The Coronavirus and COVID-19 pandemic is in full swing in the U.S. I live in Seattle and the reaction I'm seeing so far isn't all that bad. We had the initial run on toilet paper and cleaning supplies like everyone else. Amazon, Facebook, and Microsoft initiated work-from-home policies. This week it was announced that all large gatherings have been put on hold, and the region's schools are beginning a 6-week closure.
But there isn't widespread panic. Everyone I've been in contact and communication with are concerned but not frantic. There is uncertainty about what's going to come but there's also a general sense that we're a tough bunch and we're going to get through this.
I'm sure there are many people who are afraid. I know I am from time to time. (For example: what am I going to do with a 13 year-old home from school for 6 weeks!?!)
The thing is, it's ok to be afraid. Fear is a helpful emotion. When we experience it appropriately, it can be life saving. It gives us the boost of energy and adrenaline we need to get ourselves and others out of danger.
But when it's distorted by misinformation, prejudice, and ignorance it no longer serves us. Instead, it can and does make matters much, much worse.
It doesn't have to be that way. We can become masters of our fear. That is not an unattainable goal.
As my mentor, Jack Elias, says, we can't be afraid of the future because the future doesn't exist yet. All we can have is fearful fantasies about the future.
Think about that for a moment. What are you really afraid of?
Are you afraid of getting sick? You're not sick now. There's a chance you may never get sick. What you're afraid of is what you imagine the sickness will be like, how your body will feel, how it will affect your life, or even threaten it.
But again, it hasn't happened. It's just a story in your head. If we drop that story, then how can fear take hold?
Now does that mean that we shouldn't take precautions to stay healthy? Of course, not. What it means is that by right-sizing the threat, we can take preventative measures that will really be effective.
With a clear head, we can know that even if there's no more hand sanitizer left on a single store shelf, we can still frequently wash our hands with warm soap and water (which is a better defense anyway). We can follow the recommendations of social distancing while staying in close touch with family, friends and community, offering each other love and emotional support. We can remind each other-and be reminded-that we are not alone. The very fact that we are living and breathing right now means that we have survived everything life has thrown at us.
And chances are good we will survive this, too.