COVID-19. What Now?

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A reader asked if I could write something about how to move gently back into the world without feeling anxious, after all the changes brought by COVID-19.

This is an excellent question. We, and our world, will never be the same as before because we have been going through a trauma. It is not just the disease, but our faith in the economy, about being safe in the world, about being able to plan our future have all been shaken.

So many will have PTSD experiences. We will be more vigilant in terms of watching for new flu diseases cropping up around the world. Many will have an obsessive-compulsive reaction to germs. We learned to fear touching what others have touched, and even getting close to people.

Some will spend less. We learned to save “for a rainy day” but not a deluge that lasts for months. Others will no longer feel comfortable to travel. And there will be those who get anxious whenever they feel ill.

In time, however, those fears will subside. Some thirty years ago we had a severe tornado that created a swath of destruction across out city. It came within 1.2 miles of my home. The area near me looked like a war zone.

For decades, I had dreams of a sky full of tornadoes. Even this many years later, if the sky is black and stormy I am scanning the horizon for funnel clouds. Other than that, I hardly think of it.

Once we have a vaccine and a treatment for this virus, we will have a good deal of control over it. The more time that goes by without another pandemic, the less we will think or worry about it.

At the same time, the world will be significantly more prepared for future threats. There will be a huge reserve of personal protective equipment and ventilators. We did flatten the curve, but we were relatively slow to do the things to stop the spread.

If another virus like this appears, the whole world will take protective actions immediately. It is a little like having the virus and developing immunity. The world has had this pandemic experience and has developed many strategies for protecting itself.

Humans adapt and recover. I am reading Dr. Zhivago, and many sentiments expressed by people during the Russian Revolution are similar to today. Freedom of movement was curtailed and food was scarce. The people were in much more dire straits than we are.

There have been wars and famines throughout history. People find the strength to do what they have to do to survive. They help each other even when they have little themselves.

The pandemic is serious, but it is not the worst thing humans have lived through. Most of us have a roof over our head and food to eat. Know that we are strong.

Visualize your own strength, courage and good health. This has a huge impact on keeping your immune system strong. Fear weakens it, so don’t entertain fear thoughts. Remember, we are getting through this.