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Responding to Coronavirus Anxiety

Wearing mask for coronavirus

Today, the World Health Organization declared coronavirus, also referred to as COVID-19, a pandemic.

COVID-19 has a lot of people scared, and understandably so. Here’s a little about what we can all do to respond our fear: 

Take care of your health.

Don’t go places when you are sick. Reduce the people that you are in contact with. Rest. It will likely be inconvenient, especially in a culture and country where the expectation is that we keep going no matter what. We don’t have good norms around self-care, and we don’t have a culture that has taught us (or allowed us) to slow down and take a break. But it matters, not just for our own health, but for the health of our communities. Be kind to yourself and others. Give yourself, and the people around you, space to step away, rest when they need to, and respond to health needs first. It is better for all of us.

Be responsible.

There are plenty of outlets, such as the Center for Disease control (https://www.cdc.gov), who are continuously providing us with information about what to do and how to respond. There is a lot of information out there, but there’s also a lot of misinformation. Take responsibility for seeking out information that is grounded in science, and then take responsibility for responding accordingly. 

Stay grounded.

Situations like this bring up big fears. They remind us of our mortality. They make us worry about our health, and the health of those we love. They make us worry about losses. They make us afraid. And when we are afraid, we function differently. We start to question everything and everyone. We can become angry at others and direct our fear toward becoming suspicious, and looking for someone to blame. Remember that this doesn’t help anything; it’s just our anxiety trying to predict and prevent something that feels scary. That’s what anxiety is designed to do. Stay grounded in the fact that we are being asked to take this seriously because we are each a responsible part of our community, and we are working to protect our community from the spread. Each of us individually may not be at life or death risk, but we are being asked to work to adjust our lives and routines to protect the people who are. 

Be gentle.

There are a lot of words we could use here. Be gentle. Be compassionate. Be kind. Be empathetic. Be patient. This is new. It is uncertain. Many of us are afraid, and most of us are doing our best with it. It will take time to work through this, but humans are resilient, brave, and enduring. Remember that, and give yourself and others a little bit of extra room for fumbling while we iron it out. When you have the chance, check in with those you love, listen to their fears, talk about yours, and respond with caring and kindness. Come back to focusing on what you can do to be good to one another.

Pay attention.

A lot will continue to change. Your routine may be interrupted, again because the world is looking to protect the community and the vulnerable. Watch for changes, ask questions, and know that unfortunately, this situation might require some of your attention and efforts for a while. At Hope Springs, we are working to continue to be aware of the situation, and respond with the information that we have to protect the mental and physical health of our clients, and we expect that other organizations will continue to do the same.

Look for the helpers.

This is the (deservedly) famous advice of Mr. Fred Rogers, who told us to look for the helpers in scary situations. There are helpers everywhere. Health care workers all around us are working tirelessly to prepare. They will be there, giving their time, effort, and energy, to keep people safe and comfortable. Bosses, managers, teachers, parents, and caregivers are all paying attention, preparing, and making efforts, all with the goal of doing what they can to help others. Custodial staff are working harder than ever to help keep us all healthy. Look for these people. Tell them you appreciate it. In the midst of all of the fear and uncertainty, it can remind us of the goodness in our world and community, and help us to feel safe.

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