Teacher Professional Development
The topic that seems to be everywhere right now is COVID-19, and what I'm hearing from a lot of people is fear.
Fear can be debilitating to anyone pursuing an ambitious goal, and it can also serve a crucial purpose to protect us from danger. The trick is to understand helpful from harmful fear. It can be particularly difficult to differentiate between helpful and harmful fear when the news uses headlines like, "Now a pandemic, coronavirus changes life indefinitely" (from CNN), or "Coronavirus forecasts are grim: ‘It’s going to get worse’" (Washington Post). When fear runs rampant, it becomes vital to discern between the fear that is helping us survive, and the fear that is keeping us from making logical decisions.
Fear does that. It hijacks our imaginations and discards facts. Or at least focuses only on those facts that justify alarm. This is not to dismiss the seriousness of the virus. The information gathered so far shows that it does spread more quickly than the flu and that it can be especially fatal to those over 70, and it's important for us to realize that as humans we're notoriously bad at assessing risk. We worry about terrorism and yet eat fast food despite heart disease being FAR more likely to kill us. We warn our children about stranger danger and yet it's family who is most likely to pose the risks to them that we warn them about.
In addition, being stressed out about getting sick actually weakens our immune system and puts us at a greater risk of getting sick. So if you have been feeling anxious and want to help rid your mind of harmful or useless fear, try practicing these 5 things:
1. Learn when to listen to your brain and when to ignore it
Our brains are significantly biased to what could go wrong than what could go right. Because of this we need to work to be especially rational in a climate like we have now that is extremely anxious. One option is to not listen to the news, but instead only read it online where you have more built in consent about the messages you're receiving. Another idea is to get to the root cause of what is causing your anxiety and educate yourself about that point to see if it's rational. Why do you feel you need to go to Costco and buy them out of hand sanitizer? Wouldn't only buying as much hand sanitizer as you absolutely need be better for the greater good so others could also purchase it?
2. Double down on proven practices
The best safeguard against any virus is a strong immune system, and doing what you can to control your exposure. So make sure you're getting 8 hours of sleep, eating a well balanced diet and mitigating stress wherever you can. Ensure you are washing your hands for at least 20 seconds and avoid personal contact where practical (i.e. not shaking hands), and keep plenty of space between you and anyone showing any symptoms. Practice deeper breathing, and use your own healthy physiology to your benefit by holding "power poses" which make you feel stronger and more confident (think Wonder Woman).
3. Be aware of the messages you consume
Our words are powerful and they create our reality, so be choiceful about which ones you choose to use and consume. Change the channel or choose not to read articles that are using sensational language and seem to prioritize gaining viewers over accurate dispensing of information. Being discriminating about the messages you choose to consume can have a significant impact on your stress levels and what you perceive to be the truth.