In these past weeks, we’ve witnessed a series of major historical events of a magnitude that is still difficult to fathom. With these events came a wave of panic that is palpable both on a local and a global level. And, in some ways, that panic is understandable. The specter of an invisible yet deadly disease spreading at an exponential rate has terrified humans for centuries.
At the time of writing these lines, we’re at this strange period of uncertainty where we have no idea where this is going and what kind of impact it will have on humanity. How long will this last? How many people will die? Will the world economy collapse?
This unprecedented situation has triggered in many individuals a great deal of fear and anxiety – steadily fed by a constant influx of alarming news by mass media. Meanwhile, while the masses are physically confined in small spaces and mentally paralyzed with fear, things are happening behind the scenes.
In these trying times, vigilant citizens need to be more vigilant than ever. And that means taking a step back, taking a deep breath and remaining clear-headed.
With that being said, here are a few things we need to remember now and always.
1- “This Too Shall Pass”
If COVID-19 is causing in you feelings of fear, panic, and anxiety, please repeat to yourself this timeless saying: “This too shall pass”. Because it will.
In 1858, Abraham Lincoln famously recounted:
“It is said an Eastern monarch once charged his wise men to invent him a sentence, to be ever in view, and which should be true and appropriate in all times and situations. They presented him the words: “And this, too, shall pass away.” How much it expresses! How chastening in the hour of pride! How consoling in the depths of affliction!
Often found in wisdom literature of the ancient Near East, the adage “this too shall pass” aptly sums up the unconditionally temporary nature of human condition. It is a reminder that every single event in human history, whether it is a negative or a positive one, inevitably becomes a thing of the past. And, although there doesn’t seem to be a light at the end of the tunnel right now, this virus will also inevitably become a thing of the past.
The only question is “when?”. Not unlike all other living things in the world, epidemics rise, peak and decline. Sooner or later, this thing will peak and it will decline. In the past decades, SARS and H1N1 caused a great deal of panic. However, the only thing they are infecting now is history books.
While current world events might seem overwhelming, we still have full control of ourselves and our surroundings. Which leads me to my next point.
2- You Don’t Need Up-to-the-Minute News Updates
If you can take away one thing from this site is that critical thinking is required when dealing with mass media. Sometimes, it doesn’t have our best interest at heart and, sometimes, it is even outright toxic. As people are confined to their homes with little to do, the urge to keep up with the news is constant. However, not all news is good to consume. Some of it actually is vile, toxic crap.
For instance, an article in Canada’s National Post titled What might our lives look like when Canada is in the full grip of COVID-19? dug up an obscure report dating from 2009, quoted its grimmest parts and linked them to what is happening now. I will spare you the details, but the article talks about things such as “stockpiling body bags, choosing a central place where people bring corpses of family members and identifying hockey and curling rinks cold enough to be temporary morgue sites”.
The article brought forth no useful information, just wild speculations that poke on people’s latent fears. Gladly, not every reader lapped up the unnecessary fear-mongering. Here are two comments from the article.
Another article from another Canadian publication titled Cancel your March Break straight-up begins with these words:
“Fear is the right reaction to the coronavirus”.
I’m sorry, but no. The only time that fear is the “right reaction” is when a bear is chasing you and you need the adrenaline boost to outrun it. In the case of a global crisis with lots of moving parts that require careful planning, fear is not the “right reaction”. Fear leads to panic-induced, irrational decisions. And a prolonged state of fear can be extremely damaging for one’s mental health.
After a whole lot of fear-mongering, the article ends with these words:
“Be afraid. Be very afraid.”
I’m sorry, but no. Now, more than ever, we need to remain calm, rational and level-headed. And limiting our daily intake of “panic news” is a great start. Trust me, I know that it is difficult to resist the urge to grab one’s phone and look-up news articles about the virus. I sometimes find myself doing it without even realizing it. But it is simply not healthy or even necessary to do so.
You don’t need to get a mild panic attack each time the number of confirmed cases goes up a notch. You don’t need to mildly despair each time an artist cancels a world tour. More importantly, if you have children, they don’t need to see you turn into a panicky shell of a person. Which leads me to my final point.
3- Life Goes On
If you look outside, the sun is still rising and birds are still chirping. You are still on this Earth and you still have one life to live. Even if you are in lockdown, quarantine or whatever else, you are still in control of yourself and your surroundings. You still need to sleep well, eat healthily and exercise regularly. If you’re stuck at home, put down your phone for a while and use this time to take care of your people, read a good book, work on creative projects and, if possible, go outside and seek the healing presence of nature. Coincidentally enough, in my annual end-of-year articles, I constantly suggest readers to do these exact things. That’s because, despite the constant noise of mass media, the most important things in life happen outside of it.
While this advice might sound extremely boring and generic, this is what needs to be done right now in order to remain vigilant citizens. We need to remain sharp and focused, not weak and fearful. Because, at this point, it doesn’t matter where this virus comes from, what (or who) is behind it and how dangerous it really is. It already managed to shut down the entire world.
Soon, we will need to ask some important questions: Who benefitted from this situation? Who went for a power grab? What kind of companies weathered the storm? Where did the world economy shift to? What kind of local and global policies were introduced?
To properly answer these questions, we need to remain strong and watchful. Because, no matter what happens in the next months … this too shall pass.
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