The past few weeks have been frightening. There’s the fear that we or our loved ones will get sick and require hospitalization or die. There’s the fear that everything we’ve worked for all of our lives is forever gone, that we will run out of money to pay for food and heat, and that life in the United States or the World will never be the same. I am frightened by all these things. Very frightened.
But I’ve taken a few steps this week to reduce my anxiety level so it doesn’t become debilitating. First, I’ve stopped reading the news online. That is a big help. I still get a summary of the major news via email newsletters, but in a quantity, I can deal with instead of a firehose. We don’t watch TV at my house, but I’d encourage you to turn it off too. I still check my state’s website daily for the latest information about the pandemic and recommendations for action. The pandemic has become local and I trust my state’s health department because they understand our local situation.
I’ve also cut way down on my Facebook time and only check in on my closest friends and how they’re doing. Social media has a way of perpetuating outrage which is not helpful under the circumstances. There are other ways to connect with your friends. Email and the phone are much better and richer ways to communicate one on one. I’ve been reaching out to my family and friends, including friends I haven’t been in touch with for a long time. I’ve found it helpful to share my fear and feelings with them. There is comfort in knowing that you’ve been heard.
I’m not advocating unplugging completely, but the news is national and global, not local. What happens “out there” is a lot less important than what occurs amongst your family, friends, and in your community. As each week passes, our national leadership becomes increasingly irrelevant. Your Governor, Town Major, Fire Chief, Police Chief, Hospital Administrator, Food Store owner, etc. and local officials will have a far greater effect on our ability to get through this than anyone outside our communities. Think locally, act locally.
Getting outdoors is important, even if it’s just sitting outside in the sun on your porch with a lemonade and a paperback. Walking and day hikes, even if they are short, will help improve your mood. I look forward to going fishing and visiting my favorite secret waterholes when the weather warms up. I have friends who are gardening like mad, fixing their roofs and siding, cutting firewood, etc. Do stuff outside.
Reading books is also a great way to help calm yourself. I used to read many more books before I started writing about hiking for a living (writing a lot puts you off from reading), but I’ve started reading them again and it’s a good escape.
I have many good friends who work in health care and I am in awe of their commitment to providing care to all in these difficult times. I don’t know how they overcome their fears, but they do. I also have friends who still volunteer by ferrying people to doctor’s appointments, who give blood and deliver food to people who are too old or incapacitated to care for themselves. Support them if you are able. Volunteer if you feel up to it. If you’ve survived a bout of Covid-19 and come through, I hope you’ll consider volunteering to help others who are suffering. We will need each other to get through this.
Frank Herbert, the author of Dune got it right when he wrote, “I must not fear. Fear is the mind-killer. Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration. I will face my fear. I will permit it to pass over me and through me.”
Manage your fear so it doesn’t manage you.
Take care my friends and help your neighbors through these challenging times.