How not to get engulfed in the flames.
It took about eight days of dealing with the pandemic before I landed solidly in a funk. The first week was fine. It hadn’t sunk in yet. Sure, my office was moved to my couch but who can really complain about still having a job and not having to put pants on? Far be it from me to do so.
Then, loneliness came and interrupted my peaceful existence.
Loneliness held open the door for anxiety, despair, anger, frustration, and depression. That motley crew settled in and threw themselves a party like a rebellious teenager without asking my permission.
These new companions don’t care if you don’t feel like attending their shindig. They’re going to pull you right in. I went along with it without even realizing I’d involuntarily donned a macabre party hat. It could have been avoided but I wasn’t prepared. I wasted two weeks of my life feeling helpless as I watched a world I was already disillusioned with burn.
It doesn’t have to be this way. You can’t control the world, but you can control yourself.
Turn off the news.
Every bit of real news you need will find its way to you. You can’t avoid that. When your governor issues a stay at home order, you can bet you’ll find out. Everything you need to know is simple: avoid contact with people through social distancing, only leave the house if it’s truly necessary, wash your hands. Lather, rinse, repeat. Literally.
The rest is noise.
Watching the news is like intentionally eavesdropping on a conversation on a plane between two people in which no one is making any sense. You will not glean wisdom from that conversation.
Two hours a day of the news channel of your choice isn’t helping you. You don’t need to watch the world burn on your TV or computer to know it’s still burning. The fact that no one has told you the fire is out and it’s safe to go outside is enough. Stop staring at the flames. Be selective. Practice moderation.
Stop looking at the numbers, too.
You can’t change them. People are sick. People are dying. No amount of obsessively checking these escalating figures is going to make that stop.
I am guilty of spending weeks glued to the Johns Hopkins COVID-19 Dashboard. I refreshed that page every hour. Are we where the numbers are increasing? Where is it spreading? Who is flattening the curve?
This was the single most depressing activity in which I’ve engaged.
After two weeks, I felt like I was grabbing a bag of popcorn, sitting on my couch and watching people, in the form of digits, die.
I’m not saying we should ignore the gravity of a pandemic, but waiting to see if a case number or death toll hits a certain milestone is pulling an anvil of negativity on your chest.
Don’t look for the rain
I’m not saying there is sunshine and rainbows out there. I’m not here to lull you into a false sense of safety and happiness. But, for God’s sake, stop searching the world for something to be upset about. This is exactly what I did in obsessing over death rates. It’s like rooting for death so you can be even more pissed off.
I have a friend who will go search the internet, social media, and news shows looking for a reason to be pissed off. He doesn’t need to look very far. Reasons are everywhere. But there he is. Seeking out controversial tweets. Visit news sites he knows he disagrees with. Don’t wake up every day looking for stupidity. You already know where the stupidity is. Just make a damn cup of coffee.
Realize isolation and self-quarantining are two very different things
Human beings are not solitary beings. No matter how introverted we may be, an extended period of isolation is a breeding ground for craziness.
You are not in jail. There is still a world out there even if you can’t go into it and who wants to anyway because it’s burning. Acting like there is a sniper ready to shoot your head off for sitting on your porch is not the answer.
You can still talk to people, text people, wave to neighbors from your porch. You’re not a martyr for the sake of a pandemic.
Disconnect with people who are making your brain and heart hurt
I understand you’ve known your friend Mark since 4th grade. Mark is a conspiracy theorist. Mark has too much time on his hands. Mark thinks we should all just move about the world as though nothing is happening. Mark likes to tell people this on social media. You want to kick Mark in the nuts. Hide Mark.
You don’t have to unfriend him, tell him off or cut him out of your life. You can simply shhhhhhh him without him ever knowing. Giving his monologues an audience isn’t helping you. It’s making you angry. When the fire is out, check in on Mark.
This is hard. This is weird. This is how we live right now. The onus is on us to not make ourselves more miserable than we need to. You don’t have to lead a sing-along of Kumbaya from your driveway (though I have seen people do this and it is spectacular) but a Chicken Little suit isn’t a good look on you. Be concerned. Be cautious. Take care of yourself and those that you love. Kick the unwanted partygoers out of your house.