Are you having trouble maintaining your happy with a new virus in the air? I have never seen this level of universal panic. When there is no toilet paper on the selves, there is obviously a crisis underway.
At the beginning of this writing I still wondered if this was truly going to be the crisis we were being told it would become. Many experts were writing on both sides of that debate. Then I realized the question is moot. Our collective actions at this point have produced a crisis, real or not.
Schools and businesses are shut down. Shelves are empty. Major events have been cancelled. People are afraid to come into contact with one another. The financial markets have taken a nose dive. We have all been negatively impacted in some way at this point. And we are told that it will become worse before it gets better, so it will.
So how can we maintain our desired happiness level at such a troubling time? I have a three-step process that works for me, it will for you too. But first, here’s a brief semi-embarrassing personal story to provide context for the solution.
I had a close encounter with panic many years ago, technically it was an attack. According to the Mayo Clinic, “A panic attack is a sudden episode of intense fear that triggers severe physical reactions when there is no real danger or apparent cause.” Yep, that’s what I had.
We were in the process of moving back to Iowa from Florida. It was a sudden unplanned move due to a job opportunity. I packed a few essentials, flew to Iowa to live in a small apartment, and Melanie stayed back to sell the house and make arrangements for our move which officially happened about six months later.
We made trips to see each other every couple of weeks. Then out of nowhere, for no reason, sitting on a plane waiting to take off, I had my panic attack. I could hardly breathe. I felt I had to get out of that plane immediately. I was scared and on the verge of causing a disturbance.
Just before I did, a scene from the movie “Airplane!” entered my mind. A woman is freaking out and a stewardess shakes her and screams, “Get ahold of yourself!” Passengers are lined up behind her with weapons, waiting their turn to make her clam down. It made me laugh and I sure didn’t want that to happen to me.
Thankfully the panic then passed quickly. I reasoned that it was caused by separation anxiety. Yes, I am an amateur psychologist. But the thing is, once you have experienced an attack, you are naturally afraid that it will happen again.
I now had a big challenge to face. We were scheduled to fly to New Zealand soon after my incident. Although I tried to put it out of my mind, I couldn’t shake the feeling that another attack was coming on that 14-hour plane flight. Not good!
Over the next couple of weeks I rationalized that my attack was a one-time thing. It had never happened before and would likely never happen again. There was really nothing to fear. It’s just a plane ride. I’ve done this at least a hundred times. Plus, Melanie and I would be together so no more need for the anxiety. Still I was concerned and wished I could cancel the trip. But we needed a vacation, so instead I developed my avoid-a-panic strategy.
First I reminded myself about how ridiculous my fear was. Then I practiced visualizing being on that plane and remaining calm. Finally I thought about the opportunities awaiting us on the other side of the flight. I focused on how much fun we would have on this vacation.
We boarded the plane and I was feeling good … until we got to our seats. For some reason I had assumed international flights of this length would have a larger seating area … wrong! Our seats were located next to a handicapped woman who was already sitting in the aisle seat. She couldn’t move without significant assistance.
We reminded ourselves that someone always has it worse as we crawled over her to get into our middle and window seats. We were trapped for the next 14 hours. Please get this thing in the air and step on it!
Thankfully my preparation had worked and all was well. It was rough, but we made it. We had a great vacation, my anxiety was completely gone and has never returned. But that experience taught me some valuable lessons.
I know first-hand that, (1) panic is scary even when there is no apparent reason for it, (2) we can avoid and overcome our fears with proper preparation, and (3) there is happiness on the other side of our fears. Let’s get happy again right now.
Here’s your guide to happiness during this or any other panic inducing situation. Take these three steps to maintain your happy and to help others do the same.
Step 1 – Get Real – See the situation for what it really is. Take the emotion out of it and be logical and rational. In the case of this virus, we have an illness that is spread through contact with an infected person or something they have been in contact with. If you think about it, this is always the situation, every day of our lives. Cold and flu viruses are always lurking about, this is just a new strain. Do we really need to panic? No. Stay calm and carry on with the next step.
Step 2 – Back to Basics – Focus on continually striving to be and to do your best for the benefit of others. Behaving virtuously is especially important in a time of crisis, especially demonstrating charity, kindness, and patience. Basically, we should put more emphasis on doing the things we should have been doing all along. In the case of this virus that means doing the same things we should always do to avoid the spread of disease:
Step 3 – Find the Good – What good can you see coming from this situation? What can you do to make it better right now? How can you find enjoyment in this new altered state of life? Then look past the crisis. Envision a better future. Find something to look forward to.
I can see many positives coming from this situation. Like maybe we will all finally develop healthy hygiene habits that we will use consistently. Every couple of years we all have to be reminded about the basics in step 2. Why are we so slow to learn? Hopefully we will this time, once and for all.
How about this, instead of rushing to get prepared for a crisis, we plan ahead and are always ready. Check out this site for help https://www.ready.gov/ At a minimum, maintain the supplies you just stocked up on.
Here’s some good news, you will probably have more free time on your hands for the next month or so. You won’t have to be running around town taking kids to school and events. You might also be working from home saving your commuting time. Think about what can you do with the gift of that extra time.
What are things you’ve been wanting to do but never have the time for? What can you do at home with your family. See this extra time as a stay-cation. Do things together. Go outside and play. Make puzzles. Play board games. Go on hikes. Visit parks and playgrounds. Watch something funny. Learn something new. Read a book.
Remember to keep in touch with your friends and neighbors. They may need some help that you can safely provide. Maybe you can even share your toilet paper supply. What an act of kindness and charity that would be:-)
One last bit of advice for you believers. Place your faith in God. Know that things will turn out for the best, whatever the best is. It may not be what we want, but it will be what we need. These hard times are meant to make us stronger and to put us on a better path going forward. We will survive and thrive.
Here’s your challenge for the week. Find one way to be happier in this time of panic and share it with the Playground Heaven Living Facebook Group.
One final note. Thank you in advance to all of you who work in and around the health care system. No doubt you will be called upon to work long hours, with few breaks, in a stressful environment, while putting your own health at risk over the next weeks and months. Please know that you are highly appreciated for what you do and for the courage you continually exhibit!
Be Safe, Well, and Happy my Friends! Scott