The Coronavirus is here, fact. We can stick fingers in our ears and roll our eyes in faux cool tedium all we like, but it's here and it's time to face facts. There is no room for hysteria or hyperbole because reality needs all the oxygen in the room, so what to do?
At times like this I, along with everyone else with a brain in their head, defer to the medical experts, scientific community and security professionals. Skeptics and Flat-Earthers like NBA star Rudy Gobert (who touched every surface during a press conference, 48 hours before coming down with COVID-19) can scoff all they want with how I choose to operate, but as a mother of two, my first duty is the protection of my children. Now, one such expert whose advice and opinion I respect is Juliette Kayyem, former Assistant Secretary of Homeland Security for Intergovernmental Affairs, during the Obama administration (2009-2017). Kayyem played a pivotal role in the H1N1 pandemic of 2009, so you can perhaps understand why I stop and listen to what she says.
During a recent interview, Kayyem recommended that we responsible and capable adults create a 'Battle Rhythm' for our children, family, friends and colleagues, in an effort to stabilise the current environment of uncertainty for them. Let's face it, waking up every morning during a pandemic and freaking out openly with an "OMG, this is all so terrible!" mindset isn't helpful to anyone, is it? What would be helpful is the establishment of a battle rhythm; a plodding beat where we create a daily structure as we plan for the indefinite, because this situation is a fluid learning experience for the experts at present, and could last much longer than currently anticipated.
STEP ONE: MINDFULNESS
To begin with we need to grab a hold of our own horses and catch ourselves on. We need to acknowledge that life is going to become more stressful as the Coronavirus eventually peaks in the weeks to come, but also, that all things must pass. The world will continue to revolve on its axis and there will be a 'normal' again, so we must face towards that forwards. The wisdom of Helen Keller teaches us: "Optimism is the faith that leads to achievement. Nothing can be done without hope and confidence", which provides our overarching road map. If we are able to control our own thoughts and responses, we can control pretty much anything else. So that's Step One.
STEP TWO: RESPONSIVE PROACTIVITY
Now that we have control of ourselves, we must behave like the adults we are, because the instability and concern we may express with our friends is unresourceful and a complete waste of time and energy. What is achieved by scaremongering, moaning and moping? Absolutely nothing except raising an already heightened sense of panic, alarm and lack - and where exactly is the value in that? Instead, we would be more productive if we choose responsive proactivity; let me explain.
In my recent blog article, Responsive Proactivity: Doing What Matters Now, I detail how we can't possibly live in a heightened state of alert and preparedness, overthinking every variable at all times. This would be simply too exhausting and debilitating. What we can reasonably expect from ourselves however is to leap into appropriate action when the situation arises. Like now, so ask yourself: "What matters now?" What matters in this moment, on this day? Have you enough food, water, prescription medicines, gas and electricity (if you're on a meter)? Do you have an extra stock of e.g.: frozen, dry and canned foods, in case you're quarantined at any point? And of course, don't forget the twenty bazillion toilet rolls you'll need [eye roll] for,,, whatever. No one has explained the bog roll stampede mentality to me yet, so I can't play if I don't know the rules. At the end of the day, everything is toilet tissue, if you're brave enough.
Seriously though, being responsively proactive is reassuring for our children, who may be susceptible to overwhelm and fear; especially if they're exposed to the often apocalyptic news headlines. Our children have to know we've got this, so for them to believe we have a plan for whatever may come will soothe them. For all of the bravado projected by some, children instinctively know when they are in peril without our protection and parenting. This is why we must not only step up, but be seen to step up and provide and care for them during periods of adversity and uncertainty.
STEP THREE: BRACE FOR IMPACT
Here I would recommend one of my old event management adages: hope for the best, but plan for the worst. Now, first things first. As any flight attendant will tell you, in the event of unpleasant circumstances, you must take care of yourself first. It is not selfish, it is necessary because you can't pour from an empty cup. In today's circumstances, if you are exhausted, under nourished or not taking good enough care of yourself, you cannot be expected to take good enough care of dependents.
Next, maintain a set schedule for children. This means not letting them sleep in all hours (I wish), particularly if the schools have to close for an extended period of time. Don't let them socialise or game themselves stupid; perhaps try to keep them as close to a school routine as possible, because routine is reassuring. Not only will you appear to have your act together, but their grades won't suffer as much either.
During the Kayyem interview, she also discussed what the veterans and survivors of Coronavirus (from China, South Korea and Italy most notably) did, during their trials of self-quarantining and isolation. The most repeated piece of advice was to have a generous stock of snacks, both of the healthy and somewhat indulgent variety. They stated not having e.g.: a much longed for Mars Bar drove them nuts, and a little of what you fancy does you good, especially in trying times like a fortnight of self-isolation.
It's also worth remembering that trust is essential, so don't promise your bored-out-their-minds kids it'll all be over 'soon'. There's a chance this outbreak may take longer than first anticipated, because it's a brand new attack on our human systems and none of us have acquired immunity yet. This means the medical and scientific communities are working like the clappers to figure it all out, before creating, testing and releasing a vaccine or treatment. It's okay to admit none of us know exactly what's going on, but also there is high faith in the experts working on it. Recruit your children to 'the cause of the greater good' - as our ancestors did during the Blitz - by explaining how their continued patience, understanding and kindness towards others helps society as a whole to get through this.
Children know when things aren't okay, so you will build trust by being (gently and age appropriately) honest with them. This will help to foster a greater degree of respect for you, and self-esteem in themselves - as you've trusted them with the truth and not brushed them aside with an infuriating dismissal. Then, when you can tell them things are finally okay, or that it's genuinely broccoli you're secretly eating behind the open fridge door, they'll believe you. Perhaps that's a bad example?
SELF-QUARANTINE vs SOCIAL DISTANCING
Just one last point concerning the difference between self-quarantining and social distancing. At the moment (March 2020), we are still able to e.g.: pop to the shops, visit well spaced restaurants and go to school and work, but we are being asked to practise social distancing wherever possible. This means not attending concerts, large meetings/seminars/networking events or socialising in large crowds of any kind. When we are with other people, we're being asked to sit/stand a least one metre away from each other, because the Coronavirus is transmitted via water droplets from skin/sweat contact, normal speech patterns, sneezing and coughs etc.
Self-quarantining is when we're asked to stay at home for a period of time (usually 14 days or so), to help control the spread of the virus. At this point we are not expected to socialise in person anywhere. The difference between self-quarantining and social distancing is really quite distinct.
As I'm sure you're all well aware by now, good old fashioned soap and warm water - whilst washing thoroughly between your fingers and under your nails for a minimum of 20 seconds, and as often as possible - is the best way to combat the contraction of Coronavirus. If you're going to use a hand sanitiser, look for products with an alcohol content of over 60%, otherwise they're a waste of time and money.
I hope this is of some value and assistance to you, please share far and wide to get the information out there. For what it's worth, I'm doing my part. As of today I will now only conduct Life Coaching and Small Business Mentoring sessions remotely via phone or Skype, until further notice. Not that I have been affected as yet, but neither do I want to be. Neither do I want to risk carrying the virus to anyone who may have an underlying health condition, which could then render them significantly more vulnerable.
It's important we think of others before clearing the supermarket shelves of essential items. Whilst you may have walked off with all the hand sanitiser, you're kind of dependent on the rest of us being protected too, to stay healthy. Please think outside your immediate circle.
Stay safe, be well and let's look after each other.
To contact Karan, please complete the Contact Form.
To have future blogs and podcasts delivered direct to your Inbox, subscribe here.