How to Be Productive and Creative in Times of Panic
It wouldn’t hurt to mute the word ‘coronavirus’ on social media for 24 hours
Hours after the 9/11 attacks, I finally made it back to my apartment in uptown New York City. Like everyone else lucky enough to return home that day, I existed in a daze, not comprehending what had just happened and no longer sure how to function. I had no idea how to manage my anxiety in the weeks that followed, so I surrendered to the 24-hour news cycle and drank myself to sleep, hoping this would help me reclaim the world I had lost.
While the coronavirus pandemic is a very different world event, the hysteria feels oddly familiar to what we experienced in 2001. Back then, public spaces seemed like death traps; today they feel like contagion zones. We don’t know whether to trust the news. And there’s no end in sight.
I didn’t know how to deal with panic back in 2001, but I’ve learned some more productive approaches since then. Here are some tips for staying calm, productive, and even creative during the coronavirus outbreak.
Avoid the panic amplifiers
Much has been written about how social media intensifies our anxiety, and we never see this more clearly than during a crisis. Yesterday, I made the mistake of visiting my town’s Facebook page, and the first post I read was one that questioned whether school officials were doing enough to keep classrooms disinfected. A heated discussion followed, with people telling each other they were overreacting, or underreacting. I got fully sucked into the drama, and before I knew it, an hour had passed.
To protect your mental health, limit your social media intake to a specified amount of time and make use of blocking features. Twitter allows you to mute specific words — you might want to do this with “coronavirus” or “COVID-19” for 24 hours once a week, just to give yourself a break. Of course, it’s still important to stay informed, so follow official health organizations such as the WHO, CDC, and your local offices of emergency management, along with one national and one local news source. Check these sites twice a day max. While the news is constantly changing, obsessing over minute-by-minute updates won’t do you any good.