“I don’t believe this.” Or “this can’t be happening.”
What if it is?
Coronavirus is now provoking global shock. It’s a generalized “I can’t believe this is real”:
I can’t go out for a pizza
I can’t get my hair cut.
I can’t take a walk.
I can’t leave my house.
Covid-19’s ultimate effects will extend well beyond the “economic” shock so far described by journalists. For some it may act end up looking like a weird collective PTSD, with nightmares, flashbacks, strange bad memories. For people with anxiety and depressive disorders, it may occasion symptom after symptom for years. The impact on cardiovascular disease, lung health, and cancer will eventually prove “huge.”
Because for many this experience questions something basic to civilized life – safety. Can I get into the subway again? Can I touch the pole on the airport shuttle? If I go into a movie theatre, will I end up living inside that horror movie?
To return that sense of safety is necessary, and needs to begin right now. Think of at least these three Rs:
- Relationships – what people complain most about when dying is the people they’ll miss. Covid-19 has caused people to physically separate, to become non-social.
We’re not built that way.
All the more reason to connect: with family, friends, acquaintances, work colleagues, old friends, others who can help others. Relationships keep us alive.
- Routine. Most people have seen their routines disrupted or just about eviscerated in the last few weeks. The gyms are closed. The beaches and schools are shuttered.
Time to introduce new routines. For people blocked off in their homes, condos and apartments, now including a large part of humanity, it pays to create new routines. Times for meals. Times for sleep. Times to talk. Times to exercise. Times to play.
Our body clocks on a basic level keep us safe. We can reinforce them and our sense of safety with the new routines we create now. Circumstances change, and so do we.
- Read, not so much news, as history.
Humans have survived pestilence after pestilence. We’re good at it. The species survives almost everything thrown at it, even when, as now, some feel Mother Nature is very displeased with us.
You don’t have to read about historic biological plagues, though there’s many etched in your DNA. Just consider the massive wars of the last century; the horrific politically created famines in Stalin’s Russia and Mao’s China that killed millions; the unspeakable destructive capacity of nuclear weapons, and the several times we came very, very close to massed nuclear wars.
Humans survive. We make it through. Some of our disasters are self-inflicted, and what has happened in the last ten weeks in this country deserves its own history written now.
But sometimes we learn from our mistakes. And we can start with another three principles:
- Health, not health care. Health is about thoughtful provision for epidemics (contrast Taiwan with the US,) vaccination, sanitation, education, nutrition. Lifestyle is a much bigger factor in your long term survival than health care, though we desperately need sensibly run and distributed health care. Did we need an epidemic to know this?
- A healthy economy needs a healthy population. People don’t work well when they’re sick. They don’t work at all when they’re dead.
- A healthy population needs a healthy environment. If you live in a toilet, you get sick. If you move too close to the environment of animals, you get their diseases.
Epidemics demonstrate the health of everyone affects your health. That’s one lesson we really need to learn.