Staying Calm During the Coronavirus Crisis

Is it possible?

Posted Mar 18, 2020

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peace with yourself
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Many of us are familiar with what a panic attack feels like. You're in a packed subway car and the power goes out. Your doctor calls you back for a follow-up test. Your boss calls you in for an unexpected meeting and you think it has something to do with that email you wrote. Or, the worst kind, it hits you out of nowhere and you have no idea why. Many of us have suffered through these experiences and lived, sometimes to our astonishment.

But what's happening in the world now is unprecedented and just plain unsettling. This time the panic is not about just you and the small situation in your world that will resolve in a few hours or a few weeks and most of the world will never know about. This time, the panic is enveloping the entire earth. Everyone's feeling it. The entire world is having one giant and communal panic attack. Kumbaya.

So while the experts try to figure out what exactly is going on and how to stop it, the rest of us look for solace, peace, distraction, comfort, and any sort of good news that's out there. If fact, I keep Googling "good news about coronavirus" just to see what comes up. There's a slow trickle of promising information out there, if you look carefully for it, avoiding lots of other information that will get in the way.

Here's my philosophical advice for surviving this global panic attack in one piece. I hope it helps. And please add your own advice in the comments below.

  1. Try to get outside every day. Taking walks around your neighborhood or through the woods or around your town lake can be amazingly therapeutic. Moving the body, breathing fresh air, feeling the sun, and seeing other people and their dogs doing the same will remind you that no matter what, life goes one. Literally, life goes on.
  2. Stay in touch with loved ones. This extra time (if you're not working or working remotely) gives us the opportunity to reach out to people we love. I've been busy contacting good friends all over the country to see how they're coping and feeling and what they're doing to stay calm. This crisis is hitting everyone hard, but some people will have more lightness about it than you, and that can lift you up. My aunt told me quarantine can be "fun". I laughed at first, but it turns out she's right. 
  3. Let yourself feel what you're feeling. A good friend of mine told me a few years ago - and I love this advice - to not get anxious about feeling anxious. It's so true. It's like inviting your problems to have problems. Who needs that? Any negative thought or emotion you have right now about life or the world or this virus is okay. Feel it. And know you're not alone in feeling that feeling. Through it is the only way to inner peace.
  4. Busy yourself with projects at home. Cleaning out closets, organizing the garage, and trying out new recipes are things we all want to do at some point, but never get the chance to because we're so busy with work and life. Now's your chance. Take advantage. Make a to-do list and work your way through it. Life could be pretty slow for a while, from what we're hearing, so make it a long list. Getting stuff done (and checking them off your list) can lead to a feeling of peace and accomplishment.
  5. Find some time to be alone every day. My thing is yoga, and walking, but whatever your thing is that lets you be alone and breathe and think through things so you lighten your mental load and feel better afterward is good. From teaching and practicing yoga for over a decade now, I know that one minute of deep, slow breathing is worth a million bucks. Try it. And force a smile until it feels real. It really works. You can get a glimpse of that inner peace. It's there.
  6. Know that we're in this together. This is not your run of the mill hiding in a bathroom stall until it's over panic attack. This is happening right now, right here, to everyone. We're literally all in this together. Not exactly the way we wanted to bond, true, but this crisis, when we pull through it, will bring humanity closer. I believe that wholeheartedly. And you'll want to be there for that. So hang on. You can do this.