corona virus

preparing for the virus: a civic duty

funny / not funny

I’ve been rather amused by our sudden obsession with hoarding toilet paper. I get it—everybody poops—but really? Are we back to the age of atomic bomb shelters? I’m guessing that with the amount of rice people are also hoarding, everyone will be too constipated to need it anyway.

I’ve been less amused by the stories (and one experience) of covert and blatant racism against Asians and Asian-Americans in recent weeks. Honestly, folks, being Chinese (or half Chinese) doesn’t make you more prone to carrying the coronavirus circulating these days.

I’ve had to restrain myself from starting the rumor that toilet paper (much of it from China) carries the disease. (Although if you go on Reddit, you’ll see someone beat me to it anyway.)

but seriously…

Two thoughts keep surfacing for me during this pan(dem)ic:

  1. We are not good at sitting still when faced with uncertainty: we’d rather do something, even if it’s buy all the toilet paper we can get our hands on.
  2. When we are anxious, we go deep into self-preservation mode, and we have few thoughts for those less fortunate than we are.

And I wonder, what if we were to do something—for someone else?

I was particularly moved by an article in Scientific American: “Preparing for Coronavirus to Strike the U.S.,” the subtitle of which is “Getting ready for the possibility of major disruptions is not only smart; it’s also our civic duty.”

I almost dismissed it as something for the doomsday prepper movement, but because I came across it through an alternative health practitioner I trust, I read it anyway—and got a lovely surprise!

Preparing for the almost inevitable global spread of this virus, now dubbed COVID-19, is one of the most pro-social, altruistic things you can do in response to potential disruptions of this kind.

We should prepare, not because we may feel personally at risk, but so that we can help lessen the risk for everyone. We should prepare not because we are facing a doomsday scenario out of our control, but because we can alter every aspect of this risk we face as a society.

That’s right, you should prepare because your neighbors need you to prepare—especially your elderly neighbors, your neighbors who work at hospitals, your neighbors with chronic illnesses, and your neighbors who may not have the means or the time to prepare because of lack of resources or time.

What if we were to put aside the politics of self-interest and start thinking about lessening the risk and/or mitigating the impact for all?

in the long term

We are an instant gratification-driven culture, and once we have what we want, we quickly forget about it and move on to the next shiny object. And once a crisis is past, we are exceptionally good at forgetting about it.

The economic fallout from this pandemic is likely to be felt around the globe for a long time to come—and because I believe that everything happens for us rather than to us, I wonder how it will affect our election-year politics.

Will we quickly forget the crisis, or will we take some lessons to heart?

  • Will we find a way to make sure that, if schools are closed, the children who rely on school meals still get fed and those without internet access and devices can participate in “distance learning?”
  • Will we find a way to build a better health care system, one in which the ERs are not flooded by those who don’t have other options?
  • Will we find a way to redesign the food system so that it allows for globalization and still remains sustainable when global ties disappear, if only temporarily?
  • Will we come up with a better labor policy that allows for paid sick leave and time off to take care of children whose schools have been closed?

The same article concludes,

As a society, there are much larger conversations to be had: about the way our health care industry runs, for example. How to handle global risks in our increasingly interconnected world. How to build resilient communities. How to reduce travel for work.

Those are all important discussions, and nothing in this short article replaces that. However, the practical steps facing households are immediate and important; for the sake of everyone else, prepare to stay home for a few weeks. You’ll reduce your own risks, but most importantly, you will reduce the burden on health care and delivery infrastructure and allow frontline workers to reach and help the most vulnerable.

what can you do?

Sermonizing aside, I’ve had a lot of people ask me what I’m doing to protect myself and my family from the virus.

In some ways, I want to respond with an expression learned in a yoga video: “Cultivating inactivity.”

But more seriously, I feel as though the only thing we can do is more of what we do already: eat healthy (dark green leafies daily!), hydrate, move your body, take time to relax, get plenty of sleep, spend time in nature and with loved ones (both human and furry varieties). Most importantly: reduce stress.

The single most important lesson in reducing stress is to understand that living in a place of “but what if” is a waste of energy: if you’ve been diligent (washed your hands, stayed home if you could, covered your coughs and sneezes,…) it is enough.

If you are interested in holistic ways to support your health, acupuncture and chiropractic are top-notch for that. Don’t want to go out? Check out the preventions mentioned in this article by Dr. Diana Quinn Inlak’ech (where I first came across the article I quote above).

Worrying about the future doesn’t change it—and preparing for it can change your experience of it.

make the connection

I’d love to hear your impressions of what is happening around us during this time—what learnings have you gleaned, what aha moments have you experienced…? What, if anything, are you doing to prepare for the immediate future?