So, It’s my first pandemic, and I have nothing to wear!
Don’t be fooled like I was. You know how it is, all your life keep dreaming about how epic experiencing your first pandmeic will be. I mean, I was certain it was going to blow first haircuts, first day of school, first date and first kiss clear out of the water! Turns out there isn’t even a spot in your baby book to write, “My First Pandemic.” Lame.
But, I’ve learned a few things while being an essential worker in a mostly empty airport. And no, it isn’t that a critical infrastructure letter allows you to make arrests. Because it doesn’t. #Alsolame!
Mostly what I’ve observed is the different ways people react to stress.
I know a few things about stress, what with that stint I had in the FBI. No, silly, not that FBI! They couldn’t afford me! I’m talking about my stint in the Future Bewildered Imbeciles club. I mean, I’ve been the chapter president for four years running, but who’s keeping track?
Basically, there are good ways to deal with stress, like meditating, and bad ways, like emotionally eating six tubs of Tillamuck Utterly Chocolate ice cream.
Or, ummm… that’s what I’ve heard some people do.
In addition to becoming besties with Ben & Jerry. *Please note I did not say instead of! Sometimes a little chunky monkey is actually all you need, and I’m all about self care! However “Experts” think there are a few more productive ways to deal with stress.
As a disclaimer, these ways aren’t nearly as satisfying as say throwing a stone Buddha statue at your husband. Or at least thats what the president of the Future Bewildered Imbeciles thinks, and she has some experience to back her.
A few things to remember to help get through times of trouble:
FACTS FACTS FACTS
Facts matter! Without accurate information, our brains start to spin stories of fear and dread. And turns out anxiety is even more contagious than COVID-19. Anybody who has ever been on facebook, or stood six feet apart around the water cooler talking (shouting) about job layoffs, knows how our own anxiety can be triggered simply by talking to someone else who is anxious. It’s called social contagion. And once that anxiety kicks in, your mind starts sending fear fueled messages to meet up with other fear fueled messages and then they breed like rabbits. Before you know it, you have a whole bunny colony of worries wanting to be taken care of. And pellets to clean up.
It’s a lot like having children.
When we can’t control our anxiety it quickly morphs into panic. When we are overwhelmed by uncertainty or fear for the future, the non-rabbit producing parts of our brains; aka the rational parts of our brains go offline. Logically, we know that we don’t need a six-month supply of toilet paper, but when we see someone’s cart piled high with roll after roll of impossibly soft, decadently squeezable, soft as the down on angels wings, Charmin. But seeing everybody buying it, triggers our scarcity fears, launches us into fight or flight and ignites our pre-programed survival mode. Which, for some people looks a lot like tackling a senior citizen in aisle 12 to wrestle away the last roll of Angle Soft from her.
Tip One If you are worried about something, go to a direct source to get more information. And no, your Aunt Ida is not considered a direct source even though she knew that you beat cancer by drinking mass quantities of crystal lite.
It’s not stress that kills us, but our reaction to it.
As humans we exaggerate the danger of unfamiliar threats, compared to one we already know, keeping us safe, and extra cautious. It’s how we survive. To combat this, experts recommend practicing tried and true techniques for dealing with anxiety; you know, the usual, get enough sleep, exercise, spend time in nature, meditate, connect with others, talk with a trusted and limiting exposure to COVID-19 information to 30 minutes a day.
It’s worth a try. I mean, there’s always the standby crappy coping mechanism of catastraphizing, isolating, romanticizing the past, emotional eating, avoidance, throwing a stone Budah statue at your husband and worry as a means of self defense. if you need any tips on these techniques I’m pretty much an expert.
The truth is when you practice self care, your psychological well being will increase, and boost your immune system too. And when you feel well, you are able to help those around you cope with their stress. It’s like a whole circle of life thing. Plus, theres those catchy Lion King lyrics to get stuck in your head.
We can support our families, friends and coworkers by taking the following steps;
Don’t spread rumors.
Stop binge watching Netflix long enough to shower.
Only buy 27 rolls of toilet paper, instead of 28.
Buy stock in Ben & Jerry’s.
A few words about social media
Everyone knows social media is a convenient way to maintain friendships across great distances and share important events in your life, like what the gelato you are eating looks like. But convenience comes at a cost, not to mention, makes you want gelato. Social media is a proven source of stress, anxiety and depression.
My dad used to always tell me, “Hide and watch Joanie bug..” which is another way of saying, don’t be haphazard and reactive Pause before you post, ask yourself:
- Will posting this positively or negatively impact my life down the road?
- How will it impact other people (e.g. those in the photo/video)?
Tolerating uncertainty is the worst. And we are in uncertain times. But the more we learn to do it the happier we will be. Start small. Ask the gelatoatician to pick a flavor FOR you, and get it to go (not that you could get it to stay right now anyway) carry your gelato the whole way home without peeking. Then the next day get TWO containers of gelato the gelatoatician picks, and repeat with increasing amounts.
Finally, don’t underestimate human resiliency!
Every single one of us fears how we will manage if the virus shows up at work, in town or school. We worry about how to cope with a quarantine, a daycare closure or a lost paycheck. Human minds are good at predicting the worst.
But research shows that people tend to overestimate how badly they be effected by negative events and underestimate how well we will cope with difficult situations. You are more resilient than you think. Anxiety does nothing to prevent the perceived disaster. Even if your worst fears were true, even if we ran out of toilet paper and chocolate, what way forward is anxiety offering you? It’s got nothing! No new ideas, but nothing more than you knew at the start.
The theme in England during World War II was keep calm and carry on. I think this theme is a good one to adapt as we move forward through this current Lysol filled crisis.
Keep Calm and Carry On.
They did. And we can too.