Well, that was a weird week, wasn't it?
I know that you're bombarded with advice right now, and it's hard to know exactly where the line is between "taking reasonable steps to respond to an unfolding public health issue" and "BUCKLE IN, WE'RE GOING FULL NIGHTMARE APOCALYPSE DOOMSDAY BUNKER SCENARIO".
It's very normal to feel confused right now. This is a situation that is changing quickly every day, and there is a lot that even scientists and public health experts just don't know yet.
I don't want to add to any feelings of being overwhelmed, but coming to you live from the UK where things are pretty damn weird, I just wanted to tell you about some tiny things that I've found helpful this week.
- Find behavioural triggers for washing your hands. The easiest way to learn a new habit is to set triggers that remind you to do it. I’ve found it helpful to make myself wash my hands every time I enter or leave a building, before meals, and after using the bathroom (obvs). Find a song to help you wash your hands for the recommended 20 seconds. I’m doing “Dancing on my Own” by Robyn.
- Put yourself on an information diet. I'm allowing myself 1 hour every morning to read Covid19-related news. That's plenty of time to reassess the current situation and decide what a reasonable response is in my own context. If I spend more time than that reading corona articles, I just feel more confused about what I should do, and start spiralling into a dark anxiety place. Find a healthy limit for yourself and don't get drawn into the need to obsessively refresh news sites: it's not helpful. This was a pretty good read about how to deal with the anxiety, in general.
- Find information sources you trust. The Federation of American Scientists have a good website about the latest science on Covid-19. Dave Pell's NextDraft newsletter has interesting links roundups about the situation every day, but bear in mind that they're very U.S.-centric. Remember that while this is a global situation, it's also hyper-local: what's reasonable to do if you're in Seattle right now is very different to what's reasonable in Cape Town, or in Milan, or in Singapore. So find the official website for your country or community (here's the South African information portal).
- Protect the economic security of people who have less than you. This crisis is going to be particularly hard for people who live off tips or hourly wages. If you do go out to a restaurant, please tip better than you ever have. If you have domestic workers, it's time to consider asking them to stay home with pay (letting them avoid exposure on public transport and look after their kids).
- Don't look at your investments. Invest the same amount this month as you would have in any other month. Don't look at what anything is worth: if you don't sell assets now, they're not real losses. This is not the time to be changing your investing strategy.
- Be patient with the panicked. Some people are very stressed about all of this. They might have good reason to be: we don't yet know enough about this pandemic to make accurate predictions about what will happen. You also can't know, if you see a person wearing a hazmat suit to buy up the last rolls of TP at the grocery store, what that person is going through. Maybe they have an elderly relative living at home with them that they're worried about. Maybe they have a cough and they're trying to protect YOU. We all have to make our own judgements about what level of response it's reasonable for us to take; don't be an asshole about other people who make different judgements to you. Be sensitive to people who are feeling overwhelmed by not blasting scary corona-related links onto every public social media platform (yes, I see the irony in saying this in an email I've sent to you). If you have a general big Whatsapp/Telegram/Signal group with your friends or family, consider starting a breakaway group specifically for corona discussions. Keep it off Facebook; nobody should be getting public health advice from Facebook :)
As much as this is all frightening and frustrating, I've also been finding it pretty inspiring. Disasters and crises bring out the best in people. People who are young and otherwise healthy have very little chance of dying from this virus, and a lot of people are isolating themselves as an incredible act of kindness: by trying to slow the spread of the virus through the community and give the healthcare system more time to gear up for it, they're keeping the people who are vulnerable safe. Where I live, young people have been putting flyers through the letterboxes of their neighbours offering to help at-risk people run errands.
Viruses have always been at war against the human race, but those bastards aren't as smart or as resourceful as humans can be, when we pull together.
Look after yourselves. Look after each other.
Wishing you good TikTok memes, helpful neighbours and long Netflix marathons,