As a professional worrier with a black-belt in anxiety, a pandemic was far down my “List of Greatest Anxieties;” falling below an incoming asteroid, Celine Dion, or a “Frozen 5” release. The Covid-19 anxiety trigger caught me so off-guard that I was cerebrally stymied – not by the virus – rather people’s reactions to news of the virus. I found myself on the anxiety sidelines watching the Country run amok depleting supermarket shelves then retreating into doomsday bunkers, while I did nothing. Why? Because the world is not going to implode. Even if irresponsible headlines suggest otherwise.
Symptoms of Coronavirus:
- Dry cough
- Trouble breathing
- Sudden urge to believe the media’s bullshit
We’re familiar with pneumonia and other afflictions like K-pop and the Kardashians, but most of us haven’t had Covid-19. Therein lies our angst. Anxiety is rooted in a fear of the unknown. This pandemic is exacerbated by a “looming vulnerability” as it creeps closer to our own doorstep, while we have no idea to what severity it might afflict us personally – if at all.
This Looming Vulnerability Model – a perception of a growing, rapidly approaching threat – is traced to our evolutionary past. But it’s a dysfunctional perception that affects our thought processing, functioning, emotions, and behavior. It’s what leads us to thinking that to survive, we must stockpile guns, ammo, and ramen. But this isn’t “The Purge: Anarchy” movie. Even the inept powers-that-be know we will continue to need food and provisions.
Price gouging, panic porn, conspiracy theories, and sensationalist media coverage of the outbreak is fueling existing fears, to include a deliberate pandering to xenophobic stereotypes and click-bait exaggerations. Don’t worry – the Stafford Act does not give the president the authority to declare a nationwide lock-down. We should absolutely self-quarantine and follow distancing protocols. But you will continue to have access to the things you need at Trader Joe’s. You won’t be holed-up like Bin Laden in a fortified dugout of couscous and wives.
Predictions of impending apocalypse have been suggested since the first millennium CE. And even Columbus claimed that the world would last only 7000 years as he whipped-up the first batch of candied yams. And, remember when the world was ending at 12:00 am on January 1st, 2000? In the fallout of these foiled dates, we endure. Because hope spreads faster than contagion.
You want to hear a coronavirus joke?
You probably won’t get it.
Like many, my own parents are in the highest-risk group for the virus. My mom has a rare stage-4 cancer and is in the hospital almost weekly. While my dad is a stubborn 80-year old facing down the virus like it was a tiny insurgent blocking his entrance to Costco. I’m quite worried for them both. But I strive to consistently source the humor of this salty new frontier to keep my wits.
Hoarding toilet paper won’t help. This isn’t cholera. Panic buying begets panic buying. But we are not powerless. We actually have a choice in all of this: We can choose to find the upside. It’s actually everywhere if you look closely.
SOME UPSIDES TO ALL THE DOWN…
- You can poop at home on weekdays.
- The antivaxxers are unusually quiet.
- The world is actually cleaner than it’s ever been. Never before did so many scrub so much so often.
- You have a newfound appreciation of delivery personnel, pet shelter volunteers, therapists, baristas, and nurses.
- You’ve discovered forms of exercise outside of filthy gyms.
- FaceTime quarantini happy hours.
- You’ve learned how to touch your face less with your foul little germ-sticks
- Marriages will grow stronger as people practice the “for better or worse, in sickness and in health” thing.
- We now see how small and interconnected we are as a planet.
- Working remotely will be recognized for its efficiencies, as companies must face the archaic practice of caging people in fabric-lined cubes and feeding them microwaved popcorn.
- If you’re an introvert, then this is like any other time.
- You’re going to save on haircuts, mani-pedi’s, and bars because … you’re not going. You will also save on dry-cleaning and laundry since you’re donning the same yoga pants and sweats for days.
- You’ve stopped worrying about whatever it was you worried about before all of this.
The emerging heroes in the fracas are the supermarket employees who non-judgmentally stock and tally our anxious hoarding; the veterinarians who care for our beloved pets; the pharmacists who fill our prescriptions throughout 24-hour drugstores across America; and the relentless truckers who don’t stop providing a crazed populace food and adult baby wipes. Americans are at their best in times of crisis. And history will reveal that it was the blue collars and blue scrubs that kept the world turning throughout the most anxious time of our lives.
In the meantime, there are some things you can do to harvest your chill.
QUARANTINE “TO-DO” LIST:
- Order a bidet from Amazon.
- If you smoke or vape, quit. The last thing you want during a respiratory pandemic are tarry lungs.
- Start the book you bought 7 years ago.
- Learn a new Tik Tok dance. Here are 10 to get you started.
- Catch up on your favorite Netflix series.
- Learn to be still. This new lifestyle is intended to slow us down for our own good. It’s uncomfortable to not be in control. HINT: We were never in control.
- Memorize Psalm 23 or Psalm 46.
- Wash your hands like you’re lathering your biggest crush, and their life depended on your thoroughness.
- Write thank you emails or letters to people who’ve been kind towards you. Ever.
- Be an exemplary human. Check-in on those more vulnerable. It might be your own grandparent, or it might be one you’ll adopt.
- Sing along to “We Are the Champions” by Queen, “Firework” by Katy Perry, “Let it Go” from Disney’s “Frozen,” or “I Will Survive” by Gloria Gaynor, or “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough” by Diana Ross, or that famous brain worm “I Get Knocked Down” by Tubthumping.
- Watch this soothing, live jelly cam or any of these other amazing live cams at the Monterey Bay Aquarium.
- Shelters around the globe are in urgent need of help due to the COVID-19 crisis. Donate any amount to the ASPCA. PS: Do NOT pet your animals after using hand sanitizer. It’s toxic for all animals.
- Access the “Managing Covid-19 Anxiety” resource page by the Anxiety & Depression Association of America (ADAA).
- The endless great outdoors are perfectly safe and available for your exercise and enjoyment. Continuing with the soothing nautical theme, consider this live Channel Islands kelp cam. or this Yosemite Falls live cam, or the Georgia Aquarium live piranha cam (a fan favorite). *Don’t forget to maximize your screen for this eye candy.*
- Sadly, we cannot trust news outlets to stop exploiting our fears. So, get the information you need quickly from trusted sources and move on.
The oldest and strongest emotion of mankind is fear, and the oldest and strongest kind of fear is fear of the unknown. –H.P. Lovecraft