Updated: Apr 4, 2020
4 Ways to Combat the Pandemic of Fear
There is a virus that is spreading so fast throughout the world, and it is having a debilitating effect on millions of people.
But it’s not the Coronavirus—it’s fear, and it behaves in similar ways. It can be transmitted from person to person, it can become consuming and take over our bodies, and thankfully, it can also be managed and eventually go away.
Few things are scarier than the unknown. But that’s precisely what we’re dealing with right now. We don’t know who among us is carrying the virus. We don’t know if we will become infected. We don’t know how long this crisis will last or when life will return to normal—if normal is even a possibility.
There are a myriad of sources online providing information on Covid-19, but this will not be one of them. My goal is to help you with the other virus. The fear. If you’re not feeling it yourself, you’re likely witness to someone else who’s infected by it. Our cities’ grocery stores are overcrowded with people scrambling to get every last bottle of water or hand sanitizer. And what we’ve always known as constants in our lives are coming to a screeching halt with record speed: schools, work, sporting events, travel. All of it makes us profoundly susceptible to the fear and anxiety.
Allow me, then, to offer up four ways to manage this other virus.
1. Invoke the Serenity Prayer
Long known among the friends of Bill W., the serenity prayer is a universal construct,
which applies exquisitely to all aspects of our lives: “God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, Courage to change the things I can, And wisdom to know the difference”. You don’t have to believe in God or even a higher power to reap
the benefits of the prayer. It’s all about accepting what we can’t control in life which, it
turns out, is most things.
In the case of the Coronavirus, there are things we can definitely control. We can be
vigilant with our hand-washing. We can practice social distancing. We can stay home
if we’re feeling sick, and/or seek medical help if our symptoms worsen. But nearly
everything else about this pandemic is beyond our control. We must have faith in
our health care professionals, scientists and government officials to help us through
these times. And we must surrender control. It’s not easy, but once you do it, you
may experience a significant release.
2. Limit your exposure to the media
Some of you are considering a total news black-out, which is understandable
considering it’s pretty much the only thing the news and the web are talking about.
CNN might as well stand for Corona News Network.
But a total cutoff would be irresponsible. Pick one or two trusted sources of infor-
mation so you can be up-to-date on the state of affairs, what to do, etc. But then
turn to other things: a book you’ve always wanted to read, a new Netflix show,
a beloved comedy, a board game. Sadly, much of the media plays on our fears,
and one can only take so many experts telling us the world is ending. So check in
every so often with the CDC, but then watch “Love is Blind”: you’ll be rooting for Lauren and Cameron like the rest of us.
3. Practice mindfulness
Yeah, I know. The word is so ubiquitous, it almost sounds cheesy. But at its core,
it’s about being present. The future is fertile breeding ground for the fear virus. But
most of the time, nothing is wrong in the present. I’ll give you an example: right now
I am sitting on a comfortable couch, typing on a well-crafted Apple product. I’m
trying to be helpful to people, and that feels good. I’m aware of my socks now. They
feel snug against my feet.
Okay, so more detail than you wanted to know, but for the 30 seconds it took me to
write the example, I was present. I focused on details in the moment, which means
I wasn’t focused on Coronavirus. Imagine if you could extend those 30 seconds into
minutes or hours.
4. Engage your relationships
For my money, this is the best antidote of them all—and not just for the Fear virus, but
maybe even for Corona. Whether it’s your significant other, your sibling, your parent, your child or your friend—reaching out and connecting with someone important in your life is healing. It reminds us we are not alone, and that we aren’t going through this by ourselves. We can share our fears and comfort each other. We can cry together, but we can also laugh together. Most importantly, we can be together. In person, by phone or FaceTime, try it right now. How could this possibly help fight Coronavirus you ask? There’s plenty of research to suggest that loving and feeling loved provides a boost to the immune system.
We will get through this. In the meantime, let’s make surrendering control, limited media exposure, mindfulness and love—go viral.