Leading by Example

3/18/2020

One day entire cruise ships are under quarantine, another day there is a 30-day travel ban from Europe, and March 11 the World Health Organization (WHO) declared that the CoronaVirus COVID-19 is a pandemic. State-wide schools are closed, the NBA suspended the rest of its season, most all gatherings and events are canceled. People are running to the grocery store and buying up all of the hand sanitizer and toilet paper.
 
How do we keep ourselves calm so we can lead our flock by example?
 
It is easy to get swept up in the frenzied energy of it all no matter if you are hearing the updates through the news at work/home or you are stopping by the store to pick up a few things at the store only to find the most all the shelves pretty bare - the meat department, paper products, any type of cleaning products were almost gone when I stopped by the store this morning on my way to work. I knew I was in trouble when I had to drive around the parking lot looking for a parking spot in the back. While standing in line, I overheard people sharing DIY hand sanitizer recipes which, if effective, wouldn’t be that scary. But, when I hear people talking about using vodka in their DIY hand sanitizer because everywhere is out of isopropyl alcohol and, “what else could they substitute as the main ingredient in their DIY hand sanitizer?” I am shaken. How did panic buying set in?
 
Pandemic. What does that really mean? What do we know? The current pandemics are HIV/AIDS and COVID-19 but others in history include the bubonic plague, smallpox, as well as other flu including the Spanish Flu from the early 1900s. So, we know there is a very real threat from the Coronavirus. At the same time, we are being told that there is no ‘cure’ which leaves us feeling uncertain, helpless in the face of ambiguity, as if we have no control over our situation. Essentially, there are two things we can address: reduce the uncertainty or increase our sense of control.
 
If we try to reduce uncertainty, how do we do that? First, we need to understand that it is normal for people to panic when faced with uncertainty. However, when people in a consumer culture are faced with uncertainty, it makes sense that so many of us resort to panic buying because that is the answer to many of our concerns. Thirsty? Buy something to drink. Injured? Buy some medical supplies or medical services. Sick? Buy medication. The problem with Coronavirus is that there is no “cure” and we as a consumer society, don’t know how to accept that.
 
“When we feel uncertain of something, we resort to things that increase our sense of control." One way to both reduce uncertainty and increase our sense of control is to increase our knowledge and understanding of the problem. Actively doing something that changes our circumstances increases our sense of control because we are able to change our environment. Buying qualifies as doing something. Thankfully, however, there are other things we can do that will empower us to feel more in control of our destinies:
 

  • Be sure to read news from trustworthy sources. Avoid media outlets that build hype or dwell on things that can’t be controlled, instead, turn to sources that give reliable information about how to protect yourself, such as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) or the World Health Organization (WHO).
  • Develop an action plan by following the advice of the experts:
    • Wash your hands with antibacterial soap for at least 20 seconds
    • Stay home if you are sick so as not to put others at risk
    • Limiting your travel
  • Set limits on your media consumption. Limit your media consumption to a certain time frame (30 minutes) or a certain number of articles (3 articles). While it’s helpful to stay informed, it’s also important you don’t allow yourself to be bombarded with anxiety-provoking news all day.
  • Avoid the herd mentality. Be aware that many people take action that isn’t helpful. Don’t jump off a cliff just because other people are lining up to jump off.
  • Practice good self-care. Eating a balanced diet, getting plenty of sleep, and engaging in leisure activities are always key to helping you stay as physically and psychologically healthy as possible during stressful times. Good self-care also keeps your immune system robust which is more helpful than a cartful of hand sanitizer.
  • Seek professional help. If your mental health is being impacted by the stress of the Coronavirus, then you may want to seek professional help. A licensed mental health professional can help you manage your fears while also empowering you to make the best decisions for you and your family. In addition to anxiety, depression,  and adjustment or addiction issues are common in this uncertain environment,
    • If you are active or retired clergy or family of active or retired clergy, please contact the Clergy Assistance Program online (https://igrc.mysupportportal.com/), call 888.881.5462 24 hours a day, 365 days a week or for online counseling via eConnect as well as text coaching through their App: eConnect.
    • If you are not clergy, reach out to an online counseling service (https://www.verywellmind.com/best-online-therapy-4691206) such as TalkSpace or BetterHelp.
 
Take care of yourself so you too can lead by example. Be blessed and be a blessing.