(I’m going to repost this periodically, I think, and update it as I think of things.)
Simple Things You Can Do in a Time of Pandemic
(a list for those feeling ineffectual, a work-in-progress)
1. WASH YOUR HANDS. Wash them frequently with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. Teach your children and other household members to do the same. Model it for others in public places, helping to make it a social norm. However this goes, that can only be helpful.
2. GO OUTSIDE. Go out into the fresh air if you can. Staying cooped up in your home can be a recipe for stress and breathing stale air doesn’t help. If you can’t go out, try opening a window or turning on a fan (which can disperse water droplets, lowering their concentration of virus). If you can go outside, and if you can garden, now is an excellent time; it’s good for your health in all sorts of ways, and your mental state too.
3. ISOLATE. Practice social distancing as possible. (I cancelled all my optional meetings, and am switching over as much as I can to Zoom.) Even if you’re not likely to get very sick, you can easily carry the disease to others.
4. RESTRUCTURE SOCIALIZING. Think about how isolation may be affecting you; if it’s making your mental state worse, consider options for socializing. Long phone calls with a friend? Asynchronous video game in between your work tasks? (I love Terraforming Mars for that.) Set up a computer screen with Zoom for you and a few friends or workmates or relatives, and just leave it running in the background as you go about the day, so you can chat on occasion as desired, ask a question, etc? Humans are pack animals, for the most part. Left alone, many of us tend to fret.
5. LAY IN REASONABLE STAPLES. If you can afford it, add a few staples to your groceries, aiming for two weeks’ worth of supplies on hand (if you have the space). Don’t hoard; others may need it far more urgently. Especially don’t hoard masks; medical personnel need them. If you’re not already doing grocery delivery, and it’s available to you, try it — one person doing food shopping for seven families and dropping groceries on porches is much less likely to spread contagion than those seven (or seventy) people going to the grocery store.
6. STAY INFORMED, BUT NOT TOO MUCH. Stay informed, but if social media is starting to stress you out, walk away. Turn off Facebook for a while, close the computer. The flood of information can be compelling, but it can also cause a lot of anxiety, and remember, as in any crisis, that a good percentage of early info will be wrong. Unless you have a responsibility to stay on the cutting edge of the info, you may be better served by waiting a day or two, letting others verify and process it, and then summarize the parts you actually need to know.
7. RECONSIDER TRAVEL. Think about whether you really need to take that upcoming trip, whether it’d be worse to be quarantined in that area, and be prepared to cancel travel at need. (For me, I have to go through a bit of a mental process of frustration, grief, and acceptance before I’m ready to do that, so might as well start early.)
8. CHECK IN. Elderly relatives, neighbors, co-workers, siblings, old friends — there are a lot of people feeling a lot of stress right now, and many may be feeling very isolated and even frightened. If you can check in with them — by phone, in person, online, whatever works — it can help. (It might help you feel better too.)
9. EAT HEALTHY. In stressful times, many of us turn to comfort food, but some of those options will just make you and your body feel worse if you do too much of it. (Did I binge salt-and-vinegar chips and ice cream last night? Yes I did.) To the extent that finances and time allow, try to eat as healthily as you can during a crisis (and feed others the same way). It may also help you feel a little more in control, since you’ll be proactively doing something to help the situation.