The world is facing a pandemic: the novel coronavirus is spreading exponentially, most people are isolated, our daily lives have radically changed, and we don't know when it will end. Each day beckons an endless stream of bad news, offering nothing short of tremendous anxiety.
This is my strategy for dealing with isolation and the stress of the unknowns in front of us. You might say I cope by developing a strategy for coping.
It's important to stick to a schedule and routine, particularly in times of uncertainty. You need to control what you can, which is why I double-down on my scheduling, habits, and routines during times such as this.
My step-daughter has no school, but we still take the morning walk (with my son in tow on his wagon). We follow a similar route past the school and head back home. And we're keeping the same school schedule at home, too. This consistency helps provide stability for the children (and us parents as well).
I work from home, so my weekly routine is the same. On the weekend we're not going out, but still maintaining as much consistency as we can.
Consistency is important.
There are already articles exploring what life will look like once the pandemic loosens its grips on the planet. The world is rapidly changing, and habits are invaluable for forcing positive changes.
- I'm building a better habit for when and how I wash my hands. Before I eat and whenever I come back in from being outside, I wash my hands rigorously, following the appropriate guidelines.
- I'm building a new habit for keeping up with the news. I check Twitter and news sources I trust at the beginning and end of the day.
- I'm building a new habit for getting outside. I'm walking my dog morning and night, taking my kids out in the morning, and trying to get outside with the family more on the weekend.
The world is changing rapidly, and habits are invaluable for forcing positive changes.
These are only a few examples. I hope to continue and grow positive habits that I can carry forward in my life post-pandemic.
The news wants you to believe there are new breaking developments at the top of each minute. There are not. You don't have to stay glued to a screen to be informed. In fact, doing so increases your anxiety levels.
You don't have to stay glued to a screen to be informed.
Find the right balance for yourself.
Don't continually check the news, but don't ignore it, either. I check it at the beginning of the day (morning) and the end of the day (night). I subscribe to a few email subscriptions that deliver breaking-news alerts, but I can control when I check my email. That way, I can get the latest information without it dominating my mental health (and attention).
All news is not created equal. And, sadly, all news is not even the truth. For any bias or opinion we hold, there is a source of information out there to confirm or deny that bias or opinion. Make sure you properly vet and research any article you read.
For any bias or opinion we hold, there is a source of information out there to confirm or deny that bias or opinion.
I've found success in following data sources and a small contingent of reputable news sources for deeper learning on the pandemic. In order to keep my family safe — and do my part as a citizen of the world — I need to be informed and aware of the situation.
It's easy to focus on what is bad right now. There's a lot of bad right now; there's no denying it. But we need to refocus our attention towards what we are grateful for, the good we have in this moment.
- I live in Florida. It's warm and the sun is shining nearly every day.
- I have a happy and healthy family, all things considered.
- I get to work from home.
- My wife has the capabilities to take care of my son and continue schoolwork with my step-daughter so she doesn't fall behind.
- We live in a community that makes it easy to walk outside and practice social distancing.
- We have power and internet. Having lived through several hurricanes, being locked inside with no power is no fun.
- We live in a world with doctors, nurses, health-care professionals, grocery-store workers, factory workers, couriers, waste-management professionals, and many more valiant people risking their lives to help us maintain a semblance of our routine lives.
I encourage you to answer "I am grateful for…", listing three things you are grateful for each day.
In addition to being appreciative for what we have, it's also important to try and focus on the good. One might contrast this as being pessimistic vs. being optimistic, but I like to view it as finding the good in the bad.
- This won't be the last pandemic we face. This experience will hopefully help us better understand the next enemy in the future.
- We could potentially learn better societal and culture habits, like proper self-care, appreciation for in-person time with extended family and friends, and so on.
- Ben Gibbard from Death Cab for Cutie has been livestreaming himself playing songs on acoustic guitar, which is a delight.
One might contrast this as being pessimistic vs. being optimistic, but I like to view it as finding the good in the bad.
Another new habit we've built in our household is FaceTiming with my parents every night after dinner. We talk about our days — as boring and isolated as they may be — and connect with one another to continue our solidarity amidst this crisis. Isolation doesn't have to be isolating when we have modern technology to bring us together.
- If you haven't, send a text to your mom, dad, grandparent, brother, sister, or any other family member or friend you don't connect with regularly. Ask them how they are doing.
- Use an online platform to join or create a new digital community.
- Find additional ways to leverage technology to keep from feeling isolated.
Isolation doesn't have to be isolating when we have modern technology to bring us together.
COVID-19 doesn't care about your gender, your geography, your political leanings, your sexual orientation, your religion, race, or creed. We are all humans persevering together.
We may have all come on different ships, but we’re in the same boat now.Martin Luther King Jr.
When you look at the latest data, don't just focus on where you live. Look at China and how they are recovering. Learn from how well South Korea has handled the pandemic. Keep Italy in your thoughts and read about their struggles. Connect with anyone you know in different parts of the world.
This is all our world.
Although it's an oft-used cliché, take it one day at a time. We don't know what it's going to look like in a week, month, or year. It's not important right now. What matters is focusing on the here and now: today.
Our job right now is to stay home and practice social distancing when we leave the house out of necessity. And we do this to "flatten the curve" and prevent the health-care system from being overwhelmed. We do this to slow the spread and save lives.
We will do our part.
I will continue to reiterate this message to my family. We will do our part.