While standing at the grocery store check-out line yesterday morning, I found myself telling a young man in his late teens, “this feels a little like 9/11.” I told him everyone will be a little jittery, but after a month or so, everything will start to settle out, and everything will gradually get back to normal.
I realized that even at the relatively “young” old age of 58, I’ve experienced several “oh crap” moments in American history and life. I’ve developed some coping skills for such times, and I’ve seen some definite patterns. Here’s what I’ve learned:
- You have to practice self-care for your own emotional well-being. You know you have things you can do to calm yourself – exercising, yoga, meditation, prayer, knitting, taking a walk. Do these things – every single one of them. This is the time to pull out all the stops of self-relaxation and well-being.
- Turn off the TV. Especially the news. Yes, you need some information, but you don’t need it all the time. Limit yourself to about an hour a day, then turn off the news. Watch a favorite old movie, a comedy, or movie based on a Jane Austen novel. Otherwise, you will drive yourself into a constant state of anxiety.
- Other people may flip out on you. The afternoon of 9/11, a wise priest I worked for told our church staff that people would soon start acting out and acting obnoxiously. He proved to be exactly right. In the weeks after 9/11, I encountered normally level-headed, sane people getting completely bent out of shape over bizarre, irrational, or overblown problems they had created in their heads. Remember it’s the crisis, it’s not you, and it’s not them. Let people vent, listen patiently, and if appropriate, give them a break.
- Give yourself a reality check. You’re probably okay. In the weeks after 9/11, I finally convinced myself that the terrorists were not coming to my farm in Tennessee. Not going to happen. During this pandemic, if you’re young and/or healthy, you will most likely be okay. Tell yourself that, out loud if necessary.
- After the crisis is over, travel. You’ll likely get some great deals. The locals will appreciate your business, and it will be good for you to get out of your house. We took a trip to the U.S. Virgin Islands several months after 9/11. The Atlanta airport was nearly empty. The Virgin Islanders very much appreciated our business and asked us to tell our friends to please come visit and spend money there, too. We had a wonderful time.
The bottom line is that you will get through this. All of us will likely get through this, one way or another. Stick to your usual routine as much as possible, and practice self-care like you’ve never practiced it before.
Cynthia Coe is the author of The Prayer Shawl Chronicles: Stories of Unlikely Connections & Unexpected Gifts, along with several other fiction and non-fiction books.