In the past 10 days, life as we know it has been turned upside down. Schools have closed, industries have been shuttered, and TP is harder to find than a winning lotto ticket.
Those coronavirus memes that spread like wildfire a couple of weeks ago? They’re no longer funny.
As men, we’re taught to take things head-on, to fight through adversity at all costs. And yet . . . when we’re staring down an invisible enemy it’s tough to know how to respond. If you’re anything like me, you’ve spent the last week trying to make sense of conflicting reports and waffling between “this is a bunch of nonsense” and “the world is going to end.”
And while I’m still not entirely sure of my viewpoint on this whole situation, I do know I’d rather take action than sit idly by during these difficult times. And while I’m not entirely sure of the best course of action to make an impact, I do know that imperfect action beats paralysis by analysis.
I’ve spent the past several days thinking through the ways in which we can all play a small role in making this challenging situation a bit better. By now I think you know how to wash your hands and cough into your arm, so I’ll spare you the lecture. Rather than joining the masses opting for booze, Netflix, and idle time, I’d like to invite you to join me in taking the following 10 actions:
1. Focus on your friends and family.
This crisis has made me realize how bad I am at communicating with those I love most. Now is the perfect time to check in with friends and family and see if there is anything they need. In particular, do everything you can to keep those belonging to a more vulnerable portion of the population inside and away from potential carriers of the virus. Use technology including FaceTime, Zoom, or GoToMeeting to connect face to face even though you can’t be there in person.
2. Become informed, but don’t let fear overwhelm you.
As you spend more time at home, it may be natural to spend more time watching the news. While this can help to keep you informed, it’s important to remember that the media makes money by capturing eyeballs through dramatic taglines. There’s a fine line between a healthy respect for the situation at hand and hysteria. I’d recommend reviewing data from the CDC and WHO in order to right-size your fear. While the situation is serious, infection and mortality rates remain relatively low as a percentage of the total population.
3. Avoid flooding the healthcare system.
These are scary times, and at the first sign of a runny nose or dry cough, your initial urge may be to rush to the hospital. However, the system is currently overwhelmed given the lack of widespread and efficient testing. Please call ahead to a provider BEFORE going to your doctor’s office, urgent care, or hospital for any non-urgent needs.
4. Take only what you need.
If you’re sitting on a stockpile of N95 masks you’re not smart, you’re inconsiderate. Healthcare workers on the front lines of the war against COVID-19 are running low on personal protective equipment and are being asked to risk their health in order to take care of those that need help the most.
Do what you need to do in order to protect your family, but don’t keep much-needed resources from those who need them most.
5. Tip . . . well.
I work in the hospitality industry, which employs 16 million people in the U.S. Well over 50% of these individuals are at risk of being laid off temporarily. If you visit a hotel or order takeout, please leave a big tip to help the front-line workers facing an uncertain future. I’m not talking 20%, which should be your guideline in normal times. I’m talking 30-50% on larger purchases and $10-15 on any small purchases.
6. Pre-pay for small business services.
Many industries have been impacted by travel restrictions and forced closures. If you have the ability to do so, now is the time to pre-pay for small business goods or services you will use down the road. This will help your local barbershop, burger joint, and handyman keep their families fed during this challenging time.
7. Take care of yourself.
Anyone who has ever flown knows you’re supposed to put on your own oxygen mask before you help others. During this time, it’s increasingly important to focus on your health in order to make sure you have the energy you need to support others. Schedule time outside, go for a walk or run, hit the home gym, or do yoga. Additionally, focus on cooking nutritious meals and avoiding processed foods.
8. Meditate or Pray.
Taking some time to tap into your spiritual reserves will provide you with the energy and optimism needed to get through the day. Use this time to express gratitude for everything positive in your life, while asking for help to get through any challenges you may encounter.
Now more than ever it can be challenging to remain lighthearted, but laughing has been proven to decrease stress hormones and improve your immune system. Take five to 10 minutes per day to listen to or watch your favorite comedian or simply get silly with your friends and family.
10. Live your life.
Based on early indicators from the earliest impacted countries, it seems the virus retreats relatively quickly when the proper measures are taken. However, nobody knows exactly how long this will last. Rather than viewing this as a disruption, view it as an opportunity to shed behaviors that no longer suit you and build the life you desire.
By taking the steps above, you can fight back against our common enemy and drive the world forward.
Difficult times forge resilient people.
We will make it through this crisis and the population will heal. Someday soon we’ll emerge from our homes, visit crowded areas, and get back to work. We’ll hug each other, laugh, cry, and realize that we’re far closer than ever before as a result of COVID-19.
And perhaps, just perhaps, we might even forget to wash our hands.