Times like these really do bring out the best, and worst, in all of us.
It’s a confusing time for us in the States. Coronavirus is ramping up here so events are being canceled, toilet paper is flying off the shelves, and places of business are closing until safety returns. And in one way or another, we are all feeling the stress.
For some people, this is a time to step up and take action to protect themselves and help others. They’re offering item drop-offs to friends and family, volunteering in their community, and taking every precaution to stay germ-free to keep from spreading the virus.
For others, these times bring out their worst behaviors. They roll their eyes, cast aside the valid fears of friends and family, complain about how these irrational changes affect their day, and prefer to blame others instead of taking responsibility for themselves.
This is not new behavior — this polarization always happens in trying times, especially when people are worried about their health, family, jobs, and safety.
Fear is powerful, and it lies in anticipation. We don’t know what’s going to happen and that makes us anxious.
Many people are worried about their health, or the health of their family members — a parent or grandparent, a child, a partner — especially if they are considered high risk. And when these people don’t get the support, patience, and compassion they deserve, it makes their life harder, it makes them feel isolated, and it creates more anxiety.
Others are worried about losing their businesses. It doesn’t take long for a start-up or small business to go under due to lack of sales. People get laid off, businesses close, and that means people will struggle to pay bills and stay in their homes.
For parents, they are wondering what in the world to do with their kiddos. Can they go to school? Should they go to school? Is daycare an option? Can they afford daycare right now? Can they stay home with the kids, and is that even possible with their job?
And perhaps for others, this event is triggering something else, some deep insecurity or past trauma. They start buying toilet paper in the dozens, buying all the cans of beans they can find, and preparing for armageddon. This may seem completely irrational for some of us, and could be downright frustrating because there are people who actually need these items. This level of mass hysteria is challenging because it does inflict suffering on others, but it comes from a place of intense fear, which also breaks your heart.
So, what can we do? Washing our hands, not touching our faces, engaging in social distancing — yes to all of the above. But in addition to the basics, how can we be decent human beings in this time of anticipation and therefore fear? Should we shout at each other? Should we point fingers, shame our friends, and abandon our neighbors? Should we think, “me first”? Should we get mad when our library closes, our basketball game gets canceled, or our friend has to cancel plans because their kiddo needs to stay safe? Should we forget about our local businesses?
So what should we do, in addition to taking every health-related precaution we can? Here are a few ideas for all of us to consider:
Have compassion. Your friends may be at high risk, or have someone in their family who is high risk. Support them, encourage them to take care of themselves and/or their family, and do not make them feel crazy or guilty for taking preventative measures. Ask if they need help. Offer to run errands or drop off items, or visit if it’s safe to do so. Just be kind.
Support small business. The businesses in your community need your patronage. Order items or gift cards online — gift cards can be used later when you feel safe to return to the store. Pick up take-out for meals if you feel comfortable going into the restaurant, or have them delivered. Tip more than usual. Don’t cancel services that don’t require it (unless you can’t afford them).
Volunteer. There are many organizations that are asking for help. If you have the time and ability, and feel safe to do so, consider volunteering. Maybe it’s to help kids who are out of school, or church programs that have to cancel or modify their services, or deliver essential items to families in need. We must support our community and help our neighbors. Times like these require all of us to come together for the greater good. We must hold ourselves responsible.
Separate, not isolate. Some of us will need to self-quarantine, and all of us need to engage in social distancing. Try to work remotely if possible, attend meetings virtually instead of in-person, and move your conferences online. But definitely stay connected, both professionally and personally. Reach out to your loved ones, especially those who need your support, or with people who are kind, helpful, compassionate, and understanding when you need encouragement. Talk on the phone, text, and connect through social media. It’s not healthy to become reclusive, and you don’t have to be completely alone. We all need to be able to lean on each other for moral support.
Don’t cancel, reschedule. It’s important to have parties, events, and get-togethers to look forward to. Try not to cancel all of your activities, but postpone them instead. Move them to a couple of months out. Continue to look forward to seeing your loved ones. And in the meantime, spend time outdoors, get fresh air, and cuddle with your pets. We have to find ways to keep our heads up and stay focused on a brighter future.
Stay informed, and stay positive. People are scared, and their fears are valid. People will continue to get sick, people will die, and businesses will close. In what numbers, we’re not sure. We all hope that by taking these precautions now (social distancing, working remotely, washing hands, etc.) that we can flatten the curve and stop this virus sooner rather than later. But nonetheless, it’s a scary time. Stay informed — listen to experts, like the CDC. Read and watch news from sources that are aligned with facts and helpful information. Try and look for ways to help those in your community, instead of reasons to panic. Have a plan, it helps curb anxiety. Take breaks from the daily grind. Whatever tools you have in our toolbelt that can assist you in remaining calm, please use them.
We must all work together, find compassion for one another, and focus on being helpful. We need to take the recommended safety precautions and be responsible for ourselves, our family members, and our community. Let’s be decent human beings.