Panic Is a Luxury
Not everyone can afford to spiral out about the news
I am sitting by the window in my living room, watching the sparse traffic pass by on the usually busy Brooklyn street. My kids are home from school, closed due to COVID-19, also called the novel coronavirus. I have a mild cold.
As I write this, my pantry is crammed full of beans and brownie mix. (Priorities!) I now spend a fair chunk of my mornings wiping down doorknobs and handles and have discovered, to my chagrin, that I touch my face roughly one million times per hour.
Housebound, stir-crazy, and uncertain what the next weeks and months hold, it’s easy — even comforting — to dive in to panic. For many Americans (myself included) this has manifested in anxiety-shopping and toilet-paper-hoarding. It’s easy to imagine the worst-case scenario.
Friends are decamping to country homes. But I’m staying here in the city, panicking about the viral apocalypse. Of course having the means to leave town is a luxury few of us have. But really, neither of these are choices available to everyone. For some people, the concerns of day-to-day life are too pressing for the kind of news-induced spiraling I’ve allowed myself: The people who don’t have the option to take time off of work or work remotely, or who now find themselves out of work. The ones who don’t have the resources to stockpile food. The ones who must keep it together around their children.
Vigilance is necessary. But to despair is a sin. And panic is a privilege.
Check your anxiety privilege
Spinning out right now feels justified, if not exactly wise, but it starts to feel a little bit indulgent when you consider the people — from doctors and nurses to cleaners and grocery-store clerks — who are too busy doing vitally needed jobs to spend time stewing in their own anxiety. And the people who have long faced danger every day just by living in their own bodies.
“I think being in that anxious space is a little bit of a privilege,” she says Laurie M. Scherer, a clinical psychologist who has worked with patients with anxiety. “I don’t mean to belittle that experience or that feeling, but I think this anxiety that we’re all feeling — maybe for the first time, for some…