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You never realize how much faith you hold in something until it’s gone. I think that’s what thousands of people worldwide realized last week as the COVID-19 (Coronavirus) Pandemic escalated around the world.
On May 12th, The Nonprofit Technology Conference (NTC) was cancelled and I could finally breathe again. I had the last missing piece to my “will they cancel?” conference puzzle. But after a few hours, I felt the floor fall from under me. Speaking at NTC was going to be a major personal accomplishment for me, definitely top proudest would-be memories.
Without getting Coronavirus or knowing anyone who had it, the COVID-19 Pandemic personally attacked my life…and then it was real. I took a deeper look at the world and in that moment, I felt small and helpless. People were dying and I was over there worried about my career. There was nothing I could do about any of it.
Suddenly, I wasn’t worried about the void in my own life-plan. I was worried about the trajectory of the world. (suggested reading: Facing the Long Road of Anxiety During a Global Pandemic)
The Coronavirus Pandemic could have a deeper ripple effect than anything in living history depending on how we react to it.
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It was like a tidal wave was hovering over humanity and I was looking back up at it with hopelessly shattered ambition. Forget conferences. Would the world as I know it be the same when this all over?
It was the same feeling I had in my third semester of grad school. I was studying Global Environmental Politics and Indicators of War at the same time, which was a bad combination. The knowledge of how helpless the world would be in a crisis exactly like we’re entering now threw me completely for a loop for a long time. I had no idea how realistic it was that the end of the world as we know it actually was, just as many people now are coming to realize. I lost my faith in the safety of society. It no longer seemed tangible to protect ourselves. Anything could happen, or so it seemed.
Because of my education, my mind was already softened to the damage of a Pandemic on this scale, but it still hit me hard when it came in real life.
The one thing that always stuck with me after those courses was how the reactions of the larger population influence the outcome of any large crisis, locally, globally, or nationally.
I learned that in moments like this, individually, we have to let go of fear. Collectively, we have to learn to lean on each other and follow the right leadership.
I’m Not Panicking, I’m Strategizing (and Not Watching News)
There are so many possible outcomes right now; I can’t possibly know all of them. No one can. But I do know how to plan for the worst and best-case scenarios fairly quickly.
I always plan for the worst but expect the best.
Having a plan A and a plan D helps me come up with B and C quickly if the situation should arise.
Knowing what to expect and how I will handle it takes away the most basic and deepest of fears: fear of the unknown.
Right now in my mind, the best-case scenario is for the entire world population to adhere to the World Health Organization guidelines and protocols for a pandemic. Basically, if everyone sheltered in place and let the virus die out, the impact on the economy and the basic health of society would be minimal.
Knowing that this isn’t possible without an order from governments to stay inside, I expected the lockdowns in multiple countries. It would also not surprise me if this happens in more areas of the world in the days to come. The containment stages of the Coronavirus Pandemic could last weeks or months, even after a vaccine is found. Many societies will not handle this news well, which is more concerning than the virus itself.
However, I’m not panic buying and creating more issues than necessary. It’s the panic that will cause more damage than the virus.
I’m also not watching the news because it’s not reliable. I’m only monitoring reported statistics and press releases from government officials.
Knowing what’s happening without the melodrama commentary that news outlets add helps me quell my fear and stop the spread of panic to others.
Of course, it’s easier to say “don’t panic” than it is to do.
To cope, I created a tree chart of “if this, then that” scenarios based on today’s global landscape. What will I personally do if any of these limitless scenarios were to actually happen?
Thinking about every outcome gives me a way to face my fears calmly. I can think about the worst-case scenario without panicking because it’s just a part of the planning process.
In the meantime, I’m sitting calmly on the sidelines, working remotely as usual.
I’m Grieving My Sense of Safety
The fear I felt and see so many others struggling from feels like it’s caused by the loss of faith in our governments’ ability to protect us. Not just any single government, but all of them collectively. Everything civilization worked toward to keep society safe by creating the World Health Organization was just rocked to the core.
In my mind, this event is begging the question, “What else can happen?”
That’s why I chose strategizing and crisis planning as the coping mechanisms I used to deal with letting go of my sense of safety. I’d dare to venture that I’ve written my heart out about it as a way to cope as well.
I know that I cannot change anything about the situation right now except how I react.
All of our reactions in this moment will determine the outcome of the Coronavirus Pandemic and the course of our history.
Researching, creating crisis plans, and writing all the content I can possibly write has helped me work through every stage of grieving my sense of safety.
I’ve gone from shock and denial to anger, bargaining, and depression, then on through to acceptance of any outcome.
Other people might deal with grief better by diving into art or work, but the stages are the same.
This is a time to grieve our sense of safety and security as a whole. It’s okay that I’m afraid of what comes next because it’s still unknown.
But, I needed to let go of the way I’ve grown to expect the world to work before I was ready to look forward and face my fear of what’s coming.
I’m Leaning on Family and Community
During my “crisis planning therapy,” the best outcomes had one major factor in common: community.
I may have lost my faith in the safety that governments were providing, but now I need to build my faith in my community.
It’s not too late for all of us to come together and work toward the greater good.
In times like these, we depend on our communities and non-governmental organizations to fill the gaps that our governments will inevitably fail to provide. I take comfort in knowing that there are plenty of people worldwide ready to help ease the effects of the Coronavirus Pandemic, health-related or not. Mental health organizations, like Libero Magazine, are able to provide emotional support. Homeless shelters and food pantries are equipped to help with the economic downfall. The list goes on.
Even our own communities can help in unofficial ways. In my own hometown, there are people donating computers to kids so they can study. Others are sharing essential supplies with neighbors. I’ve seen many local towns and residential communities working together in similar ways.
It gives me hope that we can create a better world at the end of all of this.
Five Rules to Stay Fear-Free During the Coronavirus (COVID-19) Pandemic
Admittedly, quelling my own fear is a constant battle right now. To keep myself sane and fear-free, I’ve come up with five rules.
1. Follow the World Health Organization’s recommendations.
WHO was created for times like this. It’s their job. Following the leading expert is always a good way to know I’m doing the right thing.
2. Plan but don’t panic.
There is a huge difference between panicking and planning, yet the line seems fine to walk. I’m planning what I will do should something else happen, but not taking any action yet.
3. Grieve my sense of safety.
While I’ve already moved into acceptance, grief is an ongoing process and the loss of “sense of safety” as a society is a hard pill to swallow.
4. Stop watching the news.
If I see anything on the news, I look up the original source of the information to see the raw data or statement without commentary. News sources are fueled by fear. Don’t empower them.
5. Work with my community.
I’m looking for ways to help my community and other people through this difficult time. I’m trying to help stop the spread of the virus by social distancing and helping combat the fear this is causing.
If this list helps you free yourself of fear or at least cope with the situation we’re facing, share it with someone else you know is struggling with fear right now.
How we react to the Coronavirus Pandemic now will help us overcome it with better results in the long run.
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