I don’t think anyone quite expected the impact COVID-19 would have on every aspect of daily life. When I think back to the first time I heard about the virus, I 100% thought it was a joke. I was at breakfast with my coworkers, and one of them mentioned something about coronavirus. I scoffed at this remark and did not believe coronavirus was real (Hello! Corona is a beer!). Well, Facebook memes are definitely a phenomenal way to keep up with the news. After seeing so many memes, I eventually became smart and learned about coronavirus (Yes, I definitely sound like a millennial).
A couple weeks later, COVID-19 started to impact the US. Still, no big deal. I’m in a small, rural town of Colorado, the chance of COVID-19 having an impact here is little to none. The flu still kills more people a year than COVID-19 has so far. Whatever, let’s get on with our lives. The Earth has become overly populated, anyway.
In all honesty, I am not quite sure when I truly started to notice the impact of COVID-19. Sometime in March, obviously, when the world really seemed to start tipping upside-down. Of course, I knew California had already essentially been shut down. But that’s California. They do weird shit there. Carry on.
Now, in the thick of things, it’s hard not to be scared. It’s hard not to worry. Yes, I am considered an essential worker, so I don’t have to worry about losing my job. However, there are many things outside my own job that I can’t control. Things I did think about, that I did worry about, but was confident would work out well.
Did anyone really think that this virus would essentially shut down the world? The virus would force the cancellation of vacations, business trips, even school. Did anyone expect the fear amongst the masses? The hoarding of toilet paper and paper towels? My guess is, no, it’s not how we thought it would pan out.
Stress and Fear
Now, here’s the thing about fear. It’s not entirely a bad thing. Stress, in and of itself, is not a bad thing. It’s how we respond to and utilize our stress and fear that determines whether it is good or bad.
Stress and fear can cause us to act. Fear can keep us from doing things that will hurt us, or can push us outside our comfort zones to better ourselves as humans.
However, stress and fear can also paralyze us. Stress can cause us to stop reacting. Fear can leave us running, fearing for our lives.
Currently, I can honestly say, I am poorly utilizing both my stress and fear. I’m sure most people are familiar with the “Color Code of Awareness” developed by Col. Jeff Cooper. It’s color-coding of situational awareness and an individual’s response threats within an environment. When you are in condition white, you are unprepared and unaware. Yellow is relaxed, but aware. Orange is aware of a threat and prepared for action. Red is response to the threat. When you hit black, you are frozen, in panic. Being in black is, in the flight or fight model, flight. Currently, I hate to say, I am teetering between red and black. This, my dear readers, is a culmination of events that I was dealing with prior to the pandemic, and the increase of stress and fear brought about by the pandemic.
Now, what do we do when placed in such a position? When everything seems so out of control that you just want to let go of the reigns and hope the horse doesn’t throw you off? I’m going to say this from a point of complete honesty, I am going to give you some ideas, but this is 100% do as I say, not as I do!
When faced with a stressful situation, most peoples’ instinct is to either hold their breath, or breathe too rapidly. Neither method is conducive to maintaining a calm demeanor. Deep, purposeful breathing calms the mind, increases focus, and helps us maintain things such as fine motor skills and peripheral vision.
“Tactical Breathing” is a great exercise to utilize when your mind is going into black. It’s a four-count breathing process, where you breathe in to a count of four, hold your breath for a count of four, and breathe out for a count of four. While it’s not going to fix the whole problem, and may only be a temporary solution, it will calm your mind. Practice this enough, and you’ll learn to keep your cool during the crazy times.
Learn What You Can Control
Ok, I struggle with this one. As I have mentioned before, I struggled with anorexia in my teens. It was a control thing. Even now, when I feel like I can’t control anything, I want to control my food, my weight, my looks. That’s slipping into obsession, and especially during such trying times, we don’t want to become so controlled that the controlling behavior begins to control us. But, take the small things, and focus on how you can control those. If your house is a mess, clean your house. You can “control” your relationships by communicating with your partner, and handling the tough times together. You can control how you respond to the current situation.
Maybe you don’t believe in a higher power, a Capital S Something, an All Knowing, whatever. But if you do, or maybe even if you don’t, praying is a great way to relinquish your stresses and fears. If you believe in God (yes, I do), he knows your deepest fears, and is always willing to listen to what you have to say. And even just voicing your stress and fear may be enough to lessen the burden, if only for a while.
Yes, it’s cliche, but laughter is the best medicine. Put in a funny movie, play a funny board/card game with the family, fall into the rabbit hole of the internet. I’m only moderately ashamed to admit that I just recently downloaded TikTok, and some of the laughs it has provided has lessened my anxiety.
All my Grey’s Anatomy fans out there can attest that, whenever Meredith Grey is having an especially difficult time, she “dances it out” and feels exponentially better after. Take a dance break! Be weird, be goofy. Even in this crisis, we are still meant to have fun! Or put on some good tunes, and sing your heart out.
Don’t Forget to Live
Above all, don’t forget to live. Remember this, too, shall pass. We are all feeling the fear right now. Yes, some more than others. But we need to remember, one way or another, we will see this through. Give thanks to each day you are provided. How cheesy do I sound? Either way, live each day to the fullest.