If you live in the US, the SARSCoV2 virus is here and the time to face the reality of the COVID-19 disease and related disruption it will cause is now. If you live elsewhere, you will be encountering similar challenges just on a different timeline. This is a walkthrough of how to survive and thrive in 2020.
You Live in Interesting Times
You live in interesting times. Whether we are collectively living through a once-in-a-generation, a once-in-a-century, or a once-in-a-millennium event remains to be seen, but what is happening now is highly unusual and will likely be both very disruptive and somewhat deadly. Hopefully, you have realized this is serious and you have prepared for this situation; now it is time to go about the business of actually surviving.
Be Appropriately Concerned
You have probably heard the phrases “don’t panic” or “keep calm” quite a few times by now; I want you to disregard them. More specifically, I invite you to be appropriately concerned. We will be charting a middle course between the rocky shores of panic and complacency. In psychology, there is a well-known phenomenon where moderate levels of anxiety lead to the best performance. Think of it this way: if you have a test coming up and you are super relaxed about it and do not study, you will not do well. Similarly, if you have a test coming up and you are flooded with panic and anxiety while taking it, you will not do well. On average, your best performance will occur when you are moderately anxious. Be alert and concerned enough to be careful and engaged, but not so anxious or fearful as to be flooded and overwhelmed. This is what I mean by appropriately concerned.
For those living near the ocean, a good analogy is that a Category 3-5 hurricane (typhoon) is bearing down on the general area. You might get the worst of it or you might only get mild disruption, but in either case you will need to be prepared. In an event of this magnitude, people will die and the economy will be hit, but most will survive and life will eventually return to normal at some point. All of us the world over will take on some water, but significant numbers of us will be completely inundated. We don’t know with certainty which group we will be in ahead of time. So take precautions, avoid unnecessary risks, and mentally prepare for this new reality.
Make A Commitment to Survive This
Right now, I want to challenge you to make a personal commitment to survive this event. Commit to surviving for yourself and those within your immediate circle of care. Commit to being the person that is steady in this time of dynamically changing circumstances. Commit to seeing this through to the other side.
Get Your Quaranteam Together
Along with your own personal commitment to survival, get your quaranteam together. Your quaranteam is the group of people with whom you are going to commit to surviving this pandemic. They may be immediate family, close friends, roommates, members of your religious community, or neighbors on your street. Reach out to them now if you have not done so already. If things get dire, you or they may need assistance with basic caretaking or other necessities. Do be a good neighbor and check in on those at highest risk around you (the elderly, those with existing breathing difficulties, those who are food insecure, and those with compromised immune function).
Mentally Prepare for a Long Event
Mentally prepare for 6 to 24 months of unusual disruption. There are many ways in which this may play out. Many of the factors will be better known as the months go on, but two likely threads are emerging. As of this writing, it seems likely that in the US there will be at least a dual peak in this pandemic. The first (likely smaller event) will peak in 17 to 45 days in the US likely followed by a second (probably much larger event) in or around September, October, or November. There may be a break in the summer as other coronaviruses have shown a several log decrease in the kinds of environments that are typical in the Summer in the Northern Hemisphere, but this is currently speculative.
Work on Growing
While you are on ‘lockdown,’ I invite you to reframe this situation as an opportunity to grow closer with those in your home and to work on important aspects of yourself that may have been neglected due to the hustle and bustle of daily commutes and other activities that may have now been put on hold. I will challenge you to have a kind of quarantine cross training. Do at least one of each of the following: a physical practice, a mental practice, an emotional practice, spiritual practice, and an interpersonal practice. While I may go into much more detail about how you can enact these important growth practices within your life, I will give a basic intro here.
Physical practice: do something that gets your heartrate up and gets you to break a sweat for 5 to 30 minutes a day (as tolerated/recommended by your healthcare provider), this could be jumping jacks or pushups or could be hitting that home gym that has been gathering dust for a few years.
Mental practice: do something that challenges your mind and helps you to grow, this could be reading a book, listening to informative podcasts, taking some online classes, or just doing a word-a-day every day.
Emotional practice: do something that will engage your emotions, this could be keeping a journal, doing teletherapy with a licensed therapist, processing feelings about this situation with supportive friends, keeping a gratitude journal, or doing expressive art.
Spiritual practice: do something that connects you with your highest purpose or deeper self, this could be something that is based in a formal religion or meditation, or something that is philosophical or secular in nature, but cultivate meaning and purpose.
Interpersonal practice: do something that connects you with others, in our previously busy and mediated world we missed many chances to get to know those closest to us, we will now have ample time to reconnect with our family and friends.
Plan for Staggered Care
It is likely that you or someone you know could get sick. If one of the people you live with gets sick, do caretake them, but maybe do so 1 person at a time as you may become sick during the caretaking and might need caretaking yourself within 3-14 days. If you have masks, they are most effective when placed snugly on the person with the active infection, or when utilized by those engaging in direct care. If you will use masks, learn how to fit them properly and how to dispose of potentially hazardous materials. Know that if 1 member of your household gets infected, it is highly likely that the rest of your household will as well. Work to make sure that if this happens the need for care is staggered rather than simultaneous. If you or someone you know becomes sick early or late in the outbreak, the local hospital will likely be able to provide effective care. If you become sick in the peak of the outbreak, care systems will probably be overwhelmed and triage or rationing care could be in effect.
Plan for Resupply
If there is 1 or more obvious (temporary) break in the pandemic, engage in resupply. Prioritize water (if needed), medications, food, and other essentials (pet food, possibly batteries, etc.). There is a reasonable chance that this will happen in Summer.
Plan for a Second Wave
Plan for a second wave in the fall that might be significantly worse than the initial wave. If there is a lull in-between, it may only be the calm in the eye of the storm and not a sign of the storms final passing. We will need either an effective vaccine or a significant period of time (2x the length of a typical incubation period) with no new infections before we can be certain of the pandemic’s end.
Plan for a future
Be hopeful. Be optimistic. Be committed to being a good ancestor. This pandemic will eventually lessen and/or end completely. There will be a future. This is not the end of days, the end of civilization, or even the end of your country. It will be harsh, but most of us will survive. Plan for a resumption of normalcy in 1 to 3 years. Plan to leave a record for future generations so that they can learn from our mistakes and our successes. Commit to build back better (surveillance, healthcare, antifragile institutions, deeper social fabric, accurate science communications, etc.).
I sincerely wish you and your quaranteam the best of luck. See you on the other side.