Every time I open my computer I see something about the new coronavirus (COVID-19). Every time I open social media I see something about COVID-19. I recently went to Costco to buy some supplies and everyone was talking about Coronavirus. When I talk to my friends, they all say that 90% of their conversations with friends and family are about - you guessed it - Coronavirus. The conversations go one of two ways:
I’m young, I’m fine, I’m not worried.
I am scared of coronavirus. I don’t want my kids to get sick. I don’t want my parents to get sick. I am worried about my friends and family who work in healthcare. And always, a “what if” question followed by fear.
Fear. Everywhere, fear. It is the theme that pulls all of the conversations together. Everyone is talking about Coronavirus, but they are really talking about fear. Naturally, I have been thinking about fear over the last several days.
The fear of Coronavirus (COVID-19).
The fear NICU families feel while in the NICU.
The fear of the unknown and the future.
The fear of aging - either ourselves aging or watching our parents age.
Do you know what the common theme is in all of those fears? Loss.
Fear of losing our current way of life.
Fear of losing our baby, or losing the baby we thought we would have.
Fear of losing what we are capable of doing.
Fear of losing our parents, our spouses and our loved ones.
What if our worst fears come true? What if we lose the people we love? What if we lose control of our life around us? These are fears that are at the forefront of our minds right now because of Coronavirus. There is a name for the fear of losing someone. It is called ‘thanatophobia.’ Those fears are present because we care — a lot. Tremendously. With our whole hearts. And it is normal.
Fears are normal. Fears are the emotional response to a known threat. And Coronavirus is certainly a threat. Don’t ignore your fears. Pay attention to them. Acknowledge them. Your fears about Coronavirus and your fears about what you might lose in life tell you exactly how to prioritize what matters to you.
You choose how you interact with your fears.
You get to choose. Are you going to dwell on your fears or are you going to acknowledge them and keep living?
When you dwell on your fears it can lead to increased anxiety. Constantly ruminating and replaying in our mind our worst-case scenario leads to anxiety. Watching the news all day, every day, and reading article after article will lead you down a path of further fear and emotional isolation.
However, when you acknowledge your fears you can use them as a guide. Fears point you in the direction of what matters most in your heart. You can begin to focus on what matters to you the most. How do you want to spend your time right now, knowing your worst case might be waiting for you down the road?
You likely won’t regret social distancing if it helps protect your parents and grandparents from severe illness.
Enjoy the calm (or chaos as it is in my house) with your family while you have an excuse to spend more time at home.
Reach out to friends or family and have conversations with them. Catch up. Talk about anything other than COVID-19.
Don’t try to control things that are out of your control. You can not control the fear of loss. There is no way around it. Fully living - fully experiencing love - is risky. We are all vulnerable to losing someone. If you can accept that you can’t control it, you may be able to relax a little and enjoy the here and now.