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Coping with a Pandemic

We are enduring an onslaught of fear, stress, and sadness as this pandemic sinks its teeth deeper into our daily lives. Never before have we encountered such a threat to our peace and health. It’s entirely understandable if you are feeling overwhelmed, if not flattened, by the enormity of this thing.

Here are some things I’ve been doing to help me cope with the anxiety and disorder. (I’d like to disclaim that I’m not trying to downplay the horrors of the Coronavirus. There seems to be a growing sentiment that emphasizing progress and remaining positive in the face of a terrible disease are sins. I disagree.)

1. Relinquish control. Then, reframe chaos as a breeding grounds for creativity. 

The world was never in control, and it certainly wasn’t under yours. There were routines and systems in place to help establish consistency and predictability in your life. But those were illusions. At any point, you were at risk of a sudden detour: getting hit by a car, falling in love, losing a job… The unsettling thing about the Coronavirus is we are all being up-ended at once, regardless of race, status, or location. It’s one thing to accept that an unexpected thing happens to those people over there (helps us to justify why it won’t happen to us), but when a vicious illness strikes bodies indiscriminately, we are confronted with how random the universe is. And the preciousness of our existence.

Structure and regularity are human needs, because they take the air out of fear. Before the Coronavirus, we were comfortable in our daily grooves. Now, we are being forced to look at our customs differently, and that requires some faith. It’s uncomfortable, it’s daunting, and it takes bravery to re-orient our realities. If that pushes us to think harder and be creative, maybe we’ll see advancement we never imagined possible.

As any creator knows, repetition is the death of ingenuity. It’s boring and we get soft. Fortunately, we’re blessed with problem-solving brains. We are most innovative in the absence of rules and expectations. Every morning now, we awaken to a bright white blank canvas. Consider this time of mayhem as an opportunity to experiment, improvise, and offer new solutions. We need them more than ever.

2. Chill out on the news. Wash your hands. Stay away from people. That’s it.

Chances are that you’re not a top expert in the medical, science, and economic fields. Everyone is getting the information at the same time, so let’s let our leaders – those on the frontlines – dissect and debate the facts. Our layman’s conjecture only spins anxiety and leads us into darker tunnels. We are not equipped to handle the weight of these numbers.

Since the beginning, the advice has been the same. Wash those hands. Keep your distance. And ask your community to do the same. That’s about all the average person can do to fight the Coronavirus. You do not get extra points for knowing bar graphs and what inane thing Trump said and which celebrity has tested positive but is asymptomatic. Usually, I’m all for staying informed. But this time, I just don’t see how all this extra noise contributes to a stronger immune system. Protect that spirit of yours. Check the news headlines once or twice a day to catch major developments, but otherwise, stay out of it. Even if that means unfollowing media accounts and friends who seem to thrive off the fear and speculation.

3. Smile. It’s okay to be happy.

If there are two philosophies on the matter – 1) that we need to stay grim and somber and do whatever it takes to frighten people into behaving appropriately. 2) Let’s uplift each other and focus on the bright side when we can. Then, I’m number two. All the way.

I’ve been shamed for admitting I’m in a good mood amidst a global pandemic. I’ve been asked how I can laugh when people are dying and losing their jobs. Look, I’m depressed and anxious also, but I hold fast to those rays of light throughout the day. You should too. Even though the media doesn’t get as much play out of happy stories, I believe it’s not just emotionally, but physically beneficial to emphasize the good news that is coming out of this: the advances in treatments, the revised timeline estimates, the 100,000 recoveries, and our ability to develop immunity to this virus.

(Here’s a cool Instagram that is doing its part to balance out all the alarming news that you’re being inundated with)

Take a walk, if you can keep your distance. Savor the moments of sweet life where you have it. Be thankful that the smartest people in the world are chipping away at this thing. And that every day that passes is not only a privilege, but one day closer to this nightmare ending.

4. Since you’re not reading the news, read other stuff.

We all need an escape right now. If Netflix’s Tiger King wasn’t enough, try reading a book.

Poetry’s not for everyone, but if you wanna give it a whirl. I’m currently reading David Whyte: Essentials.

Otherwise, I pick a different book to read together every month for my book club, Death Sentences.

And buy your books from independent booksellers in your neighborhood. Call or check in with them to see if they’re doing deliveries. If you can, please support my favorite bookstore in the world, Powell’s.

5. Listen to good music.

No surprise here. An evergreen antidote for any downturn. What are you listening to?

– My friend Justin (Free J Boosie Trio) has a weekly jazz playlist that is just looping away over here.

– I’ve never heard a Weeknd song I didn’t like. Abel’s new album, After Hours, on repeat.

– You know what, I’m gonna compile a Spotify playlist for you. That’ll be my next update.

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