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  • Jolene Roehlkepartain

Caring for Yourself and Others During Terrifying Times

Outright panic is spreading faster than this pandemic, and people are social distancing, finding themselves in quarantines, and putting themselves and others at risk by flocking to stores in mass numbers.

Immediately following 9/11, a similar panic snowballed quickly, creating emotional avalanches everywhere.

When times are terrifying, we can lower the panic and ground ourselves in caring for ourselves and others while working to keep the disease from spreading. Consider:

Do more of what calms you. Instead of getting swept up in the wild emotions bouncing around, discover what lowers your stress levels. Do these activities more often. Meditate. Exercise. (I find that getting my heart rate up through exercise lowers it afterward and calms me.) Do something creative. Resurrect an old, favorite hobby. Listen to music. Read.

Take in smaller doses of the news. This virus is an evolving situation, which means there’s a lot of uncertainty, unpredictability, and unknowns. Checking the news constantly throughout the day isn’t going to equip you with skills and a mindset that you need to make the most of your day. Find your trusted news source and check it in small doses. Right now, I’m following Anthony Fauci, M.D., of the National Institutes of Health, since he’s a credible expert giving practical, calming steps of what to do next.

Find creative, safe ways to connect to others. Social distancing doesn’t mean social disconnection. Keep in contact with others through email, video conferencing, and other ways. In Italy, people are opening up the windows of their homes and singing to each other. They’re working to keep safe by social distancing, but they’re finding creative ways to connect.

Be mindful of how you start and end your day. It can be tempting to jump out of bed and immediately check the latest news about the virus and then end your day the same way. This adds to the hysteria. Instead, find a calm, grounding way to start and end your day.

Talk about your worries and hopes. Have conversations about what’s bothering you and also about what you hope will happen. Panic can lead to negative thinking and helpless inaction. Hope can open up new ways of thinking and acting. Yes, this pandemic is serious. And yes, we can make choices to lessen the spread. Keep talking. Keep doing actionable steps to make things better.

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