It’s a challenging moment to be alive. As I write this where I live, businesses are closing and city and state services are shutting down to ride out the spread of the COVID-19 virus.
In the midst of everything that is happening, I’m finding that it’s hard to stay present and productive. It’s easy instead to panic and let fear drive choices, conversations, and thoughts of the future.
While being prepared and cautious is one thing, being hysterical is another.
I’ve put together some on how to survive when the world feels like it’s falling apart. And by “survive”, I don’t mean physically survive (most people will survive). I mean mentally, emotionally, spiritually, and even financially. Be smart. Wash your hands. Etc.
Please note that this is not medical advice. I am not liable for your choices. If you want and need that kind of advice, it’s everywhere else.
Here’s a simple guide on how to survive what feels like the end of the world.
Limit Your Inputs
The media runs on fear. For large media outlets, the more hyperbolic and sensational, the more people will read, watch, react, share, and repeat the experience. They are incentivized to scare you and keep you addicted to the news cycle of what the next horrible thing is.
Social media functions in a similar manner. Every social network is built to keep people engaged in their network, which means that the network itself is built to surface the kinds of content that you can’t help but engage with.
Have you ever had the experience where you jump onto Facebook (or another app/network) to check something, and fall down the feed rabbit hole for 10 minutes, only to realize that you didn’t do what you first logged on to do?
That’s exactly what the app is designed to do: keep you on it.
Watch for this and be careful what input you receive and from which outlets. Do you need to check the updates more than once a day? Unless it directly effects your life, then the answer is likely no.
Breathe, Stay Present, & Focus on What You Can Control
In the last few days schools where I live announced that they would be shut down for a month. Community centers and public libraries did the same next.
As parents with two kids under 5 (and another on the way), my family relies on these services to get through the day, get our work done (read: pay the bills), and more. I have no idea how we’re going to get through the next few weeks.
But I know what I can do this morning:
– Make breakfast for my 1.5 year old daughter and laugh at her silly antics.
– Write a blog post about not going crazy when the world seems to be (you’re reading it)!
Panic and fear mostly drive us to dwell on things that are outside of our control. That’s the easy path to take.
The harder but better path is to thank your fear for keeping you on your toes, but then remember that right now in this moment, you’re ok. And no matter how bad things get, you’ll be ok.
Over the past two years I’ve been increasing my physical fitness. I’m training for a fast 10k run, doing yoga, training on still rings, and intermittent fasting. In the middle of a hard workout or set of reps, it’s easy to get overwhelmed by how far I have to go. During speed workouts I look at my watch and see that I have to keep up this challenging pace for 8 more minutes, and the thoughts flood my mind: I can’t do it. There’s no way I can keep it up for 8 minutes!
But if I let go of the future and be here right now, taking these steps and running this pace — I’m ok. I can do this right now.
And if I can do right now over and over, sooner than you know it those 8 minutes have gone by and I’ve made it.
The same is true in times like this.
I have no idea what the next few months will hold. I have no idea how we’re going to make ends meet when our income stops. I have no idea how I’ll get work done.
There is so much that is outside of my control and your control.
But the one thing that is always in your control is how you choose to respond.
I can let that fear paralyze me. Or I can choose to focus on right now and on the things that are within my power.
If you feel the fear and panic well up, practice intentional breathing. If you don’t know what to do beside panic, imagine yourself in the future, after life returns back to normal (because it will) looking back on today. Imagine what you’d tell yourself, knowing that everything will work out. Imagine what advice you’d give yourself on how to respond and what to do. And then go do it.
It’s easy to let fear drive us into self preservation mode and into a fear and scarcity mindset. The part of your brain the feels fear has two default modes: fight or flight. While helpful when facing an angry bear, it’s less helpful in modern society. It’s not us vs. Them. It’s not you win or you loose. Everything will be better when we help one another.
One simple thing that my family is doing is setting up some play times for our kids so their friends’ parents can have a few free moments.
(UPDATE: We’re practicing social distancing to help limit the spread of the disease. Some of the things we’ve done to help are: 1) facetime and call friends — particularly single friends, 2) make some cookies for a few friends and neighbors)
If you know people who are vulnerable to the disease, go shopping and run errands for them so they don’t have to.
Help your neighbors. Smile at people.
The options are endless!
Look for the Opportunities
Along with the uncertainty, there’s a lot of opportunity for you and whatever your work or project is. I don’t know what it is, but I know that it’s there. And I know that if you’re focused on fear and what you might be loosing, you won’t be able to see the opportunity and what you might be able to gain.
What might you be able to achieve or do right now that may not be an option in other times?
While everyone else is panicking, worried, or watching netflix, what can you be doing?
Spend Your Time Wisely
A lot of people are experiencing a disruption of their normal life. That might mean you’re working from home or not working at all. Maybe you can’t even leave the house right now.
This is a huge opportunity! What have you been wanting to do but haven’t had time for?
Can you even imagine what it would be like under normal circumstances to be given this kind of time? What would you do? What books have you been wanting to read? What project would you tackle? What skill would you learn? What new thing would you create?
If you want to make progress on your Calling and life’s work, the 5 Clues Mini-course is a free resource to start on.
You can learn just about anything on the internet with a bit of digging.
Now’s the time.
The easy choice is media input: social media, news, Netflix.
A better choice is intentionality.
The best choice is seizing the opportunity and making the most of what life is giving you.
None of us would have chosen this reality, and yet we’re here. The best thing you can do is to accept it and make the most of it. This is a chance for you to create your future.
I hope you will.
Comment below and let me know what you choose to do. And if this means something to you, please share it. We all need a reminder.