Fighting Coronavirus-Inspired Anxiety

How are you, Really
COVID-19 is causing fear and anxiety. Photo by Finn on Unsplash.

Since the presidential press briefing last night (Tuesday, March 31, 2020), it seems that people are opening their eyes to the reality of COVID-19.  Maybe it was hearing the 240,000 number.  Maybe it was that President Trump seemed to be taking it far more seriously than he had a week or two ago. 

Numbers that once seemed distant and unbelievable enough to shrug  off are suddenly very much in reach.  People who live in states that had only 100 cases a week ago suddenly have 1,500 or 2,000 or more.  It’s freaking people out.

Me?  I’m good.  When you expect the worst, you’re ready for anything.

How to Handle Anxiety, Fear and Freaking Out

My advice to people who are freaking out is to follow a six step plan:

Step 1: Identify the problem.  In this case the problem is the rapid spread of a virus with a very high infection rate that is 10 or 20 times deadlier than the flu.

Step 2: Look at the problem objectively.  That means remove the emotion and look at the facts.  Separate the facts (it can kill you) from the fear (ohmigod I’m going to die).  The facts might be something like this: I am 36 and have two children.  I have been laid off but my spouse is in an essential job and is still working.  High might bring home the virus.  Our parents are in their late 50s and early 60s and we worry about them because the mortality rate increases with age.  If we get it, we might be sick, but it’s unlikely we will have a sever case.  It’s going to be tough paying the bills. 

Step 3: Determine what you can do to prevent, minimize or eliminate the problem. Given the list above, this could include a great many steps.  But this is the area where you can be creative, and where you can take positive action.  Taking positive actions gives you a sense of control and can minimize anxiety.   Here are some possible actions:

  • We’re going to quarantine ourselves as thoroughly as possible.  That means no visitors and no trips outside the house.  Our parents are not allowed to visit. 
  • Even though we are home alone, we will wash our hands and practice good hygiene.  We will also disinfect the doorknobs, light switches, steering wheel, pones and other areas that might house the virus.
  • When my spouse comes home, he or she will take off their shoes and clothes right away and thoroughly shower.  The clothes will go into the water with hot water and soap to kill any virus.
  • When we need groceries, we will shop online and have the delivered.  If delivery isn’t available, we’ll pick them up.  If someone has to go to the store, it will be my spouse on his or her way from work.
  • Should one of us gets sick, we will maintain a strict quarantine by giving them their own room and bathroom and leaving food outside the door.  Although it will be hard, we will try to minimize the chance of it spreading to other family members. 
  • We will encourage the kids grandparents to practice social distancing and to quarantine themselves.  We’ll offer them Face Time or Skype calls instead.
  • We will cut back on expenses by not getting take-out and buying only necessities.  I’ll do more home cooking and we’ll eat less prepared foods, which tend to be more expensive.  We will evaluate getting rid of able/satellite TV and using streaming only.  Since we are home all day and can use WiFi calling, we’ll cut back on our phone plan by getting rid of unlimited data.  Maybe I’ll plant a garden.  The kids can help.
  •  I will apply for unemployment, and if and when we get stimulus checks from the government, we will set aside that money to pay for rent, food and other critical living expenses. 

Keep in mind that your plan can only include things you can do.  Unless you are a high-level administrator at the hospital, you can’t do anything to increase the number of beds or ventilators, so focus on what you can do, what actions you can take.  Let the hospitals, the airlines, the cruise industry and everyone else worry about themselves, you should only address immediate problems that impact you and yours.

Step 4: Get buy in.  This is important because if the rest of the family does not understand and agree to the steps you plan to take, they will undermine you (perhaps actively, but definitely passively).  For example, if your spouse doesn’t agree that the stimulus check needs to be put aside for rent, they could buy a big-ticket item with it.  If your parents don’t agree with quarantine, they will show up at your door and your kids will probably let them in.

You may need to compromise.  For example, maybe you still get take out once a week.  Maybe your spouse doesn’t want to wash his or her clothes every day, so you end up giving them a separate hamper with a plastic trash bag in it so you can quarantine their clothes.  You get the idea.

Step 5: Implement the plan.  OK, you know the plan, they know the plan, now you just have to live it.

Step 6: Make Adjustments to the plan.  Maybe you’ve heard that no plan survives contact with the enemy?  Well, no plan survives contact with the family either.  You need to be willing to listen to input and feedback and evolve the plan so that it becomes even better.  In my case, that meant buying more snacks, like pretzels and tortillas.  Who knows what it will mean in your case?

Apply these six steps to any problem and you’ll be on your way to taking control, fighting that anxiety, and feeling confident instead of scared.

Why Preppers Prep

Preppers have many different fears and concerns.  We fear for the safety of ourselves and our loved ones in a natural or man-made disaster.  It could be something common like an earthquake, forest fire, hurricane, blizzard or power outage.  It might be something more extreme, like a nuclear attack, a giant solar flare that devastates the electrical distribution system, or a comet strike like the one thought to have killed off the dinosaurs.

Rather than being ruled by that fear or ignoring it in the hopes that the problem will go away, we address it head on.  We look at the worst-case scenario, plan what we would do to minimize its impact, and make all the preparations necessary.

If we’re worried about nuclear war, we might install a fallout shelter.  If we worry about a forest fire, we may clear cut 100 feet around our house, install a roof sprinkler, and plant only fire-resistant vegetation near the house.  If we’re worried about being the victim of violent crime, we buy a gun and learn to use it.

In short, we identify the problem, evaluate the scenario to determine how to reduce it severity to us, make a plan and then hope e never have to act on it.  There’s no reason you can’t do the same thing.