Updated: May 20
The arrival of the Coronavirus (COVID-19) is an opportunity to exercise the Stoic virtue of Apathy in the face of what we cannot easily control. Worry over our own illness and death gain us little beyond heightened vigilance and caution. But once these are reasonably achieved, there is no need to linger long on excess worry which gains us nothing more but anxiety and emotional pain.
But, how can I stop thinking these thoughts? How can I stop worrying so much? These inner words and fears seem sometimes utterly beyond my control...
There are a few things we can do to make things better:
Talk to someone. Talking really makes a difference sometimes, especially when we share openly, precisely what causes us so much worry. Getting it out may feel like weakness, though in fact such sharing helps us to see the thoughts more clearly in the light of open conversation. If you don't have someone to talk to, then reach out on-line to your community that cares. And if you don't have such a community, then you are always welcome to share your thoughts here.
Get out. I find it helpful to remove myself from whatever circumstance I'm in when the anxiety strikes. For example, I'm particularly vulnerable in the mornings, between when I wake up and when I first start to work (about a two hour span of time). I find that taking the dogs out for a nice hour-long walk during this period helps, a little. At other times, I find that going out for a drive can do the trick, especially if I go out with my wife. But even going out alone is often much better than lingering at home with my worry.
Apathy. This tactic is the hardest, yet it consistently yields the best results. When I'm feeling bad or worried about my current circumstances or future related to COVID-19 (or anything else), and if I'm feeling strong, I might them try my hand at reminding myself that the virus is largely outside my control, that there was nothing I could have done to have prevented the outbreak, or the spread, or even my own possible encounter and consequence of meeting the virus beyond the safer behaviors and life tactics (like social distancing and wearing a face mask when out) which I have already adopted.
It doesn't always work reminding myself that I'm largely incapable of stopping COVID-19 on my own, or even saving myself if I were to contract it and become sick. But what a worthy thing it is to try to calm my nerves through sensible actions, and sensible observation of the facts, and sensible recognition of what is, and what is not, truly within my control. So, I try. And I reckon such action Stoic in nature. A disciplined observation of my scope of control, and then setting aside my worry for that which I can do little or nothing about.
I'd remind myself of the danger If I didn't already consider I'd already exercised my best escape
My name is Kurt Bell.
You can learn more about The Good Life in my book Going Alone.
Be safe... But not too safe.