The Coronavirus is like a fast-moving wind gaining strength as it sweeps through America from across the sea. We batten down the hatches and take shelter from the storm to try and keep the invaders out. Testing supplies are sparse, treatment teams for the infected are strained. While the virus is lifting in China, where it was first discovered December 31, 2019, it is still sweeping though the rest of the world, and a vaccine may take a year to develop.
This pandemic is causing stress, strain and panic around the world. Last night I pictured the globe tilting on a pinpoint and twirling precariously. The ground beneath my feet felt slippery. Right now, I hear loud rain, look up and see arrows shoot down from the sky and bounce white dots against the red brick stones outside. Like the sky is angry and the earth is saying, “Don’t come out here, it isn’t safe.” How do we cope with this sudden upending of our lives? Here are some things I recently heard from others: How do I manage my anxiety?
If I do not work, I don’t get paid.
How do I move through this without going crazy?
I feel inundated with bad news that changes daily.
My neighbors are in denial and carrying on as usual. I’m so mad at them.
I don’t want to be confined at home.
Relax, you are overreacting.
I faced long lines at the store and there was no toilet paper left.
This is too much. I want this to be over.
This “new normal” has gotten people very distressed. There is a continuum of responses. Some refuse to adjust their normal activities, some are reacting a little slowly due to their shock, some are in full lockdown or panic mode. These are normal reactions of our nervous system. The RED zone of our nervous system controls our fight/flight response. This can be a problem when we focus only on anger at others or are overreacting in fear. Both of these states compromise our immune system, which makes us more susceptible to illness. In the BLUE zone we freeze in shock, sink into depression, or are spaced out in denial, acting like nothing abnormal is happening. The longer we linger in these states, the more we endanger ourselves or others during this pandemic. How do we respond without excessive anger, fear, depression or denial?
SOLUTION: 1. Get into the GREEN ZONE. This is the part of the nervous system where we feel calm and engaged. We think the most clearly and behave the most reasonably. We are open to seeing others pain as well as caring for our own. I just worked with someone who said she wanted to go from feeling “panicked to prudent”. She closed her eyes, breathed and followed her sensations. After some tears and loosening of tension she said, “I hear this voice inside say, “It’s going to be alright. We’ll get through this.” She opened her eyes and said, “I need to remember this voice, when the scared voice wants to take over.” Breathing and centering like this can lead you to a calmer state.
2. Help others. I just saw this on a neighborhood website. A woman wrote, “I am a young, healthy gal, contact me and I can go get groceries for you.”
3. Stay informed but limit your news and use healthy distractions to stay balanced.
4. Use humor to loosen your body and feed your spirit. I just checked an app that I am on with my eleven siblings. A sister sent a picture of earrings that look like toilet paper rolls. The caption read, “commemorative jewelry to always remember 2020.” Another sister sent this: “My cat just came home with 24 bags of kitty litter. When will this nonsense stop?” I viewed a video of two of my brothers doing a flamenco type dance to a new tune, “corona-veerus”, as they cleared out an office. I laughed and felt my stress level go down immediately.
The rain stopped and I am watching the sun dry the slippery bricks outside my window. May the ground be dry and solid beneath your feet as you walk through these next few weeks in a world that is trying to cope.