We’re Facing Uncertain Times
To fear or not to fear, that seems to be the question we (and by “we” I’m amazed at the fact that this includes pretty much the entire human race right now) are faced with. COVID-19 has accomplished some things.
I’ve debated writing something about it. If you’re anything like me, the deluge of emails, blog posts and news articles is a bit overwhelming. Adding another one seems unnecessary.
On the other hand, that hasn’t stopped anyone from adding yet another TikTok video of isolating families dancing to amuse themselves and others. So I guess I’ll go ahead.
To fear or not to fear. Toilet paper — functioning as a strange litmus test — indicates many are opting for the former. Dr. Catherine Pittman’s checklist of “anxiety-igniting thoughts” — to see it, look for the link near the bottom of my anxiety page — is no doubt getting a heck of a lot more checkmarks than it was a few weeks ago.
Nevertheless, I vote for the “not fear” option. I strongly believe panic is not needed and we’re all better off without it. However, I also know it’s not easy to stop.
Thinking can help a bit. Let’s consider “perspective taking.” Changing our point of view can change how we feel.
For example, the “bigger picture” perspective. Here is a fundamental truth: we all face a certain amount of risk in life, all the time. As the old saying goes, “You never know. I could cross the street tomorrow and get hit by a bus.” (Never heard that one? Maybe it’s just a saying in my family. In any case, it gets the idea across.) Risk in life did not start with COVID-19. It has always been there. Yet this fact did not generate widespread panic; and prior to COVID-19, many of us were feeling pretty comfortable despite risk.
Let’s get more specific. Vehicle collisions hurt and kill a lot of people. Transport Canada lists over 1900 deaths in 2018. That’s deaths; not injuries. As of the time I wrote this, the number of COVID-19 deaths in Canada was 55. That’s way more deaths by vehicle, yet few people isolate themselves from driving or riding in vehicles.
I can almost hear a chorus of protests, eager to argue my points. Look, I know risk increased for all of us with COVID-19. I know the number of virus-inflicted deaths will rise, and perhaps eclipse vehicular deaths. In some countries it already has. I know suggesting perspective taking might help a bit; but nobody will gasp and exclaim, “You’re right Chris! Wow. All fear is suddenly gone!”
I’m not saying, “There’s nothing to fear.” I’m saying, “Let’s try not to fear more than is necessary.” Which is a do-the-best-you-can kind of thing.
Right Here and Right Now
In addition to perspective taking, let me suggest another little trick, which I find helpful and I hope you do too. It’s not about trying to reason your way out of fear. It’s about paying attention to right here and right now. Fear is focused on the future. So turn your attention to the present.
Look around you. If you’re isolating at home, what you will see is familiar. If you’re sitting, notice how the chair/couch/bed/floor/large family dog/etc. feels against your body. Reach down and touch the surface of whatever you’re sitting on and notice how it feels. Hear the famiiar sounds of home. (Smell and taste might apply too; I guess that depends on your sensory acuity, and the state of your home.)
Even if you’re not home, the fact that you’re reading this makes it highly likely that you are not facing a serious and imminent threat to your life. (If you are, please disregard this blog and pay attention to self-preservation.) Wherever you might be, right here and right now you are OK. 10 minutes from now, I don’t know; but at this very moment… you are OK.
Emphasis on “OK.” You might not be fabulous. Maybe right here and right now, your isolated family is dealing with cabin fever and engaging in a screaming match in the background. Maybe you’re off work, and income is uncertain. Not great, but at the same time not reason for fear right here and right now. If you can read a blog, then at this very moment in time, you’re OK.
Keep Working On It
You may have to work the “right here and right now” thing pretty hard. It’s very easy to lose hold of it, and return to the future. The mind may keep saying, “Yeah, but what about…? What if…?” I can guarantee that every one of these thoughts will be about the future. Therefore, every single one of them has not yet happened.
Maybe the fearful thing will happen. Maybe it won’t. But right here and right now, it has not happened.
Right here and right now, you’re OK and so am I. It might sound rather odd, but I’ll say it anyway. It’s alright to let yourself enjoy this moment.
- to_fear_or_not_to_fear: Image by John Hain from Pixabay