Lessons Learned #051: Facts not fear

Yahweh is coming, better look busy!

CVOID 19 is spread is through respiratory droplets produced when infected persons cough or sneeze. The news media, however, will have us believe that world is falling apart and that the virus is rampant and ever present through a number of transmission methodologies.

Even this morning, news outlets were warning of years of massive social upheaval, global disruption and millions of deaths:

 “Coronavirus cases surge”

News alert”

“Breaking story”

“World pushed further and further into crisis while (insert appropriate political party here) do nothing to stop the pandemic”.

I can go back 5 years, 25 years or 50 years and find similar headlines:

Increase in school shootings, hurricanes batter retirement communities across the globe, frequent monster earthquakes wreak havoc in poor areas of South and Central America, the U.S. west has erupted in flames and continues to burn, Volcanic lava pours into streets threatening the lives and homes of local residents.

How can we prepare for disaster and find the strength to endure it?

The answer rests in your Logical Brain.

If you create time and distance from bad news and couple that with physical exercise and mindfulness practice you will overcome this event and future events. Simply put, training changes behavior.

Stress and anxiety harm your mental and physical health.

You’ve no doubt been bombarded with myriad reports of “important symptoms” these past few weeks. Symptoms you must learn, post, and recite in order to detect COVID 19 at its earliest stages. All the while taking steps to distance yourself so as not to affect others. The next sentence screams that coronavirus tests are unavailable or running low.

Stop for just a moment.

I’ll give you a few more symptoms to review, and these you might need to put at or near the top of your list. They might save your life – and your survival rate without considering them will be hundreds of times greater than the likelihood you will succumb to death by the COVID 19 virus.

Stress kills

Headaches, muscle tension, anxiety, sleep disorders, stomach and digestion problems. Once coined ‘Disaster fatigue’, these are symptoms of the emotional toll we each suffer from relentless bouts of bad news.

Bad news heaped upon us by the spurious news media will affect us long after the Coronavirus becomes history. Bad news creates both short- and long-term problems which will first cause each of us increased anxiety and fear and then regress to a point where we no longer care about the crisis and lose motivation to do even the most basic tasks related to physical and mental health.

This can lead to apathy, self-harm, or suicide.

Seemingly endless crises activate the survival locus of the human central nervous system. These indispensable systems are in charge of preparing you for essential action, responses like fighting, fleeing or freezing in place to avoid the impending danger.

Sensationalizing traumatic events only exacerbate existing problems by wearing us down and creating an inability to defend against real future onslaughts of threats or diseases.  

Spin Doctors

Consider the ‘spin’ the news outlets put on these stories.

Reader question: Is it safe for me to order carry out food from a local restaurant?

Likely answer: WHO and the CDC haven’t issued formal guidelines on carry out food, however, there is no evidence to support transmission associated with food. Follow appropriate hygiene guidelines.

Answer given by a major news source:You can get COVID-19 by touching a surface or object that has the virus on it and then touching your face. The virus can survive on cardboard and plastic for up to 24 hours and therefore raises concerns about restaurant help interacting with infected customers”.

Note how by simply twisting the incoming and outgoing messages, the news media foments fear. Here’s another.

Question from reader: “What is the point of getting tested for COVID 19 if there is no cure?”

Likely answer: There are many reasons that someone may seek medical care for their symptoms, ruling out COVID 19 saves valuable time so that medical staff can seek out other causes.

Answer given by another major news source: “The biggest problem is we don’t have a quick and reliable test right now. Without that, we have to be smart and ration the testing to those people that need them most”.

 

Again, controlling the message and spreading fear, mistrust, distrust and pandemonium. The next one scared me to my core – not the logical question from a reader – but the “conservative reports” of death and destruction from a source of news I once thought above reproach.

Reader question: “Are there any likely projections to estimate the end of the spread of COVID-19?”

Likely answer: As with all outbreaks, this one will come to an end. A Stanford Nobel laureate who crunched the numbers predicts the outbreak will result in fewer deaths than many experts have predicted. His comment, ‘We’re going to be fine’. Michael Levitt analyzed the number of COVID-19 cases worldwide and correctly calculated that China would get through the worst of its coronavirus outbreak long before many health experts had predicted, he now foresees a similar outcome in the United States and the rest of the world. He ended his report with, “what we need is to control the panic,” he added,

“In the grand scheme of things we are going to be fine.”

Report from a formerly reliable mainstream news agency: Conservative reports from (add the name of your favorite news source) estimates that 23.8 million Americans could contract COVID-19, leaving almost six seriously ill patients for every existing hospital bed. Another analysis finds that America’s trajectory of community spread is trending toward Italy’s, where circumstances are dire. As many as 96 million Americans could be infected. 38 million Americans will need medical care for COVID-19. 160 million to 210 million Americans will be infected by December. Under this forecast, 21 million people would need hospitalization and 200,000 to 1.7 million could die by the end of the year. Leaked documents demonstrate that the coronavirus outbreak could rage until spring 2021. Germanys Chancellor warned that 60% to 70% of her country’s population will eventually become infected.

Sometimes you don’t even need to read the article. Consider the following headline, “A closed border, dashed hopes and a looming disaster”.

Wow, talk about zero opportunity for a happy ending.

“The coronavirus pandemic continues to shut down daily life across the globe”.

Again, cringeworthy headlines acting as clickbait to assail those craving positive social interaction.

I also read an article stating that families were being forced to ‘shelter in place’ with the deceased bodies of their loved ones until this crisis is over. Total falsehood. Total clickbait horseshit.

