The Fear Contagion

“Only thing we have to fear is fear itself – nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance.”

Franklin D Roosevelt

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Meat counter in Charlotte grocery store by Joy Hall

Franklin D. Roosevelt, our 32nd President, is famous for this quotation spoken on March 4, 1933 during his first Inaugural Address. The Great Depression was at its lowest point. It was the worst worldwide economic downturn in the history of the industrialized world. Businesses were forced to close, banks shut their doors, and millions were out of work. Bread lines, soup kitchens, and increasing numbers of homeless Americans became more common. Farmers couldn’t afford to harvest their crops and left them rotting in fields while many were starving. It was a time of great scarcity and fear.

FDR’s 1933 Inaugural Address

Now in 2020, we are faced with another unknown, the COVID-19 Pandemic. But is it truly unknown? Scientists have made exceptional strides in the medical field in the past 100 years. Antibiotics were discovered in the late 1920’s. These powerful drugs have saved innumerable lives and revolutionized medicine in the 20th century. Read The Real Story of Penicillin here. Scientists developed antiviral drugs in the 1960’s. One of the most significant discoveries in fighting viruses was developing technology to unravel the viral genetic sequence. This can be used to compare genetic sequences of suspicious animals to pinpoint the origin of the virus. It also is used to determine whether a vaccine or an antiviral drug will work against COVID-19.

Are we overreacting to the situation? Nobody really knows the full impact of the virus in the United States. That unknown can be frightening. However, we do know how the virus has affected other countries and we can learn from that.  Here, from The Boston Globe, is a compelling and sobering article from Italy cautioning us to take this very seriously and move quickly to isolate as many people as we can. Their most pressing problem was having an onslaught of people all sick at the same time. The hospitals became quickly overwhelmed. The intensive care units were already at capacity. The article states that “Life in lockdown is hard, but it is also an exercise in humility. Our collective well-being makes our little individual wishes look a bit whimsical and small-minded.”

So what is the best way to confront this situation? What do you think? What will be your personal decision? How accurately will you follow the purported social distancing guidelines? Or do you think that this is an overreaction of fear? What do you plan to do?

Fear is a natural reaction to a threat. The purpose is to keep us safe. It is neither good nor bad but when out of control causes distress. Anxiety thrives on uncertainty. How can you temper your anxiety so that it does not flare out of control? You can plan ahead and don’t panic. You can unplug from the news for a while. You can prioritize your schedule (if possible) to allow for good sleep. You can exercise and eat well.

Take a mini-break from the world today. It is important to stay informed but everyone needs a break from the 24 hour media avalanche. Find a quiet place to sit and be still. Turn off all social media. Balance the media’s viewpoint with what is happening right in front of you at this moment. For many, prayer is the answer to maintaining peace. All of these can help lower our stress response, which by the way, strengthens the immune system. 

Take good care of yourself and others.


For You

Apps – Calm Centering Prayer

Great Depression Cooking-Poorman’s Meal

Only the Good Stuff-Multivitamins for your Weekend -Ann Voskamp

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