Keeping calm when “The sky is falling”

By Sheryl Jedlinski

Everything I know about pandemics I learned from Hollywood movies that play out our worst nightmare scenarios on the big screen. Providing the creepiness of horror movies and the adrenaline rush of disaster movies, “end of the world” films leave us “white knuckling” it as we watch society come apart at the seams and cheer on those in a race with time to put things back together again.

With the very real coronavirus outbreak now decimating the world population, I feel my fear and panic rising to levels not felt since September 11 and the days and weeks immediately following. Once again it seems as if, “The sky is falling.” As frightening as that time was, I remind myself, we’re still here almost two decades later. I expect the same will be true after the worst of the current global pandemic is over.

While we cannot control what happens to us in life, we can control how we respond to these events, and that makes all the difference in the world. Stress takes a toll on our well-being, as does anxiety and depression common among people with Parkinson’s. Here are things you can do to help yourself stay calm during the current pandemic:

  • Limit yourself to once a day checking of “reliable sources” (e.g. the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) for the latest information and guidelines about the coronavirus outbreak. Avoid getting your news from social media, which tends to breed rumors, conspiracy theories and misinformation.
  • Focus on the positives in your life, journaling things that you’re grateful for and things that are going well for you.
  • Maintain close contact with friends and family members via phone, text, email and group chats on FaceTime, Skype, and Zoom. Hearing the voices and seeing the faces of those who matter most to us leave us feeling less isolated and alone. The fewer social connections you have, the more likely you are to suffer from depression and anxiety.
  • Practice good self-care to keep your immune system robust. Eat healthy, well-balanced meals; exercise regularly and get plenty of sleep.
  • Learn Mindfulness Meditation to train your brain to stay in the moment, letting go of the regrets of the past and the anxieties about the future.
  • Use deep breathing techniques to release stress hormones, help slow your heart rate, and enable you to feel more peaceful.
  • Try guided imagery to allow yourself to feel as though you are wherever it is that makes you happiest.
  • Light a candle or use essential oils to benefit from calming scents (e.g. lavender, rose, and orange or orange blossom).
  • Chew gum to promote blood flow to your brain.
  • Reduce consumption of coffee, tea, chocolate and energy drinks if caffeine makes you jittery or anxious.
  • Do yoga to enhance your mood and treat depression and anxiety.
  • Listen to music that resonates with you.

I leave you with the Apache Blessing:

“May the sun bring you new energy by day,

May the moon softly restore you by night,

May the rain wash away your worries,

May the breeze blow new strength into your being,

May you walk gently through the world and
know it’s beauty all the days of your life.”

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