Paranoia will destroy ya!

I received a text message from a number I don’t know yesterday. 

It purported to be an exchange between a number of fellow texters sharing ‘news’. It began with a message that someone’s cousin knew someone high up in the government that warned that the military is stepping in and an 8-week shelter in place order with Martial Law was coming soon. They said to have toilet paper, batteries and candles because the power grid was sure to fall. The final volley of messages asked those on the list to protect themselves and their families and asked the reader to send the message to everyone they knew.

Soon after that I received two back to back messages from people unknown to me (the down side of having a podcast, website and passing out business cards with your personal information).

I haven’t been communicating much this past week. My state is under full quarantine and people are panicking as resources drop. I have been working with my community to help the local hospital staff and to ensure that the elderly in our community are getting the food they most desperately need. We are struggling, but trying to stay united.

The final from an acquaintance that wanted to know whether I heard the insider information from a credible source high up in the government that another load of 250,000 body bags had been delivered to the secret storage facility below the states Counterterrorism Headquarters.

This exact type of misinformation is responsible for driving susceptible folks to the brink of anarchy. We can and NEED TO control the message. We must hold newspapers and social media responsible. We must insist that they portray FACTS not FEAR.

Instant news, just add conflict.

Denver, Colorado is temperate. The weather is largely beautiful and predictable. People spend a lot of time outside and enjoying all of the recreational activities that Colorado has to offer.

The news outlets in Denver have to sell advertising and they do that through viewer loyalty – therefore – the longest segment of the Denver news concerns the weather.

Any storm in the offing creates an “Alert Day” and numerous reporters scramble to cover every temperature change or shift in the barometric pressure. They sell the weather report by issuing scandalous warnings – hyping that you NEED to know what weather is coming, and you better tune in soon because it is not going to be nice.

That same hype (the word itself taken from hyperbole or the exaggerated statements or claims not meant to be taken literally) has been used since January 2020 to promote fear regarding COVID 19.

There is an interesting phenomenon that comes from having ‘instant’ news and the ability to process events occurring thousands of miles away instantaneously.

Despair, hopelessness and fear sell papers and increase the ratings on news shows. Social media technology (how over 65% of adults get their news) can expose a user to countless traumatic events in record time.

It’s a delicate balance and one that upends positive messages like, “Only the infected need to wear masks.” Or, “Essential services will continue to function”. The ‘feel good’ news articles taking a back seat to what your brain assumes is critical survival-oriented information.

The fear these news articles sow, the uncertainty they instill are responsible for shortages in protective masks, gear and preventative safeguards taken off store shelves by record numbers. The preppers, hoarders and ‘stockpilers’ now unknowingly denying these essential items from the ER doctors and nurses treating patients who sorely need them to defend against contracting the virus while serving the public.

People are scared. When they are scared, they buy guns and ammo and horde toilet paper and water bottles, stockpiling for a civil war brought on by the coronavirus that will never come.

So What?

First and foremost, stop feeding the beast by using the term “Social Distance”. Please begin using the term Physical Distance. Social distance stops people from communicating and sews the seeds of hate, fear and discord.

Take care of others.

Endeavor today to write and send a card or letter to your local nursing home. Endorse it generally and offer written messages of hope and your personal support during this event. Don’t add stress, try and remove some of it, replacing the stress with messages of love and hope.

Use your phone for good. Call someone you love and tell them that you love them.Get used to sharing positive messages and motivational thoughts, not passing on messages of fear.

Take care of yourself!

Even in locations where folks are being asked to shelter in place or remain at home, there are no restrictions of hiking, running or a plethora of outdoor activities that will boost your mood and your immune system. Walk your dog, ride your bike or do work in your garden or around your house.

The recommended Physical Distance from WHO and the CDC is maintaining a distance of around 6 feet from other humans.

The other end of the spectrum and just as necessary and meaningful are stress management techniques like physical exercise, goat yoga (Ha!), meditation and mindfulness techniques.

While the intent behind social distancing is sound, the terminology isn’t.

When dealing with folks that are already scared, already in the grips of despair and hopelessness, the last thing you want to suggest is that they avoid SOCIAL contact.

Now, more than ever there are myriad ways for folks to connect electronically without relying on social gatherings of more than 10 people. You don’t have to engage in non-essential travel to meet, encourage and contact folks via social media.

As humans we have a central nervous system and a peripheral nervous system. The CNS (central nervous system) consists of your brain and spinal cord while the PNS (peripheral nervous system) contains the nerves that leave your brain and spinal cord and travel to specific areas of your body.

By allowing yourself to be continually exposed to bad news you are likely causing irreparable harm to your physical and mental well-being by misusing your CNS and PNS.

You need to take time to figure out your personal stress limit, the degree to which you can continue to safely process incoming information without becoming OBE (Overwhelmed By Events or Overcome By Emotion).

Adhere to that limit and offset the damaging, detrimental effects of stress and anxiety by allowing yourself time to decompress and work out (physically or mindfully) to recharge your batteries and renew your resilience.

By giving yourself this ‘Gift of Time and Distance’, you will learn to once again take charge of the messages that you are sending and receiving. You have to learn to set a limit on how much you allow the news media to irritate you and take up essential survival bandwidth that you need for other emergencies.

You can choose what you read. You can choose what you send.

Please take time and remember the real heroes that are putting their lives on the line during this pandemic. The healthcare workers, first responders and law enforcement professionals keeping us safe. Please also hold your local and national news media outlets accountable by encouraging them to spread facts, not fear.

Training changes behavior.

  • Greg

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