Cue every possible reference to the 2011 film, “Contagion.” A chef in Hong Kong touches a roasted pig that was infected by a bat, before shaking hands with a woman, unknowingly spreading a viral infection that turns into a worldwide pandemic. It sounds eerily familiar because, suddenly, we’re living in it (only the movie takes a few creative liberties beyond our current reality).
According to Dr. David Hirschwerk, an infectious disease specialist at Northwell Health, a coronavirus differs from other viruses because it begins by infecting animals before spreading among humans. Therefore, coronavirus just means a class of virus (think others like MERS and SARS) and COVID-19 is a strain that hasn’t been identified before. While everyone ensues to panic levels as the global pandemic spreads, it’s critical to take precautionary measures.
First, learn the difference between facts and fear by always checking a credible source. Consult with websites that end in .gov, .edu, .org, rather than scrolling through Facebook. This will not only help with safety, but sanity. Additionally, it’s recommended to step away from the news to limit worry. Have a time limit in place.
The World Health Organization urges everyone to wash their hands regularly; keep a social distance of six feet between yourself and anyone coughing or sneezing; avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth; and anyone with signs of fever, cough, or difficulty breathing should seek medical care early.
If you’re sick at all, stay home. It’s that simple.
For the unaffected, it’s just as important to maintain a healthy lifestyle with proper diet, sleep, and exercise. While social distancing becomes the new norm as more gyms and other health facilities close, try online workouts or go for a walk in an open space (think beach, park, or even around the block). This is a great reason to reconnect with nature and remain calm, as forming a new routine is essential to a healthy mind.
If you’re having trouble finding a way to ease tension, tune into hobbies or things that have helped cope with stress in the past. Music, journaling, gardening, etc. My personal recommendation is to keep a gratitude journal; wake up every day and find something to be thankful for. The more we keep our minds preoccupied and active, the less we will stress about the world around us.
Or, if all else fails, I type in “Italians singing” to YouTube and I guarantee that’ll put a smile on your face. Also, listen as much as possible right now. Have conversations with children and the elderly. If someone is sick, call them and lift up their spirits. A voice can be a powerful healing tool in ridding stress.
This article first appeared in the March 17 issue of The Independent Newspaper.