Updated: Apr 24, 2020
I was at the supermarket the other day and I have to admit, I had fallen prey to "Stockpile Syndrome". As I rolled my cart up and down the aisles, loading up on pasta, cans of black beans, and Lara Bars, I was acutely aware of the unusual number of barren shelves.
At first I tried to laugh them off. Of course, I thought. This is what I'd been hearing about on the news. The Great Toilet Paper Famine of 2020.
But by the time I left the store, I noticed anxiety had twisted its roots into my body and mind. I've never been rich but I haven't ever really known scarcity either. What did it all mean? Today it was toilet paper and rice. What would it be tomorrow? Would I be able to feed myself and my family?
That's how the mind of panic works. It burrows its way in with legitimate fears until things are out of control. Left to run wild we can really lose it and start doing all kinds of irrational and even dangerous things.
It took a few minutes but I was able to put things into perspective. I went for a walk down by the shore of the Puget Sound to let the salt air clear out my head of the toxic grasping and fear. Yes, these are difficult and uncertain times, I thought. But the Apocalypse isn't upon us. At least not yet...
Here are 3 things that I believe will help us get through this pandemic.
1. "Right-sizing" our fears, anxieties, and uncertainties
There's an old Tibetan saying: "If you have a problem and there's a solution, then there's nothing to worry about. If you have a problem and there's no solution, then what's the use in worrying?"
There's no doubt we're in the middle of a serious world crisis. It's affecting people's lives in disruptive and destructive ways. People are losing their livelihoods. People are afraid of what's to come. People are dying.
Accepting all of that, we can still take a deep breath and check what's actually going on in our lives. If we're in a life threatening situation then we'll have to deal with that head on. If not, we can look for choices, options, and solutions. If none present themselves, we can remind ourselves that we're here now. We've survived everything life has thrown at us so far. Chances are we'll survive this.
2. Be of service
It's hard to worry about anything when you're helping someone else. In fact, being of help and service to others injects massive amounts of happiness chemicals (dopamine, serotonin, and oxytocin) into our brains.
Helping others also gives our lives meaning and purpose, lifting up our self-esteem as we realize how we are needed and valued in the world.
We can do all kinds of things to help during a crisis like this. Delivering groceries to elderly neighbors. Shopping for overworked health care workers who can't get to the stores while the shelves are still stocked. Calling friends, family, and co workers to check on their physical and mental health. The list goes on.
3. Slow down
There are memes floating around social media telling us how Shakespeare and Isaac Newton continued to flex their genius muscles during the Plague. In my opinion, this is a harmful and toxic kind of thinking.
We live in an insanely hyper-productive world. By some accounts it's destroying itself with this hyper-productivity. Fear not, we will almost certainly get back to churning out plastic widgets soon enough. For now, it's ok to take a breath.
This is also an emotionally and spiritually challenging crisis. We don't know what's coming. We may have to hunker down for weeks or even months. During that time we are going to be challenged to care for each other like we haven't done in awhile. This is going to take emotional strength and spiritual fortitude. We can do it, but we need to slow down and give ourselves a break.
So if you have a great book in you that's begging to come out, by all means write it. But otherwise, stay home and pull your loved ones close.