With words like pandemic and state of emergency used about the coronavirus on a daily basis, and seniors topping the list as the most vulnerable, it’s easy to fall prey to a full-blown panic or depression.
Pictures of health workers taking care of patients dressed in hazmat suits don’t help.
Once a haven of rest and relaxation, cruise ships have become somewhat like prison ships. And with retirement funds plummeting on a daily basis in percentages not seen since the 2008 market crash, my mind has been spinning while I wander down Costco aisles wondering if I’ve bought enough canned food or toilet paper.
It’s no wonder many of us might feel like crawling under the covers. So how do we navigate feeling safe in an unsafe world?
Our odds of getting killed driving a car are greater than catching the virus. But while we can rest easy in a house that could catch fire or not even think about being struck by lightning, it’s the unknown, large and looming, that can create a greater sense of fear.
“When something is new, we don’t know all of what we need to know to protect ourselves and that feels like powerlessness and that’s what makes it scary,” says David Ropeil, author of “How Risky Is It? Why Our Feelings Don’t Always Match the Facts.”
Following the advice to “wash hands frequently, avoid touching your face and self- quarantining if you feel sick helps because those recommendations come from logic and expertise and make people feel like there are taking steps to protect themselves,” advises Judith Fox of the University of Denver’s disaster psychology program.
Another recommendation for dealing with the anxiety is to use coping methods that have worked in the past. That could mean anything from a bit of self-talk to remove irrational thoughts that come into your head with rational, fact-based responses, or talking to family and friends about your concerns. Meditation and mindfulness can also help calm our minds and keep us from tripping into the unknown.
Social distancing is the new phrase for staying away from crowds under the threat of the virus. But for seniors who are likely to be more isolated, the Centers for Disease Control is recommending we set up a buddy system to make sure that vulnerable and hard to reach people stay connected. They also suggest that social media can be a smart way to keep in touch.
Maggie Lennon is a writer and photographer who writes about navigating the aging process. Check out her blog, “The Sensational Sixties. An everywoman’s guide to getting older.” Contact her at email@example.com.