But now it is happening to us. Closing borders didn’t keep it away. Having a strong military did not maintain our defenses. The virus can be found in our neighborhoods, on the surfaces we touch and in the air we breathe.
Having responded to crises all over the world, I understand how people feel when they first realize that everything has changed. First, you want to do everything you can to be prepared. You go to the store and buy supplies. You read up on every bit of information available online. You want to make sure you do not have the virus, and that you can’t transmit it to anyone. You wonder, how long is this going to last?
This is a common question for people who live in conflict and disaster zones every day. Living with uncertainty produces fear and anxiety even in the most prepared people. How can you cope with such uncertain times?
Take some advice from a disaster expert. You can cultivate a sense of inner peace when the world is in turmoil. You just need to develop a few practices and healthy habits to get through each day. These practices depend on your personal style and beliefs, but can help see you through.
Pray, meditate or practice mindfulness. You can do this in numerous ways. Asking God to be with you and with those affected is one way to live in solidarity with people who are suffering. If prayer is not for you, another option is to meditate or practice mindfulness, focusing on good memories. You can also practice gratitude by remembering what you are thankful for, writing it down or sending thank you notes to people who come to mind.
As you think of people around you, consider those who are in a worse situation. Everyone has the ability to help a friend, family member, or neighbor close by. What needs are in your community as a result of this crisis? Responding to people’s needs is one way to stop focusing on the problem and work toward a solution. Helping others is a great way to shift your attention from yourself to the greater good.
In the case of coronavirus, we know that those who are already sick and the elderly are more susceptible to the virus. Think about who is ill or older in your area. Are there ways you can reach out to them by giving them a call or sending them a note? If you already have food and supplies, can you share them with a neighbor in need? What you do for others will encourage them and bring you peace of mind.
Also, remember the first responders on the front lines of crisis. These are the people who, instead of running away from the problem, are facing it head on. Today, doctors, nurses, emergency medical technicians (EMTs) and public health officials are our frontline of defense. Do you know someone in a position like this? Send them a word of encouragement and appreciation. It will go a long way.
As we wait out the coronavirus, we are learning to empathize with people all around the world whose daily lives are changed by crisis. From Syria to the Democratic Republic of the Congo, people are experiencing disruptions to their daily life due to circumstances beyond their control. Whether they are facing bombardment by aerial raids or recovering from Ebola, they too are waiting for the one thing we all want – for things to return to normal.
This virus is presenting us with an opportunity. As we learn how to stay calm in crisis, we can also be good friends and neighbors by looking out for the vulnerable, appreciate our first responders, and have greater empathy with a world in chaos.