All Flu, All the Time

Do you remember the Hong Kong Flu?

Most people alive today lived through it and they can’t say they had memorable images of it.  That flu killed 100,000 people in the U.S. and a million worldwide in 1968 and yet we had no way to be bombarded by how bad it was every minute of the day.

Today is different.  Another virus but a different way to stay scared – endless updates, stories about everything from virtual dating to how divided the country is (again).

The thing is people have been through pandemics before but never with so much intense focus that causes needless anxiety.

The cure is turn off the phone at times during the day, don’t watch news channels that cause anxiety instead of giving information and celebrate how well you’re doing in an inconvenient situation.

To borrow a news radio phrase:  You give yourself 22 minutes, and we’ll give you a break from anxiety and negative thinking.

Mental Health Days

The online publication Axios is requiring each of their colleagues to take mental health days from time to time.

They close their laptop, clear their mind and come back fresh another day to write stories.

Other execs took a day off and went fishing and turned their phone off for an entire day.   Off, not silenced.

Because of the added stress of coronavirus, now is a good time to brainstorm for ideas on how to take a mental health day that works for you.

Building Resilience

“Flowers play with the wind, light, and bees, while roots work hard in the dark.  Some days we are the flower; other days we are the root.  Feel grateful if you are a flower today; feel purposeful if you are the root today.” – Amit Sood, MD

Restarting Social Engagement

Physical distancing (the correct term) will likely be around for many more years but there are opportunities to increase social engagement even while on lockdown.

Use the down time to reconnect with people who matter.

A note to friends that are otherwise valued but somehow left out of our regular lives.

A FaceTime call to someone forgotten.

My favorite:  Some of my NYU students send a 2-3 minute video updating me on how they are getting along.  They never forget to ask about me and my family.  They record them in QuickTime and I can’t tell you how much of a smile they bring to my face.  I look forward to them.

Self-isolation is the perfect time to do all the things we always say we never have enough time to do.

Limit Bad News

None other than the Mayo Clinic is now addressing the anxiety we are feeling due to being too connected digitally to the coronavirus.

Limit exposure to news media. Constant news about COVID-19 from all types of media can heighten fears about the disease. Limit social media that may expose you to rumors and false information. Also limit reading, hearing or watching other news, but keep up to date on national and local recommendations. Look for reliable sources such as the CDC and WHO.

Being too digital can have its disadvantages.

Hope is the Medicine

What comes over us when we hear about the “helpers” who are staffing makeshift hospitals, medical people who are working around the clock and those who are lifting the spirits of others during this crisis.

The story of a doctor who put their own iPhone next to a patient separated from loved ones due to contamination issues so that she could hear music.

Or the doctor who held the hand of a patient in her off-time so that the patient would not be alone.

This is where hope is generated.

No matter how tough things get, looking to the “helpers” renews hope.

Combatting Consistent Bad News

“Models Warn of Doubling Death Toll by June”
“3000 Daily Deaths by June”
“Second Wave Fears Grow”
“Cameras Monitoring Masks and Distancing”
“April Jobs Report to Show Biggest Unemployment Rate Ever”

Enough!

Yes, this virus is virulent and worthy of taking precautions to avoid, but the mental part – the constant drip-drip-drip of bad news needlessly feeds anxiety.

The pandemic is the story of the century for media and online clickbait but constant bad news can cause post-traumatic stress disorder.

From the CDC website today, a headline that is barely ever repeated or retweeted:

“For most people, the immediate risk of becoming seriously ill from the virus that causes COVID-19 is thought to be low.”

Exercise great care to follow the instructions of medical science to reduce risk and change the narrative every once in a while to put the overload of media and digital scare tactics in their proper place.

The COVID Smile

One of my NYU students sent me a video yesterday of himself isolated in his Brooklyn apartment.

We’ve been having class on Zoom as every other school is doing during these trying times.  His hair was long but whose isn’t these days?

His message is worth repeating.

Quarantining by himself with no other person around for almost two months is driving him crazy.

But what is saving him is to smile.

No one can see him, but as he says it makes a big difference.  We have the choice of frowning or smiling and he found that smiling helps make isolation more tolerable.

We know smiling in front of others makes both parties feel better, but now we know that something so simple has benefits to us even alone.

Money Worries

No one has ever worried their way out of financial trouble.

Fear of unemployment is understandable – we’ve all likely been there – but it isn’t the end.

As a matter of fact, it’s the beginning.

It takes the irritation of sand to make a pearl and it sometimes takes real adversity to force us to make a beautiful new life.

In researching my book about the advantages of disadvantages, it was startling how successful people actually needed career disruption to start their good fortune.

To find out how badly they wanted something new and different.

To constantly test their resolve to see how much they were willing to do to get it.

In sports, when you lose a heartbreaker, you believe you will win the next time.

That’s an attitude that will work off the field, too.

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You Don’t Want the “New Normal”

When would we ever want something to be normal except when we’re scared for our lives?

Do you want normal pay or do you want pay that is commensurate with your abilities?

Do you really want to go back to not having enough time for family after you’ve taken this time in isolation to realize what you had almost let get away?

Even the things you might want back like shopping, dining, an education, a doctor’s appointment may have changed already thanks to online capabilities.

And will social distancing keep us away from people emotionally instead of providing 6 feet of physical separation?

The “New Normal” is probably a misnomer for abnormal – who wants that?

In every part of our lives we rarely aspire to normal.

While we have time on our hands, plan for exceptional by cooperating with the inevitable and aiming for better.

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