My dear friend Meg is panicking about COVID-19. Any time I look at my phone–even when I get up in the middle of the night to feed the baby–she’s texted me some dire article about what might happen.
Of course, she’s not the only one panicking, not by a long shot. If you’re reading this article, chances are you are feeling pretty anxious. I know that I’ve been having a hard time falling back asleep after I settle the baby at 3 AM, wondering if I’m taking enough precautions to stay safe.
Living in a state of ongoing fear is bad for us in all sorts of ways. We feel awful when we dwell on bad things that might befall us. Anxiety takes a toll on our bodies and even can weaken our immune system–exactly what we don’t need right now. And perhaps worst of all, we wind up spending the precious time we are alive focusing on what could go wrong rather than being in the present.
“It feels like my brain is hard-wired for catastrophizing,” Meg lamented to me this morning after she’d texted me the latest piece of terrifying news. “What can I do?”
So for Meg, and for all of us who are spending much of our waking hours (and perhaps our dreamtime) worrying about what may befall us, here is something we can do:
It’s actually very simple. Just start noticing everything around you, item by item, detail by detail.
- What does the chair you are sitting in feel like against your back?
- Notice the different shades of green and white on the leaves of the houseplant next to you.
- Listen to the faint sound of traffic outside your window.
- Is there a slight breeze against your skin?
- How do your feet feel in their shoes, or your toes when you wriggle them against the carpet or floor?
- Look at the tiny details in the stitching on your cuffs.
- Feel your shirt against your skin.
- Savor the taste of your cup of coffee.
- Notice its aroma, and feel its warmth going down your throat.
- Watch how your dog’s rib cage is expanding and contracting as he breathes.
- Observe the drops of saliva slowly form on his tongue and drop to the floor.
As we start to focus on our experience of what is actually happening all around us, we take our minds out of the possible future and bring ourselves into awareness, so that we can be present in our lives as we are living.
There is one more aspect of the present I’d like to suggest you bring into awareness.
This may sound corny, but as I am wrapping my mind around the risk that this virus actually poses to the mortality of those I love, and to my mortality, I’m understanding more deeply than I ever did before how fragile and precious our lives and relationships are. With this realization, I want to savor these connections, while I am here and while those I care about are here.
So I’m endeavoring to be present with my loved ones, appreciating even the mundane moments and not being too distracted by the nonsense and minor irritations of life (while striving to stay well, of course).
I’m hoping that all of us will stay healthy through this crisis, and that going forward we’ll remember to keep being present with our loved ones, appreciating every wonderful and ordinary moment we have.
If you are struggling to stay calm during this difficult time, please feel free to reach out to me. I’ll be glad to work with you to help find ways to manage your anxiety and stress. During the coronavirus crisis I am available to meet with you via secure video.