I returned to my apartment in uptown New York City after the 9/11 attacks. I was lucky enough to return home that day, but I was in a daze, not knowing what to do or how to function. I drank myself to sleep and surrendered to the news cycle because I had no idea how to deal with my anxiety.
I did not know how to deal with panic back in 2001, but I have learned a lot since then. During the coronaviruses outbreak, there are some tips for staying calm, productive, and even creative. The hysteria feels very similar to what we experienced in 2001. Public spaces used to be like death traps. We don’t know if we can trust the news. There is no end in sight.
Limit your social media intake to a specified amount of time and use blocking features to protect your mental health. If you want to give yourself a break, you can mute specific words on the social network for 24 hours a week. It is still important to stay informed, so follow official health organizations such as the WHO, CDC, and your local offices of emergency management, along with one national and one local news source. These sites should be checked twice a day. Ignoring minute-by-minute updates won’t do you any good.
During a crisis, we see how social media increases our anxiety more clearly than any other time. I made the mistake of visiting my town’s Facebook page yesterday, and the first post I read was one that questioned whether school officials were doing enough to keep classrooms clean. The people told each other they were overreacting or underreacted. Before I knew it, an hour had passed, I was fully sucked into the drama.
I spent a lot of time with my siblings and friends after 9/11. We were lucky that we could hang out at bars. Even though I am surrounded by my family at home, I am already feeling a little isolated because of the social distance.
Don’t buy 12 years worth of toilet paper for two weeks. There are cans of beans, soups, and boxes of pasta that can be used. It will allow you to focus on more productive tasks, if you know you have prepared your home for a potential bicyke situation.
It is easy to turn to bad habits during times of stress. To make sure you don’t, fill your environment with good books, interesting podcasts, or yoga mat. I keep The Selected Poems of Donald Hall with me all the time. The poems help me to concentrate. It’s a good idea to find something that stimulates your creative mind.
Spending time online with fellow creatives and connecting with family and friends through video chat are helping so far. We read each other’s stories and give feedback in the two writers’ groups I’m in. I have found that pouring myself into someone else’s work provides me with a sense of purpose.
If you are a creative person, you might feel like your work is not important. In times of uncertainty and fear, we need art to remind us that beauty and originality still exist. Whether it is a painting or a pie, creating something can help you and others find order and make sense of a confusing world. It doesn’t matter if you make good or bad things. The act of creation brings joy, a sense of pride, and helps you forget about the bad things in the world for a while. It may be the most productive thing you can do in times of calm.