There are a lot of reasons to be scared right now. You may be worried about the health of your loved ones, the ripple effects of an economic meltdown, other disruptions to the world that we know. If your own mental health is starting to be affected – if you’re feeling anxious or distressed – here are some positive things to focus on, to give you hope.
One: We are antifragile.
We’re more than just resilient, which implies we “bounce back” to normal after hardship. Antifragility means that surviving difficulties makes us stronger and wiser. I came across this concept at a conference two weekends ago in Manhattan (where, incidentally, I was exposed to the coronavirus. So I know firsthand the struggle of self-isolating, and the uncertainty of having been exposed). The plenary speaker at the conference, Jonathan Haidt, emphasized how strong and courageous we humans are when faced with challenges. So, let’s remember this about ourselves when we’re tempted to despair.
Two: Crises sometimes bring out the best in humanity.
Rebecca Solnit wrote about this phenomenon in her fascinating book, A Paradise Built in Hell, which explored how people and communities come together in the aftermath of natural disasters. I’m already seeing this in my community. For example, on the Facebook group “What you need, what you got?” locals are offering up extra supplies and support to each other. If you want to comfort yourself with even more evidence of the human potential for goodness, check out this New York Times article about how Alaskans supported each other after a massive and deadly earthquake.
Third: By taking positive actions in this crisis, we can restore a sense of self-efficacy.
Action might look like bringing your elderly neighbors extra toilet paper. Or calling friends to check in and offer comfort and support. Or just staying home in order to “flatten the curve,” even though staying home makes you feel bored and restless. Another action you can take that may bring you comfort is to practice gratitude. Even in the most challenging of times, there are millions of things we can be grateful for. At this moment, I’m grateful for all of the doctors, nurses and other medical workers who are risking their own health to care for those who have been diagnosed with COVID-19.
We can bring our best selves to this crisis. Hold onto hope in this scary time by remembering that you are antifragile, that people are good at heart, and that the small actions you take to help others really matter.
Reaching out for help when you want it is also important in difficult times. If you’re feeling anxious or stressed and you want to talk to a professional, many counselors offer online appointments. I do, and I have openings. I’d be happy to work with you. Feel free to reach out to me. (585) 294-4776.