Hold your breath for ten seconds and then see if you cough.
Drink lots of water.
Wear the newest 150 dollar mask.
Buy a lot of chocolate and cheese.
The virus is no big deal.
The virus is a huge deal.
True or not true?
I'm an expat mom living in Switzerland and these are a handful of the statements I've been hearing this week... But what, actually, is true?
The group chats, news stories, kid stories, letters from school, from the soccer team, from my husband's office, tumble in. I see scary messages before I go to sleep. I wake to them. They come from all over the world.
Don't worry, laugh the kids as they pack their hand sanitizer bottles for another day at their international school where kids just returned from traveling on holiday all over the world.
Should they even go to school? I wonder.
I try to change the topic, in my mind. I'm already unwell with late stage Lyme disease, or possibly something else. My knees, back, shoulders, neck are killing. My body aches. I'm exceptionally tired.
Don't worry, I tell myself.
Later I make the mistake of glancing at Facebook only to see articles, photos of people wearing white suits and globes around their heads. Terrifying podcasts have been shared. People are debating about how much to worry, whether to take public transport. I wonder why I did, actually, let the kids go to school.
I go to Twitter and try to write a poem as a warmup for my writing day, but I see an image of a Chinese street being sprayed with what appears to be toxic disinfectant.
I try to shake sense into myself, remind myself that I am a strong mom, a parent who has lived and survived with an extremely sick child several times. I have had two children near death, as infants, for months. I have battled against one child's illness as he has grown in ways that thankfully most parents will never understand. And I have been fighting my own disease.
So I should be especially clear that no doctor, no news reporter or pastor or president or PhD has ever, ever really been able to tell me, has ever known whether tomorrow will be a healthy day for you, for me, for any of us. The mere act of waking, breathing, stepping out the door, going through life is a beautiful, beautiful, slightly miscalculated, misunderstood risk and a gift.
So, I urge anyone reading this (as I urge myself) to breathe.
Don't let the news, the hysteria overtake reality. So far 80 percent of people who contract the virus have only mild symptoms. And according to Jeremy Brown, MD, director of the Office of Emergency Care Research at the National Institutes of Health "The survival rate will be very, very high."
Now say this. My family and I will survive. Positive messaging is everything, it's true, and we aren't seeing or hearing enough of it.
Also, every hour you and I have is worthy of the cliche— it's precious.
Following are a few I think rational ideas (besides the great suggestions here about washing hands often, gathering canned goods, gatorade, pain killers and don't forget the toilet paper) that I am going to try to abide by to help me stay sane. I hope these ideas help others too, while living in the midst of that horrible word pandemic:
1) If unneeded by your profession, check social media only once or twice daily. And unless also necessary for your profession, you likely don't need to read the news more than once, maybe twice daily either. Too much news increases stress.
2) Check facts. When you read anything these days, find a second source to verify (Associated Press, WHO, NPR, BBC, The New York Times, The Atlantic, The Washington Post, The Guardian, your local newspaper or various research journals) and verify, verify, verify. People text all kinds of crazy stuff. People stage things on social media. People claim truth lies and lies truth. Obviously. Also, national leaders sometimes say horribly dumb things.
3) Recognize that parental hysteria may be more dangerous to children than the virus itself. If I were a kid today, I'm pretty sure I'd want to feel that my parents are strong, confident, that they can handle a crisis. Managing your own stress will help your children immensely.
4) Consider reading about how to support your child's resilience in a time of crisis.
5) Consider temporarily opting out of situations that involve crowds and the spread of germs. Public transportation, malls, movie theaters... Obviously.
6) Pray even if you aren't a believer. According to the National Review, "Studies show prayer is associated with wellbeing and physical health." Recognize that we mortals have never actually been in charge of everything, or right about everything, anyway. Pray even if you don't believe. Who knows, maybe you'll hear an answer.
7) Spend more time outdoors, perhaps even by yourself. Time in nature has been proven healthy, will reduce anxiety, build strength, in all of us. Sit, walk, run, bike, climb.
Did you notice that the sky was blue today? And in my yard, there are crocuses. What's blooming, alive outside your door? Focus on that.