How to Stay Mindful and Safe Amid the Coronavirus Outbreak
“We cannot always control everything that happens to us in this life, but we can control how we respond.” ~Lionel Kendrick
The coronavirus is no longer isolated to just China. It’s here, affecting over ninety countries, and it continues to spread worldwide with new cases popping up daily. It’s all over the news and there is an inescapable sense of anxiety, stress, and uncertainty.
Just within the last week, there were over fifty confirmed cases in the Bay Area, where I live. Am I scared? Yeah, especially for my elderly parents who are already immune-compromised. Anxiety thrives on uncertainty. And these are some very uncertain times.
But then I am reminded to be mindful, not swept away by the constant news stories, office chatter, and Facebook stories bombarding my external environment. Being mindful doesn’t mean ignoring or avoiding the situation at hand. It means being present, aware, and discerning with all that is going on with the spread of the coronavirus.
Here are some things that help me stay grounded and mindful:
1. Be prepared for the things that you can control.
We don’t have control over what happens in life, but we do have control over how we choose to respond. So how can you choose to respond to this outbreak? You can choose to react to the news, be driven by fear, causing anxiety and stress—or you can choose to be better prepared. Here are some examples:
Physical Precautions: You might have trouble finding hand sanitizer, clorox wipes, masks, and other such supplies, but you can still wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water.
Social precautions: You might want to avoid or limit huge social gatherings. Switch to phone calls and video calls, to stay connected with friends and keep your sense of community.
Relationship/Family: Discuss with family members extra precautions needed for their safety. Talking to your parents, older relatives, and children about the importance of handwashing and some (or all) of the other precautions listed here.
I (with the tag team effort of my brother) finally convinced my elderly parents to cancel their upcoming international trip. When we were able to communicate our concern from a place of love, not control, my (stubborn) parents were more receptive.
Work: Discuss with your boss the possibility of work-from-home options, and make sure you have the necessary equipment and tools to work remotely.
Finances: There is a possibility that you could be asked to stay home and not work for an extended amount of time. If you are not financially prepared for this, it is important to start thinking about it now. Some questions you may ask yourself are: Where are some areas I could cut unnecessary spending? How can I save more in the case of an emergency? Who could I reach out for financial support if I exhaust my resources?
Fitness: Instead of going to the gym, you might think about taking a run in nature, or doing your workout at home.
Disruptions such as school, work, and business closures can cause anxiety and stress. But these things are out of your control. The best thing you can do is be prepared for these disruptions to the extent that you can.
2. What you choose to focus on, grows.
Are you constantly watching the news, on top of every new case of the coronavirus, talking about the outbreak with every colleague, friend, or family member? Are you thinking, “Oh my God, what happens if I get it and spread it to my children? The whole world will be soon infected!” How are your anxiety and stress levels? I bet you believe you are at high risk.
You can choose to grow your fear by being constantly inundated with this type of information, or you can choose to anchor yourself in a belief that is true for you. An example may be: “I am taking the necessary precautions to be as safe as possible.”
If you are feeling anxious, a loving-kindness mantra may be helpful: “May I be safe, may I be healthy, may I live with ease.” My friend Dave Potter has a thirteen-minute loving-kindness meditation available here.
I am not being ignorant by avoiding the news, I am being discerning of what information I expose myself to. I educate myself about the type of precautions I need to take—not out of fear, but out of discernment so that I can take the necessary precautions from an intelligent, clear, centered place.
3. Take care of your health (mind, body, spirit).
This goes without saying, but taking care of your health should always be top priority. Especially during times like these, it is even more important to care for our health and build a strong immune system.
Sleep well. Sleep affects your immune system. You are more likely to get sick after being exposed to a virus if not getting enough sleep (and quality sleep!).
Eat well and exercise. Healthy eating habits and exercise are vital to optimal health. Exercise and eating healthy promotes feelings of well-being and boosts immunity.
Self-care/self-love. You can sleep well, eat well, and be in good physical shape but be running around frantically, mind racing a million miles per minute, trying to serve everyone else’s needs. Stop and do something for you. Whether that’s taking five minutes to soak in the warm sun, enjoying a hot bath, or taking a walk in nature. Do something (no matter how small) every day, just for you.
Meditation/mindfulness practice. Breathe, sit in silence, observe your thoughts without judgment, be still. You know that meditating or practicing mindfulness has immense benefits to your health. Make it a priority.
The coronavirus is a real outbreak and deserves appropriate attention. However, the more you stress, the more you decrease your immune functioning, the more susceptible you are to viruses.
You can take the necessary precautions to be safe and decrease your chances of exposure, be discerning of what you choose to focus on, and keep your mind, body, and spirit in optimal health.
May you be safe. May you be happy. May you be healthy. May you live with ease.