Are you afraid? Me too. It’s hard not to be fearful during these scary coronavirus times, a quick glimpse of a major news site is enough to get your head spinning and your heart sinking.
We can do something about it. It’s time to lessen the fear you and I are now facing. In times of crisis I often turn to the advice of the businessman/philosopher John Templeton. He was prescient for our current state of affairs when he wrote:
Fear is one of the greatest challenges we face today, as individuals and as a society. Unreasoning, irrational fear can lock us in an invisible prison.
Of course, by sheltering at home some of us may believe we are in a prison :-), but the type of prison Templeton is referring to exists in the mind. It’s the unceasing fear about our health, the well-being of our family and friends, our bank accounts, the less fortunate, the elderly, our country and society, etcetera, etcetera.
Yet the truth is, in most cases, our fear does not help us. As Templeton once said, “Worry is like a rocking chair that gives you something to do, but doesn’t get you anywhere.” Substitute “fear” for “worry” and you come to the same conclusion. Fear does not help. What’s more, a quick Google search will show you that fear weakens our immune system—something that none of us wants right now.
The good news is you can do something about your fear.
While the news can be a nonstop litany of doom and gloom, I was watching the author Tony Schwartz on TV the other day. He is often there to discuss political issues and the mercurial thought process of the president, but this time he was giving advice. He said what was hurting the country most today wasn’t the pandemic, it was fear. He then offered 4 solid ways to deal with it. The words in bold are his ideas, I then expand on them.
- Get enough sleep. 8 hours a day. I know some of you may say you can get by on 5 hours a night. I’m calling BS. Every study says we operate better with at least 7 hours of sleep. Occasional trouble sleeping like me? Do what I do. Add to your sleep total by taking a mid-day nap.
- Rest during the day. If you’re working at home right now, you know it can be easy to get attached to your computer for hours on end. Take periodic breaks. (See numbers 3-6.)
- Get some exercise. Your gym is closed? That’s no excuse. Develop an at-home exercise routine, as well as engage in activity outdoors to get some fresh air. Run, jog, walk. You need to find a way to work off excess stress and exercise can do that.
- Connect with others. We cannot get through this alone. We need to rely on our loved ones, co-workers, neighbors and extended family and friends for the support they provide. If you have been blessed with “broader shoulders” be willing to offer an extra level of support to those who need it. (I ask not for a lighter burden, but for broader shoulders. ~Jewish proverb)
Here’s a fifth idea that I’ve added:
- Turn off the news. You may be a news junkie like me, but at a certain point the continuous feedback loop of negative news can crush anyone’s spirit. Turn the TV off. You know things are tough out there. You don’t need hour after hour of news to reinforce this fact. Can’t stay away from the tube? Watch a comedy or love story.
Here’s one more point and it is inspired by John Templeton, who I quoted earlier. Templeton believed in man’s better nature and that we are all capable of more than we might imagine. This includes being able to move away from feelings of fear and pessimism to bravery and optimism, by realizing that we are not alone is this world.
- Have faith. If you believe in God—if you’ve ever believed in God—now’s the time to reacquaint yourself with your faith. If reading the Bible does this for you, go for it. For others it may involve re-reading your favorite spirituality books, engaging in contemplative prayer or meditation*. These acts can both comfort and guide us.
Why is God and faith important? Again, turning to Templeton:
Fear may be a lack of awareness of the presence of God as a real force in our lives. With the realization of God’s active presence, many aspects of fear may disappear into the mists of the unreal. Like a snowball dropped into a pail of hot water, fear dissolves, and its energy is transmuted into positive faith.
There’s an old proverb that says “He who is afraid of a thing gives it power over him.” Cursing our plight will not diminish it. To overcome the fear we may now be experiencing, we need to look not just into the darkness, but beyond it. We need to look for the light.
Look a little more closely and you’ll see the light in mankind pulling together. Healthcare workers selflessly tending to the sick. State and local leaders stepping up to guide and protect us. Researchers from around the world looking for both a treatment and a cure.
We’re all in this together and as Zig Ziglar once said you can look at F.E.A.R. two ways. Forget Everything And Run. Or Face Everything And Rise. The choice is yours.
*You say you can’t meditate? Check out Sam Harris’s Waking Up app for guided 10-minute meditations. The first five lessons are free, and I listened to each one many times before taking the plunge and buying a subscription that has been worth every penny.