Walking back home on a carpet of autumn leaves, Suzi the Dog walking next to me nicely for change, I heard the greeting of our neighbours:
“Hi, Maria. How are you doing? How are you coping?”
I stopped and smiled.
Yes, my smile was probably more a habit than the usually surprised pleasure of meeting people you know and like.
“How are we coping?” – I thought. “How the heck do I answer this one?”
That was the moment it hit me: living through a pandemic, and coming on the other side kicking, is not about coping.
“It is easy,” – I said. “We just keep our focus on surviving the next four or five months. Once we have survived, I will freak out about how we live.”
Now is not the time to worry about money
Now is not the time to worry about our pensions, our long-term investments, remodelling our kitchens (if this is what rocks your boat) or, even about paying off our debt.
(Okay, it is easy for me to tell you not to worry about your debt – we don’t have any apart from our mortgage. I would have said that even if we were drowning in debt – after all, we people have limited capacity to worry, and in times of acute health treat worrying about money is misplaced.)
Our press is shouting fear about Christmas presents and ruined holiday plans. Are these the correct priorities at the moment?
Today our lives cannot be governed by worried about money, unwanted and unnecessary presents, and cancelled holidays.
I know that usually, people who say that it is not about money are the ones who have enough money. Today is different. I’m not telling you to disregard your financial situation forever; I’m merely pointing out that looking through the forest, there are more essential trees on which to focus.
Worry about surviving the coronavirus pandemic
That sounds rather dramatic, I know.
Usually, I’m not prone to drama and passionate outbursts. Corona scares me, though.
It is a nasty virus. It kills, it mimes, and it disables in the long run.
I’m worried about surviving the pandemic. Last night I saw my two closest friends – in a garden, around a fire pit. My toast was:
“May we be around to drink wine in March 2021.”
Macabre as it is, this awareness of our mortality is not entirely inappropriate. It also made me read as much as I can about the coronavirus, its spread, and its prevention. Here are the essential things I have learned (you can use some of these to control worry and introduce actions reducing the probability of becoming ill).
#1. Whether you become ill or not is a probability, not a certainty. Hence, your task is to reduce the likelihood.
#2. Corona is not (luckily) very contagious relative to other viruses.
#3. It spreads through clusters around spreader events.
#4. The virus is air-born, and most infections are domestic. Infections from touching infected surfaces are very few. That means getting infected because someone shouted in your face is much more likely than infections from a supermarket visit.
#5. Avoid spreader events; e.g., going to church (God will understand), choirs, lectures, pubs (shouting in a closed space), etc.
#6. It is safer to walk shoulder to shoulder and talk than stopping and talking face to face.
#7. You need to reach a certain level of exposure to get infected. Brief chats in the open are safer than a prolonged discussion (contact) inside.
#8. Keep your distance.
#9. Wear a mask because you are altruistic. (Translated this means, wearing a mask is to reduce spread to others rather than to prevent yourself from being infected.)
#10. Wash your hands often and mindfully. It is especially important to wash your hands with soap and warm water when you come back to your house. (And all other times like before food, after food, before cooking, after having been to the toilet, etc.).
#11. Do all possible to boost your immune system – take Vitamin C, Vitamin D, and Zink. Walk outside.
Yes. That about sums it up. There are likely other things you can do, but these are the key. And remember that it is a matter of probability – even doing these things, you may get it.
Ensure you can survive the pandemic financially
I wrote about this one when the first wave reached us last March.
Hopefully, the experience of the first lockdown taught you to put aside some money for troubled times. If you couldn’t do that, because not everyone could, you can look up the available help when you don’t have money.
If you have some resources, please consider how to stretch them – we have no idea how long this hardship will continue. Even after the immediate health scare has passed, there will be economic and financial fall out of it.
You may wish to check out these practical, frugal living tips and reduce your outgoings.
If you have specific questions, you can leave them in the ‘comments’ section, and we’ll talk. Just do me a favour and don’t come up with ‘this is useless’, ‘it cannot be done’, etc. It is an ‘all or nothing’ thinking, which is not helpful – all we can do is try.
Safe your concern for where you wish to be when this is all over
Here is the thing:
It is much more appropriate to be concerned about the situation in which you want to end up once the pandemic is over than to worry about money at the moment.
Any advice in this respect can backfire, so I’ll tell you what I’m doing.
First, I refuse to use the health threat as an excuse to slip back into bad habits. Hence, I have been guarding the excellent eating, spending, working, and exercise habits that I built over the last ten years. It will be effortless to start eating chocolate all day, spend all we have on rubbish we don’t want or need and revert to being a couch potato.
When faced with death, self-destruction is the easiest path. But what happens if I don’t die? (Which is the more likely outcome for each of us.) Am I ready to face the disappointment of this setback?
Yep, you guessed it: in my mind, the cost of maintaining my good habits is lower than the price I’ll pay if I slip.
(Now may be the right time to stop reading and think to consider your situation.)
Second, and even more importantly, I want to be ahead of the curve when this situation is resolved. (And it will be because life has this ability to solve itself.)
My way to do that is to write, plan my online business, and execute the plan’s elements. My way is to keep at the forefront of my academic field. My way is to do all that is possible to enable my students to learn and offer all kinds of support in these difficult times.
You see, you don’t have to make unimaginable and audacious leaps in your personal and professional life. You just need to identify one thing about which you care and pursue it with dedication and flair.
Decide where you wish to be and go for it.
(When we put it like that, I doubt anyone would want to be an overweight, semi-coherent alcoholic at the end of the pandemic.)
It is tempting to worry about money, life, and everything else in times of global health and economic crisis. It doesn’t mean that this is the best way to approach the situation.
Targeting your concerns and deciding on clear actions to cope with the situation is much more appropriate in the long run.