Coronavirus has spawned fears galore. Infection and death numbers soar. People wonder: Will I catch it? Will my loved ones? Will it kill us? Will I survive economically? Layoffs and roller-coaster financial markets escalate apprehension.
So, how many of these coronavirus fear factors apply to you?
• Losing loved ones?
• Job loss?
• Financial ruin?
• Lost opportunity?
Dreams can die. Sports seasons are cancelled. The Olympics are postponed. Aspiring stars find themselves with no stage for displaying their talents. Graduating university students find excellent corporate job offers rescinded. Projects involving public events or face-to-face interaction are scuttled. Movie theaters go dark, affecting production, promotion, and popcorn sales. Restaurants focus on takeout. Vacations are cancelled.
And the grocery stores… Tired of trying to buy toilet paper? Or hand sanitizer? A local Walmart distributes sanitary wipes to entering customers – one sheet per person, to wipe your cart handles – but good luck trying to find any to purchase.
Got cabin fever? Social isolation can make you feel unattached and depressed. Boredom – or COVID-19 TV saturation – prompts some sports junkies to binge on reruns of their team’s glory days.
Managing your fears
Can your fears be assuaged? Some suggestions:
• Wash your hands and keep social distance. For how long? Many voices seek your attention. I prefer to heed the scientists’.
• Adjust your spending. In light of the seriousness of the times, some planned-for purchases may not really be as important as you’d thought.
• Focus on friendships. During challenging times in my own life, close friends have helped me to land on my feet and stay in the race. Maybe you can’t visit friends in person during the pandemic, but you can call, email, text, or Skype…even if just to ask how they’re doing. The interaction can encourage you both.
• Look on the bright side. Is there an advantage to your current situation that your pre-pandemic life lacked? Maybe more time with your family? A break from the rat race? Less traffic on the highways?
• Exercise: Gyms may be closed, but you can still do calisthenics at home, or jog, or walk. The other day, I met a new neighbor on the jogging path. He’s just recently started running but now does about four miles daily. He said I was his inspiration. I had no idea. The fears that haunt you when trying to sleep can seem less formidable after a good workout.
• Laugh: An ancient Jewish proverb says, “A joyful heart is good medicine, But a broken spirit dries up the bones.” Laughter many not always be the best medicine, but it often can be a great one. Look for humor in daily life, the news, family foibles, etc.
• Establish or deepen your spiritual roots: Centuries ago, a Hebrew writer maintained, “God is our refuge and strength, always ready to help in times of trouble. So we will not fear when earthquakes come and the mountains crumble into the sea.”
Jesus of Nazareth, a leader who experienced both intimate friendships and terrible loneliness, told his followers they would know grief, troubles and sorrow. He advised them to focus on their relationship with him: “I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world.”
Coming to faith in him as a university student helped me resolve many of my life’s fears. I had a new friend who would never leave me, divine assistance coping with both internal and external struggles. Death was no longer something to be feared.
Perhaps these ideas can get you thinking as you adjust to our brave new world. Stay safe.
Rusty Wright is an author and lecturer who has spoken on six continents. He holds Bachelor of Science (psychology) and Master of Theology degrees from Duke and Oxford universities, respectively. www.RustyWright.com