First of all, let me preface this whole thing with the fact that I am not a mental health professional. I struggle with depression and anxiety like so many other people. The advice I give here today will probably be the advice that I will need to hear in the future.
Have you stocked up on hand sanitizer? Have you checked the latest outbreak maps? Did you just cough? Do you have a fever? How many times did you google “Coronavirus symptoms” today?
It’s a lot right now. Between political turmoil, potential global pandemic, and normal day-to-day LIFE, I know many of us are stretched a bit thin, mentally.
So what can we do?
When everything is crap, we need to realize that we absolutely can’t fix everything ourselves. There’s no way to prepare for every possible outcome. Sure, prepare. Take normal precautions. But there’s a big difference between buying a new, large container of hand sanitizer and ordering all of the hand sanitizer you can get from Amazon. When you are making contingency plans for your contingency plans, maybe it’s time to take a step back and watch some Real Housewives.
If you get the urge to be hyper vigilant (like I do) realize that that’s anxiety. No amount of dried beans and rice will cure your anxiety. Anxiety doesn’t say, “Oh, she finally stockpiled enough toilet paper. We can relax!”. Anxiety – like life in Jurassic Park – finds a way.
Or, to put it in Boomer terms, like Rosanne Rosanadana used to say: “It’s always something.” (RIP Gilda Radner, you can look her up while you’re in quarantine. She was a comic genius gone too soon.)
So, what’s the difference between preparing and OVER preparing?
Are you preparing for a known threat? That’s preparing. Are you gaming out every possible thing? That’s over preparing. Are you listening to science and being rational? Preparing. Are you thinking about the threat all of the time? That’s too much…
You know that saying “Just because you’re paranoid doesn’t mean nobody’s chasing you”? Well, the same applies for anxiety. Anxiety is a signal that SOMETHING is wrong. Figure out what’s causing the anxiety, REALLY, and you’re making huge headway. Do you actually have anxiety because you think you might run out of surgical masks, or are you getting anxiety because we live in a world that feels very unstable and pretty scary? I’m going to bet it’s the latter. Will your stockpile of surgical masks help the world become more stable? No. So stop it. Hey, there’s a really good new season of Below Deck on Bravo. How about you watch that instead of hoarding medical supplies?
I heard someone suggest that every time you feel anxiety about COVID-19, you should wash your hands. I would say that’s a good idea if you haven’t washed your hands RECENTLY. Getting into a loop where every time we feel anxiety we wash our hands isn’t exactly optimal, either. Instead, make a list of a variety of things to do when the anxious feelings hit. List useful things, and list things that aren’t so useful. Both types of activities are important, even when it feels like the world is ending.
P.S. The world isn’t ending. Wash your hands, cover your cough, don’t touch your face, stay home if you’re sick.
P.P.S – As we approach November, think about our healthcare system, and how there are many people who cannot AFFORD to stay home if they are sick. They don’t get sick pay, and if they don’t work, they don’t get a paycheck. Realize that a lack of a living wage is a public health issue.