Covid 19, for now, has changed the background in which we live our lives. It highlights our existential vulnerability. We want to be in control of our little bit of the world, and coronavirus challenges that.
By now we know the physical and relational steps that decrease our risk to Covid 19. However, tending to the emotional fallout from this stress, creates a new normal that requires a fundamental shift in our awareness. We react to something in our environment only to the degree that we are aware of it, yet when that threat is invisible, what's an appropriate response?
Mental health is often quite contextual. Being hyper-vigilant in a war zone is appropriate to the situation, but being that wired in a library is unnecessary. Similarly, saying that Covid 19 is just like having a cold, is a gross under-reaction. We tend, as humans, to be binary...good/bad, all or nothing. The truth is often more complex than that.
I'd like to suggest that there is an awareness continuum, stages that we can each move in and out of, in response to this virus. I also believe that we have more options/choices behaviorally, when we are not at either end of that continuum.
Unaware/---Somewhat aware/----Balanced awareness/----Hyper-Aware/----Consumed Awareness/
Denial Distracted Determined Obsessive Panic/survival mode
As you can see, there could be a value in any of these positions, but the goal should be to help you be responsive yet relatively calm. If you are in denial, you may place yourself and others at more risk. If you are panicked, you get frozen and are unable to think rationally. "Carefree" is not on that continuum, because Covid 19 is not a walk on the beach on a vacation. It's serious, but not dire.
There are some questions you can ask yourself to help you find the best level of awareness for you:
1. What's my current location on that continuum? (Denial, Distracted, Determined, Obsessive, or Panicked)
2. Where do I want to be on that continuum? (What gives me the best chance to feel some degree of control and some peace of mind)
3. If I were where I want to be on that continuum, how would I be acting and feeling when I woke up tomorrow?
4. What is one of those changes that I will put into place right now, today?
Covid 19 is one of those rare experiences that pits our usual personal preferences against a harsh external reality. It's an existential challenge. There are probably better and worse ways to handle this crisis, but there are likely no perfect ways. Do this as best you can for you, and those you care about, and be kind to yourself in the process.