Fear is the mind-killer

How a meme reminded me to stop panicking

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A meme might not have saved my life, but it sure got me to stop panicking.

If you haven’t seen the meme of “Alternate Handwashing Instructions”, you can check out several websites that use the WHO’s handwashing template paired with song or book lyrics.

One of the ones that have been circulating, though, comes from the book Dune by Frank Herbert. I read it as a middle schooler, and it was one of the most memorable parts of that book. But what’s even funnier is how this meme got me to stop worrying about the novel Coronavirus that’s in the news.

The origin of my fear

You see, I’ve been fearful these past few weeks of the Coronavirus, and it’s been taking its toll.

Regardless of what you think about it, I’ve found myself in a set of unique family circumstances.

My Mom is stuck in a country near China which thankfully has good quarantining measures.

My Dad, as a result, is alone in the US at one of the epicenters of the virus.

My sister is a medical professional, working in infectious diseases with the government.

Not to mention my cousins, the majority of who are healthcare professionals working in California.

So while I might be relatively safe, my family isn’t. It’s been weird for me because I’m usually not the worrying type.

But between my natural interest in healthcare and my stake in it, I’ve been following this to the point where the unconscious emotion of fear took over my life for a few days.

And by doing that, my health began to suffer.

The effects of fear on your life

Living in fear is never fun, but many issues result when you start to see shadows around every corner.

Your physical health suffers, with your immune system becoming weaker as a result.

Your mental health suffers, along with the ability to regulate emotions.

Not to mention that the brain and muscles can trigger a fight-or-flight response, which is not helpful in situations like trying to fall asleep.

For me, the main thing that occurred, besides basically not sleeping well, was that I bugged my relatives with reminders, bought a lot of stuff and cooked a ton. Also, I fell into prepping for a bit.

That honestly doesn’t sound that bad, except that I’ve probably about 2 months’ food/entertainment/etc. expenses in the past week and a half.

Spending $25 each on shipping care packages to several family members in 2 business days? No problem.

Iodine tablets and large tubs for storing water? Okay.

I have no pre-existing health conditions, and I’m of the demographic where the mortality rate is low.

I’m fortunate in that my job allows me to telework, and I’ve been reassured that there is a policy in place should the situation get serious.

But when your brain is in fear mode, you can easily lean into your confirmation biases, as they found in children.

And problem solving and logic also tend to decrease with negative emotion, which only compounds upon the problem.

So when a full refrigerator and pantry is naturally comforting to me, I guess it’s not a surprise that I fell into going a little overboard.

Fear is the mind-killer

There are guaranteed dangers everyone will likely face in the US soon.

Our Healthcare system is going to be hit hard by the additional Covid-19 patients that require hospital beds. Whether we overwhelm hospitals or not depends on our protective measures.

Our supply chain may be disrupted as we’re going to be missing key ingredients for certain products (coming from China).

And my family members working in healthcare bravely signed up for this. If they are overwhelmed or become sick, my heart goes out to them. But it does nobody any good for me to be worried sick for them.

There are still choices we can make on an individual level that can determine if we’re falling into a total panic or not.

Fear is the mind-killer, the little-death that brings about total obliteration.

If you let it consume you, are you going to be eating canned beans for the rest of your life?

Or are you going to deal with minor inconveniences, stock up on some supplies, wash your hands, and avoid large gatherings for a while?

Let the fear pass over and through you.

There are many excellent Medium articles about this, not to mention other websites as well.

And when you look back, the fear will be gone.

And only you will remain.

Written by

Healthcare-focused UX designer and researcher. Creator of two online courses on design communication and UX research planning: https://tinyurl.com/y5m2j42v

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