Remember where you were on 9/11? Can you feel the panic and anxiety that you experienced on that day?
That feeling that our entire country stopped—for weeks, or months—until the dust settled around where the towers had once stood, so time could start moving again; from where people had to pause from panic and anxiety just to begin to breathe.
Friends, this novel Coronavirus panic that we are all experiencing surrounding what many are predicting to be a pandemic mirroring previous historical plagues is not far from how things played out following that horrific day 9 years ago in September. I realize am not comparing apples to apples here and I don’t intend to. What I am trying to illustrate is the picture of those moments when our country laid aside its divisions and united for one common goal.
Churches were overflowing, people were praying, neighbors were helping, and none of the logistics or variables that had existed on September 10th mattered anymore. We were no longer blinded by hate or racism or divided by beliefs or preferences. We were united; all of us.
So as we attempt to figure out what to do in the wake of closed schools and cancelled events, as we wade through lost hours at work or financial fallouts that may be on our doorstep as a result of the hysteria surrounding this virus, we are being given a very rare opportunity to glimpse a true picture of humanity. In the panic and anxiety of this mess, right there in the toilet paper aisle, in the empty school parking lots, in the desolate streets and abandoned offices, we are seeing from where each individual is operating.
Is it out of a place of fear—or a place of faith?
Put your religion on the back burner for a hot second, Karen. (I’ll have coffee with you later and chat about religion vs relationship, but we are pressed for time here.)
How Do You Know if You are Anxious and Fearful or Faithful and Focused?
Ask yourself a few questions, like…
- Am I hoarding or helping?
- Have I been hesitant or confidant to explain this to my kids?
- Am I planning an escape route or am I offering to serve others where I am?
Friend, I am not suggesting you voluntarily go out and hug every person in your community and offer to give up your last sheet of TP to the elderly. But here is what I am saying: Most people don’t get to see this version of humanity in their lifetime and, for many of us, we are seeing it for the second time since 9/11. So, while then we may have been children or young adults not knowing how to respond, now we are able to do something—to move.
The Do’s and Don’ts Amidst the Panic
- Don’t Hoard. Yes, Karen, it is that simple. Get what you need but don’t freak out and clear a shelf of the canned green beans, because WHAT IF there aren’t any left after this!?
- Do Explain to your Kids, in an age appropriate way, what is going on in our world. They need to know why school or their baseball games are cancelled and hiding things from them will only create more anxiety.
- Don’t Attend Large Public Gatherings. However, know that this isn’t because of panic but out of precaution. Most extreme children’s diagnosis or meds can alter their gut flora and even suppress their immune systems. For that reason and for the health of any older people you may come into contact with, it is our responsibility to be as careful as we can without being hysterical.
- Do Educate Yourself. If your anxiety is spiraling, friend, hear me when I say TURN. OFF. THE. NEWS. Find a reputable source—a trusted doctor, a nurse friend—and ask them your questions. They ‘get it’ but they are also able to speak from the understanding of a medical professional. Be sure your sources are factual, not frantic and fear-based.
Ground Yourself and Set Boundaries from Anxiety and Panic
What we are all experiencing in the chaos of COVID-19 is unscripted human behavior. We were not trained for this, friend. No one knows what they are doing here so, mostly from fresh, raw, fear, we are seeing many people—even those we love and trust—act out of character. They are scared and thrust into survival mode. So we should be the buffer.
Friend, so often I am fighting. I am pushing and advocating and loudly making my point for our children whose mental health diagnoses make them somehow ostracized, pushed out, and falling through the cracks. But this is a chance for me to silently sooth, to educate in a whisper, and to pray for those who are terrified.
My kid is immunocompromised.
I have had to cancel work trips that not only cost me income but forced me to pay back fronted traveling expenses with money we don’t have. But making difficult decisions amongst this chaos; being a living, breathing illustration of protection for my child, and for others just like him can make wave without throwing a single stone. Trust me the panic and anxiety have risen in me more than once, but I need to remain grounded in faith.
So I urge you, friend. Take a breath. I am in the trenches beside you in this war zone. I know it is paralyzingly panic-inducing. But breathe. Look around and, as Mr. Rogers’ mother so famously told him, “Look for the helpers.” And, if you feel lead, become one.