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I'm focusing on the now and not panicking yet.

It has become abundantly clear that this pandemic is going to go on for quite a while. So, here’s a question for you: How do you want to go through it?

Several years ago, I took a vacation in France with three friends from high school. We ended our trip in Lyon, which is in southern France. All my friends had planned to fly out of Lyon, but my plane left from Charles de Gaulle, which meant I would need to take a train to Paris to catch my flight back to America.

I had reserved a ticket on an express train that was scheduled to arrive at the airport hours before my departure, but I had not anticipated a train workers strike. My original train was cancelled, and I had to take another train that left an hour later and only went as fair as Paris proper, not the airport located north of the city.

For three hours, I fumed and stressed and tried to find out what would happen when I arrived in Paris. What train would I take? Could I catch a cab? To make a very long story short, I missed my flight. Flustered and frustrated, I headed back into Paris, found a hotel room for a sleepless night, and finally made it onto a flight the next day.

Looking back on it, I can see two mistakes I made. The first was getting so upset over what may or may not happen in the future that I missed opportunities that were right in front of me. The obsessing and fretting over whether I would make my flight had absolutely no effect on my chances of actually making the flight. It did, however, distract me from the gorgeous view out the window of the train as we coasted through the French countryside, which I won’t be able to see again any time soon.

The second mistake I made was catastrophizing over a situation that wasn’t really that dire. When I reached the airport and learned that I had in fact missed my flight, you would have thought I was stranded in a war-torn country with no chance of escaping.

But really, it just meant spending extra money on another night in Paris and worst-case scenario, I'd have to buy a pricey one-way ticket home. Though it was reasonable to be disappointed and upset at my sudden change of plans, in the grand scheme of things, this was not a reason for all out panic.

As we glide into fifth month of this strange new world, I’m keeping these lessons in mind to help me stay grounded amidst so many opportunities to panic.

Lesson #1 - Focus on the now, and not on the uncertainty.

I’m not immune to the possibility of illness, financial hardship or tragedy, but for right now, my health is good, my income is stable, and my friends and family are safe. This frees me up to enjoy a quieter than normal summer. Instead nights out at restaurants, the theatre and other events, we’re planning to have small gatherings around a campfire in our yard. It also means I'm storing away extra cash in case my situation does change.

Lesson #2 – Keep your catastrophizing in check.

Like most people, I’m following the news and watching the havoc the pandemic is causing in people’s lives, but instead of channeling it, I'm using that as point of reference. It gives me perspective on my personal risk, which when we’re honest is minimal. I’m working from home, I’m able to socially distance easily, I’m in a low risk category, and I live in a location with very few cases. I’m monitoring the situation daily, but as of yet, I’ve found no reason to panic.

As I said before, it looks like this could go on for a while. How do you want to go through it?


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