Keeping it Together During Strange Times
Uncertainty can wreak havoc on the human psyche. My experience at the grocery store last night strongly suggests that toilet paper is now the nation’s leading self-prescribed anti-anxiety medication. The intolerable fear of pending crisis often results in expenditures of energy into activities that offer little hope of improving our situation. Sometimes there are no immediate solutions to problems outside of our control, but there’s always something that we can do to make them worse. Unchecked scarcity mentality is the cradle of bad ideas.
For example, there’s someone on social media who is actively hoarding essential supplies in a warehouse so that he can price gouge during a potential crisis. Young man, your decision to become the El Chapo of hand sanitizer has made you immensely unpopular. Quite frankly, in the long run it will be more profitable for you to donate that stuff to the Red Cross. You’ll set an example for the rest of us and become a big hero. Who knows? Maybe someone will offer you an actual job.
Seriously, I think it really helps to slow down and begin to embrace the reality of this uncertainty. A good first step is to accept that things are going to be different for a while, and that we are all going to have to adjust some of our routines and plans. How different will things be? Nobody knows. How long is a while? Nobody knows that either.
Right now, your greatest asset is your attention, and people are actively trying to steal it from you. It’s been confirmed that social media algorithms actively target your individual feed with provocative material because they know that we are much more likely to engage in subject matter that outrages us. Basically, fear mongering is good for advertising. The twenty-four-hour news cycle is doing the same thing. It is quite literally a competition to air the most outrageous sound bites about the virus to increase viewership. Engaging in this process does not help us.
Find a good source of information and try to stick with it. There is an actual national system in place for disseminating information about current public health risks. Unfortunately, making this type of information available interferes with the media’s agenda of terrifying the public. So, no one is broadcasting about this. Yesterday the Florida Department of Health posted an advisory complete with epidemiological statistics, FAQ’s, recommendations and a 24-hour hotline. When testing sites become available, all of that information will be made accessible through the site as well. You can literally call them right now and get the most current briefing.
By the way, if you’ve been updated within the last few hours, there’s no need to be actively seeking new information right now. A few times a day from a good source is enough. Hyper-focusing is not a good strategy. It increases anxiety and drives obsessive tendencies. Spending time with extremely anxious people who are very invested in escalating the perception of crisis is also problematic. That mentality is somewhat infectious. Often when we try to challenge the thinking of these types of individuals, they only dig in further. That's very frustrating particularly if you end up being quarantined with them in a house for a protracted period of time. Don't argue with them. It's not helpful. Ultimately, we're all going to have to be a little more patient with each other. We should probably just start practicing that now.