The past few weeks have certainly been unusual for all of us with this Cornovirus craziness. I went to Wal-Mart yesterday and it was just surreal walking down the aisles with no groceries on some of the shelves. The people were pushing their carts in wide-eyed silence; it was kinda eerie and felt like something out of a horror movie.
But this appears to be our new reality, at least for now, with so many of us experiencing lost income, job insecurity, fear of getting sick, fear of our loved ones getting sick, and quite an uncertain future.
And from a counseling perspective, I believe a lot of people have been in shock that this is even happening, but slowly the realization of a significant life change, at least for the next few months, is setting in.
It’s easy to become alarmed at all this uncertainty, but there’s a few things I think we should consider.
1. This is not the first time the world has been disrupted in a significant way. You’ve probably heard about the Spanish flu pandemic of 1918. I was looking at pictures online yesterday of the outbreak. Schools were having classes outside. Hospitals set up makeshift quarantines. People were wearing masks. And life went on. Economies were disrupted, jobs were lost, people died. And life went on. Communities came together, helped each other, and life went on. It’s important to remember, during all this uncertainty, that life will go on. Throughout history, humans have encountered adversity and suffering beyond anything we can imagine, even worse than the Cornovirus. Yet the resiliency and tenacity of the human spirit prevails and life goes on.
2. It’s important to manage anxiety. I’ll be honest. I teach people to manage their anxiety for a living, but I’ve found myself a little stressed thinking about loss of income I’ve already experienced and my friends and family possibly getting sick. So, don’t feel bad about being anxious during this time. The fear of the unknown is certainly a real thing and elevated stress is normal for everyone right now. But if you feel yourself going into panic mode, it’s time to unplug from Facebook or other news sources and connect yourself back to what matters most. Play a game with your kids, call a friend (but don’t talk about the virus), or use what we call a “grounding object” like a photo or a keepsake to remind you of your loved ones. When you feel yourself getting stressed out, you can take out your grounding object and tell yourself, “This is my reality. This is what matters the most.” Take a moment, breath, and physically connect with what’s real and valuable. Another way to manage anxiety is to remember that we’re all in the same boat, we’re in this together, and we’ve got federal, state, local and community resources available to us, along with the support and love of family and friends. We’re going to get through this together.
3. Consider the possibilities of new and good things. Could this virus drastically alter our lives for years to come? Yes, it might, but our new normal can also be a good thing. We have lived in such a fast-paced, hectic world for so many years. Is it really a bad thing that we’re having to slow down a little, stay home, and connect with our family and friends? Will it really be so horrible to downsize, to reconsider what’s really important, and live more meaningful, more connected lives? Even if people die, that will cause us to value life, consider what’s meaningful, and rethink our own purpose. Personal growth, reflection, and self-evaluation are never bad things.
4. Keep a sense of humor. I’ve seen some people become overly critical about those of us who try to look on the bright side of this crisis, and maybe even laugh a little bit about toilet paper hoarding, or Coronavirus memes. With so much negativity and uncertainty about the future, a little light-hearted humor can keep us from despair. When Abraham Lincoln was criticized for appearing too jovial after the horrors of the Civil War, he said, “I laugh because I must not cry.” That’s wise advice from a man who lived in uncertain times, and that advice still applies today.
5. Trust God. "My times are in Your hand."-Psalm 31:15. We aren’t promised tomorrow, but we can live in confident expectation that God has numbered our days and we can rest in His care. The Apostle Paul wrote in the Book of Romans, “Whether we live or die we are the Lord’s.” For those of us who trust Christ, in death, in life, in sickness, in health, in sorrow, in rejoicing, we know with an unshakeable certainty, that our lives our in His hand.