Acknowledge – It’s OK to say you’re afraid of COVID-19. If you pretend you’re not, your fear will fester and boil out sideways through irritability, disconnection, or however you hurt yourself and others when you’re not OK. And if you can’t see your fear for what it is, you won’t be able to accurately see what’s happening in the world either. You’ll swing toward the poles, either denial or fretfulness, both of which affect behavior. If you swing toward denial, you could become careless, putting yourself or others at risk. If you swing toward fretfulness, you could make irrational or counterproductive decisions, or fan the fear in others.
Affirm – Once you acknowledge fear you may need to remind yourself that it is OK to feel afraid. And you may need to hear that message more than once, especially if you don’t like to feel weak, or if you’ve ever been shamed for feeling afraid. Whisper to yourself that it’s OK to feel afraid, and if you need an outside voice, tell someone you trust who is not suffering from the same fear in the same moment. This will help disarm the bomb. It’s like tossing a grenade into a room of feather pillows. All that pent up energy can escape your body without damaging people.
Apocalypse – Imagine the worst case scenario, turn it over in your head for a minute or two but no more. Then ask yourself, is that scenario likely to happen? If your answer is no, breathe a deep sigh and tell yourself the truth: the worst scenarios in my head are not likely to happen. You may also want to educate yourself with level headed, trustworthy input; like, for example, this video from a doctor in NYC. On the other hand, if your answer is yes, you probably fall in a high risk demographic, and it may be wise to be more cautious than others. Take a moment to thank your fear because in this instance it is measuring reality well and you are wise to heed it.
Analogize – It may help to Google science based predictions of COVID-19 life loss estimates. If you do so, put it into comparative math that you can relate to. For example, is it more likely for you to die of coronavirus than in a freak accident? Or, if your church hosts 1,000 people each week, by the numbers, are any of them likely to die of coronavirus? Once you put it in terms that make sense in your head you will likely find it within a standard deviation of risks you assume in your regular life. Remind yourself of the things you do that include some risk – cycling, skiing, unprotected exposure to the sun, unhealthy eating, driving, smoking. Ask yourself what your secret is: how have you compartmentalized everyday risks so you can enjoy life without fear?
Accept – If you get this far, you may find a new reserve of resilience and faith and strength that wasn’t there an hour ago. You may see how fear was crippling you and infecting others. Rejoice that you’re here now, and that you are OK. You’ll probably notice that your eyes want to turn from looking inward to looking outward. Let them.
Ask – If you believe in God, it’s a good time to ask for perspective. When you do, don’t fill in the blanks with what you’ve heard other people say that God is or isn’t doing or saying during this pandemic. Just quiet your heart and listen for yourself. It may also help to tell God you’ve been afraid. You’ll be surprised at how sweet a time like this can be. When you’re done, your heart will be fuller than you anticipate, and your fear will be reduced even further. Before you go, ask one more thing of God – ask how you can help during this time, and listen for what idea rises in your spirit.
Answer – This is the best part. You get to do something to help others who are feeling swallowed up by fear too. Be courageous, bold, and loving. Be kind. Be wise. Show patience. You can make a difference; people are hurting right now and they need your strength. There’s a Bible story where a young girl named Esther is afraid, but she turns that fear over to God, does the next right thing, and ends up saving her nation from annihilation. May you be like Esther, who let her fear be small, her God be large, and who chose to be an answer in a time of crisis.