A new epidemic, which has now become a pandemic, has upset the world’s equilibrium — how are you reacting? Do you feel anxious and threatened, or calm?
On March 11, 2020, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared the COVID-19 outbreak a pandemic. This new pandemic is caused by a member of the coronavirus family never before encountered in humans. COVID-19 is a respiratory disease that experts believe came from animals.
Although the virus can be deadly, preliminary statistics indicate that the majority of those infected with the virus experienced only mild symptoms, and the overwhelming majority of people who contract the disease can expect a full recovery.
Many people, however, have died from COVID-19, and the fatality rate in China, where the disease originated, has reached approximately 2.3% — higher than the devastating Spanish Influenza pandemic in the early 20th century. (See the report of the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention in the February 24, 2020 Journal of the American Medical Association here.)
So it’s important to remember that, while scientists are working diligently on solutions and attempting to develop a safe vaccine, one thing remains entirely under our own personal control: our individual peace of mind.
With that in mind, here are five strategies to help you navigate the uncertainty:
1. Remain Calm
Panicking over any disease helps no one. We do not need to fall prey to fear and uncertainty, which can counterproductively sap our energy. A positive attitude and strong immune system both create our best line of defense. The Baha’i teachings remind us that keeping the situation in perspective and focusing on gratitude rather than fear provides the best remedy for anxiety:
Be calm, be strong, be grateful, and become a lamp full of light, that the darkness of sorrows be annihilated, and that the sun of everlasting joy arise from the dawning-place of heart and soul, shining brightly. – Abdu’l-Baha, Tablets of Abdu’l-Baha
When calamity striketh, be ye patient and composed. However afflictive your sufferings may be, stay ye undisturbed, and with perfect confidence in the abounding grace of God, brave ye the tempest of tribulations and fiery ordeals. – Abdu’l-Baha, Selections from the Writings of Abdu’l-Baha
2. Educate Yourself
Misinformation is rampant, so don’t fall prey to unreliable media and sensationalized reporting. Sadly, during the COVID-19 outbreak people of Asian descent have reported a rise in racial aggressions and the spreading of anti-Asian prejudice. According to a recent article in The Washington Post: “The WHO has urged government agencies to do what they can to prevent discrimination against specific populations, since stigmatization can fuel the spread of the outbreak by driving marginalized individuals to hide infection and avoid seeking treatment.”
When we get our information from credible, scientifically-accurate sources, we avoid superstitions, prejudices, and illogical reactions. Credible media sources include:
- The Center for Disease Control (CDC)
- The World Health Organization (WHO)
- Medline Plus, from the U.S. National Library of Medicine
- Established medical journals like JAMA, the Lancet and the New England Journal of Medicine
- The U.K.’s National Health Service
- The U.S. Food and Drug Administration
- Major news outlets with deep expertise in health reporting, such as The New York Times, The Washington Post, and The Boston Globe’s STAT News.
3. Protect Yourself
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “The best way to prevent illness is to avoid being exposed to this virus.” Ways to protect yourself include:
- Cover your mouth and nose when you sneeze
- Wash your hands for at least 20 seconds before eating and frequently throughout the day, especially when returning home from being out in public
- Keep objects you touch often (computers, phones, light switches, etc.) fastidiously clean.
- Avoid touching your nose, mouth, and eyes
- Drink plenty of fluids
- Eat as healthy as possible and avoid dinning out when possible
- Keep your stress level to a minimum
4. Stay Home
Experts recommend that everyone practice social distancing, “measures that are taken to increase the physical space between people to slow the spread of the virus,” according to the New York Times.
If you start to feel sick, your best chance for a speedy recovery is to stay home, rest, and take good care of yourself — immediately. Talk to your doctor if you start to experience flu-like symptoms. People will understand, and you aren’t doing anyone any favors by dragging yourself into work or school or pushing yourself to run those errands. Options such as home grocery delivery and on-line transport services are available.
5. Remember That God Is With You
Prayer and meditation bring comfort and consolation. We can renew our inner peace by turning toward the spiritual teachings of the messengers who founded the great Faiths. Now is the time for more prayer, reflection, and detachment. Through difficult experiences, we renew our faith and focus on the spirit. Remember that God is with you:
Let them cling to the hem of Almighty God, and put their faith in the Beauty of the most High; let them lean on the unfailing help that cometh from the Ancient Kingdom, and depend on the care and protection of the generous Lord. – Abdu’l-Baha, Selections from the Writings of Abdu’l-Baha
In the days ahead, we know that COVID-19 will continue to spread, but we can prepare ourselves physically and spiritually so that fear does not invade our hearts and minds. If we come together as a planet and realize how much we need each other, we will most certainly find solutions.