomfortable, to say the least. But we can look for opportunities to take care of our neighbors (especially the elderly and immunosuppressed who are most at risk). We can do this by practicing good hygiene, not unnecessarily stockpiling supplies, and keeping a safe distance from people when we are in public spaces. In the meantime, I will be staying informed (but not overinformed!), well-washed, and entertained when I’m at home. Though what works for me may not be exactly the same for you, I hope you are finding ways to take care of yourself, too.