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It's okay to be scared - what you can do right now to cope.

Updated: Mar 19, 2020

It’s been seven weeks since my daughter started her own journey with the outbreak of COVID-19 in China. Back here, in South Africa, all I could do was watch her experience unfold, often in painstakingly, boring ways as she faced isolation. Now, it’s my turn to watch myself and fellow South Africans face the very same virus outbreaking in our own country.

It has taken me many days to try and figure out what more I can say when there are so many stories, blogs, articles and words of encouragement (and of course, the doomsayers- we mustn’t forget them!) being circulated around the crisis being brought on by COVID-19.

What I am seeing is a lot of people who are feeling scared and overwhelmed, almost in disbelief, as they watch the world they once knew so well, become a place no longer familiar with them.

What I want to say to them is that it’s okay to be scared. Change is scary especially when you didn’t ask for it. Uncertainty is scary. Overwhelm is exhausting. No longer knowing who you are and how you fit in with this changing world is scary. Being asked to keep a distance from others is challenging, when love and connection is so important in times of fear. Our basic needs are being threatened at this very moment.

What’s not okay is to allow this fear to take a hold on you. Allow this to happen and you will find yourself heading down a very dark tunnel (with your immune system taking a knock, as your fear feeds the stress which causes strain on the immune system and we all know where a weakened immune system leads to…).

Take a deep breath. Ground yourself. Bring your attention to the NOW (the moment where all our power sits) and then reflect. Ask yourself the following questions:

What am I really scared of right NOW? Once you have your answer (this is the time to really consider your answer and make sure it’s not a knee-jerk kind of answer because society decrees it to be so), ask yourself, “What can I do right NOW to take responsibility for my fear of ……?”. By taking responsibility for your own actions, you will feel empowered.

· What can I do right NOW to bring more certainty into my life? Maybe this is the time to create a daily routine that helps you to feel more in control of your daily life while chaos reigns out there. It could be as simple as a 20 minutes meditation when you wake up, taking coffee outside in the garden, making your bed, eating a healthy breakfast, doing a yoga routine, going for daily walks, playing with the dog, doing housework (my daughter assured me that doing her laundry every day made her feel calmer!) etc.

· What can I do right NOW to manage the overwhelm? Often this is about the choices you make on a regular basis – the news you read, the amount of Facebook scrolling you do, being aware of the people you engage with on a daily basis (are they feeding you with negative vibes or positive vibes?). Right now, you may want to choose to filter what you are feeding your mind with. Choose mindfulness.

· What can I do right NOW to manage my own sense of significance during this crisis? It’s important to maintain one’s sense of SELF in a healthy way. Tap into your awareness. Know who you are and remain true to your SELF. You can’t go wrong if you trust your SELF enough to guide you. Stay steadfast.

· What can I do right NOW to maintain love and connection especially when we are being asked to keep a social distance? Feeling loved and connection is important to us. Just because it’s not a good idea, right now, to be hugging and kissing, there’s nothing stopping you from spending five minutes every morning (add this into your daily routine) sending out “How are you doing? I love you” messages via Whatsapp to all those people that matter to you. Make that call. Even better, make it a video call. We are so fortunate to have technology, on tap, to make connection so much easier between us.

I have shared some very simple ideas. There are incredible stories out there, right now, telling of how people, around the world, are finding ingenious ways of making sure their basic needs are being met with compassion, kindness and consideration for all experiencing this chaos.

We are not alone facing this change. We are not alone in feeling anxious, scared or overwhelmed. We do not need to be alone in facing our fears. Talk, share your opinions, be mindful of what others are feeling and show compassion. Be the person to guide someone through this so that they, too, may help others find their own light at the end of their own dark tunnel.

As my father would often quote, “This too shall pass”. Find peace in that.

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