When the news is all doom and gloom—as it has been since the outbreak of the coronavirus— it’s hard for even the most optimistic among us to stay positive. It’s true that we need to take this virus seriously. It’s capable of causing severe illness, death, and drastic long-term changes to how we live and work. It could even cripple the economy. It’s easy to stay focused on those calamities: they seem to be the only topics covered on local and national news.
But those thoughts would be counterproductive. Obviously, there are things you need to know about the coronavirus outbreak to protect yourself and those around you, but you do not need to become a COVID-19 expert, nor do you need to hear about every unpleasant detail from dawn until bedtime. Instead, focus on the positive so that you have the energy and resolve needed to weather this storm. Here are nine things you can do:
Limit your intake. You could watch 24-hour news channels, listen to dire warnings on the radio, or visit countless websites and be bombarded with the angst of the moment. Instead, choose a single news source and decide how much limited time you’ll spend with it each day. Then stick to your plan.
Look to the past. Get hope from your past resilience. You have likely endured other unforeseen major life disrupters like 9/11, major hurricanes, or the financial meltdown of 2008. You made it through! And you are stronger because of it. Know that you will get through this. Remind yourself of your resilience on a regular basis.
Watch a funny video. Thanks to the huge popularity of YouTube, there are thousands of videos that can help you take your mind off current events, if only for three minutes at a time. Start to bookmark the funniest among them so you can return for a repeat viewing whenever things feel gloomy.
Look after your neighbors. You may be at low risk of severe consequences from the virus, but it may not be the same for your neighbors whose immune systems are compromised. The act of checking in on them (keeping six feet apart, of course) will not only make them feel good, it will make you feel good and remind you that there are others for whom this predicament is even more stressful.
Support your favorite local business. Maybe you’re heeding the social distancing advice and aren’t eager to sit in a crowded restaurant right now. And others feel the same way. Those empty seats aren’t helping that restaurant owner to pay her staff or keep the restaurant in business. Buy a gift card to help the business owner now, and prepay for a wonderful meal you can have to celebrate when this pandemic is behind us.
Send gifts in the mail. It may not be wise to drop in on your loved ones with some fresh-baked goodies, so send them a card or gift in the mail. Unexpected treats can be a huge pick-me-up-in times of stress. This is especially valuable to the elderly who are living in nursing homes. Many facilities have closed their doors to all visitors, making residents feel even more isolated and vulnerable.
Take advantage of found time. I’m a public speaker and my speaking gigs are canceling left and right. It’s stressful. I could wallow in that for days. But that wouldn’t be productive. These cancelations give me an opportunity to focus on some things I’ve had no time for and to accelerate my progress on other product offerings. It’s liberating, and that’s what I’ve decided to focus on. If your company has implemented a WFH policy, how will you use the time you previously spent on commuting?
Practice random acts of kindness. Leave an envelope with a little gift for the Amazon Fresh delivery person who drops of your supplies outside your door. Or have a coffee delivered to your doorman. Your kindness doesn’t require a monetary outlay. Write an unsolicited book review for a friend of yours who is an author. Comment on a colleague’s LinkedIn post. Send a snail-mail note of appreciation to a friend or colleague. Many in the entire country of Italy broke out in song and applause to honor their healthcare workers. Thank the custodians in your building or workplace for their efforts to keep things safe. Think of those who could benefit from your thoughtfulness and generosity. Then act.
Take a daily inventory. Close your day, every day, with a positive acknowledgement of something you accomplished, learned or are grateful for. It will help dilute some of the negativity you’ve absorbed and remind you that not everything that’s happening right now is bad or depressing.
In times of constant negative messaging, you need an antidote so that you can keep your positive attitude and march forward with determination and hope. Be deliberate in activities that are positive, heartwarming, stress reducing and laughter inducing! Together, we’ll get through this.
William Arruda is the cofounder of CareerBlast and author of Digital YOU: Real Personal Branding in the Virtual Age.