CALM in this Pandemic

How afraid should people be in the midst of this pandemic?

In an interview on W5 last night, renowned Epidemiologist, Dr. Bruce Aylward, from the World Health Organization (W.H.O.) in Geneva, Switzerland said,

“We are watching an outbreak evolve so people should be concerned, they should be informed, they should be doing the right things and managing it; but, panicking is definitely not going to help.

You panic when you’re on a sinking boat in the middle of the ocean with no lifeboat and you can’t swim. This isn’t that situation.

We know how to manage it and there’s so much that can be done. So be concerned, be prepared, but panicking is not going to help you in this situation and you don’t need to. There’s so much you can do at an individual level to protect yourself even.”

There it is: Be concerned. Be prepared. But, do not panic. We must each make changes to the way we live while we’re in the midst of this pandemic. Yet . . .

. . . CALM must prevail!

How do you remain calm during this time?

First, grab a pen and paper and write down your fears and worries.

This can include financial fears as a result of the pandemic, health concerns, or worries about loved ones. Whatever thoughts are occupying your mind, get them down on paper.

Having taught people around the world (for more than 20 years) how to stop worrying, I know that writing about your worries is an effective way to calm your mind. It’s a mental detoxification that allows you to dump your concerns onto a piece of paper, creating the mental space needed for new perspectives and insights to help you deal with those issues and concerns.

Once you’ve written down your worries, follow the CALM process:

C = Challenge Your Assumptions
A = Act to Control the Controllable
L = Let Go of the Uncontrollable
M = Manage Your Mind

The first step in the CALM process, Challenge Your Assumptions, is about dealing with the facts.

C = Challenge Your Assumptions

This is incredibly important because it’s human nature to fill in the unknown with assumptions. When those assumptions are scary ones, fear can set in.

Knowing the facts, instead of letting your imagination run wild, can help to calm a worried mind. The World Health Organization, the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention), and the Public Health Agency of Canada are trusted sources for accurate, up-to-date information.

With the facts in hand, you are in a position to rate the probability of what you’re worrying about happening on a scale of 1-10.

Some of your worries you might rate low on the scale of probability, others you might rate high, and some might be challenging to rate during this uncertain time when facts are changing so rapidly.

Rating a worry low on the scale of probability can help ease your mind for that particular concern. For those worries you rate high on the scale (or those you don’t know how to rate), move to the second step in the CALM process and that is to Act to Control the Controllable.

A = Act to Control the Controllable

What actions can you take?

Here’s what Dr. Aylward (W.H.O.) had to say:

“This is a respiratory virus at the end of the day, which means it can move very easily from me to you. If your population knows how to protect itself, you’re going to be very successful with this disease.

If I’m washing my hands, if I’m following proper respiratory hygiene, social distancing, and know what to look for, not just in myself but in others, I’m going to be quite safe. There is no such thing as zero risk, but you can really reduce the risk. I spent two weeks, nearly three weeks, in the epicenter of the biggest outbreak in history and I’m fine.”

Add those precautionary steps to your action plan.

Address each of your worries and brainstorm possible actions. Again, I recommend creating your action plan on paper, rather than just working it through in your head. Our worries seem so much larger in our minds.

We must not give in to fear or complacency. Take action to control the things you can, and let go of those things which are beyond your control.

This brings us to the next step: Let Go of the Uncontrollable.

L = Let Go of the Uncontrollable.

There are several ways to accomplish this. One strategy is to turn off the news. While it is important to deal with the facts (and you can keep up to date on the facts with trusted sources such as the ones mentioned earlier in this article), continually hearing and seeing things like empty store shelves can shock your body to the core and create panic.

If you’re a regular news watcher, turning off the news will free up some of your time. During this new-found time, do some things you enjoy that bring normalcy to your routine. Watch your favourite comedy. Play a game with your kids. Tidy your house. It will help you to reconnect with the inner peace that worry crowds out.

The final step in the CALM Process is to Manage Your Mind.

M = Manage Your Mind

This step is important because it’s your inner dialogue that largely dictates whether you feel worried or calm.

One strategy to manage your mind is to end “what-if” thinking. To accomplish this, change the question from “what if?” to “what is?” This helps you to stop borrowing trouble from the future by focusing on the present. Stop the “what-if” game by reminding yourself right now there is time to create an action plan to control those things that are within your control.

Bottom Line: The coronavirus is likely to be in the headlines for quite a while, but you don’t need to live in a constant state of fear. Remember: Challenge Your Assumptions, Take Action to Control the Controllable, Let Go of the Uncontrollable, and Manage Your Mind.

While there are several more strategies within each of the four steps of the CALM process, I do hope this helped! I’m thinking of you.

All my best,
Denise Marek

(P.S. Here is a short interview I did on Global National to help parents who are worried about their children and the virus. Please feel free to share with the parents in your life who need some calm.)